Notes for a Theory of Clergy as Political Leaders

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The focus of this volume on the role of clergy as political leaders is both appropriate and timely. This topic integrates two emerging and somewhat disparate literatures. First, the past two decades have witnessed an increased appreciation for the effects that religious beliefs have on political behavior. In the United States, the apparent rise, fall, and rejuvenation of the Christian Right and the associated realignment of religious conservatives to the Republican Party have been among the most important political trends of the past several decades. Similarly, the political activism of the American Catholic bishops during the Reagan and Bush administrations raised important questions about the Catholic Church’s appropriate role in secular affairs. Internationally, religion has been a fertile source of regional conflict in setting such as South Asia, the Middle East, and the Balkans. Samuel Huntington (1996) has proposed a general framework for the study of international relations in which “civilizations” (which are largely religiously defined) are the central units of analysis. Thus religion, and by extension religious leadership, are being recognized as central variables in the study of politics.


American Politics | Political Science | Religion