The Bible and the Ballot Box: Evangelicals and Democracy in the "Global South"

Is the evangelical God a democrat? Are his half a billion worshipers in the "global South" missionaries for democracy—or an illiberal "new Christendom"? Despite both exaggerated fears and inflated hopes, evangelical Christians in the global South (Africa, Asia, and Latin America) are unlikely to bring dramatic political change—whether in a democratic or authoritarian direction—to their unsettled societies. Though evangelicals are assumed to be agents of the American religious right and purveyors of militant "fundamentalism," their lower socioeconomic status often leads them to consider economics at least as important as "morality" and consequently to align with left-wing political movements perceived to be pro-poor. Furthermore, their inherent voluntarism, pluralism, and fissiparousness constrict their unity and capacity to promote any coherent political program, whether that of a new Christendom or democratic reformism. But these same factors also arguably foster a culture of vigilant dissent and active citizenship among otherwise quiescent and marginalized groups and in the long run equip evangelicals to play a democratizing role in the global South.