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Religious Rejections of Globalization

1791 words (7 pages) Essay in Politics

16/10/17 Politics Reference this

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Introduction

The conflict between Western and Islamic worlds has drawn the attention of various scholars such as Samuel Huntington and Fukuyama whom predicted future war would be premised on cultural differences. Since the 1990s, countless scholars have analyzed Islam and its connection to religious fundamentalism in order to understand why fundamentalists are so radically opposed to economic modernization and social change. More surprisingly however, is the fact that Western academia and political leaders have largely ignored assertive Christian responses against globalization, especially those coming from Christian fundamentalists whose numbers and political influence continues to grow around the world. The re-emergence of religious fundamentalism as a political force has been propelled by the perceived threat of globalization which promotes the spread of Westernization, neoliberalism and secularism (Juergensmeyer 140). In the eyes of many religious movements, globalization challenges the presence of local religions by encouraging capitalist beliefs that do not take into account moral principles. Among these religious groups, Christianity is of particular importance because of its status, outreach and role in international affairs. When we talk about Christianity, we refer to a set of religious values and beliefs that led to the creation of various denominations, organizations and creeds. The following essay argues that the religious rejection of globalization within the Christian community has been spearheaded by religious fundamentalist groups in order to prevent the creation of a secular world order because it threatens to reduce their influence, power and legitimacy. Presently, Christianity’s role and status in international affairs is being redefined by two important groups: Christian liberals and Christian evangelicals. This internal religious competition aims to democratically capture important decision-making positions within the hierarchy of western states to reassert Christianity presence on the public sphere to ensure social and moral order.

Liberal Christianity and civil society’s anti-globalization response

The influential expansion of global society has redefined the role that religious groups play in the development of important international policies. As multiple sectors of global civil society have come together to denounce the negative effects of globalization on the poor and vulnerable, religious groups have joined their voice to highlight the need to create a better world order (Lechner 115). It is important to note that global civil society’s critical responses to globalization have largely evolved along secular lines (Lechner 116). At the same time, if we define civil society as all forms of voluntary association outside the market and state, then religion constitutes the largest segment of civil society (Lechner 116). The Roman Catholic Church alone accounts more members than all advocacy networks combined together which helps explain Christianity’s influence and outreach on major international socio-economic issues (Lechner 116). The Roman Catholic Church has played an important role in condemning the neo-liberal model imposed by Western states because of its tendency to support the imposition of economic values over moral principles. During a speech by Pope John Paul II, during his visit to Havana in 1998, the leader of the Catholic community openly expressed his concern on the negative effects that capitalism has on the vulnerable but also on the worldwide presence of Catholicism (Robertson 612). He claimed that the absolutizing of the economy was wrong for three main reasons: 1-markets were imperfect and were bound to leave people unsatisfied, 2-withouth proper regulation, the community markets do not serve the common good which results in exclusion and marginalization and 3-left to their own devices, markets promote economic inequality (Lechner 124). In this sense, the religious Christian left and the western secular left have evoked similar arguments and appear to pursue the same socio-economic goals (Lechner 124). In the late 1990s, both the Catholic Church and Protestant Churches pressured affluent states for the forgiveness of poor nations’ foreign debt because it imposed heavy economic burdens on people whose human dignity was constantly challenged by unequal and oppressive conditions (Lechner 117). On November 6, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed a foreign aid bill fully funding debt relief for poor countries (Lechner 118). Liberal Christians around the world celebrated this victory that had rallied multiple sectors of global civil society behind a common goal. Truly, Jubilee 2000 demonstrated how the power of religious scripture could be used to re-shape the history of the “secular world” (Lechner 119). However, it is important to acknowledge Jubilee’s 2000 success was primarily caused by secular forces who lobbied tremendously well to achieve their goal (Lechner 120). In addition, the Catholic Church previous support for economic liberalism as a way to force the fall of communism contradicted its new discourse against globalization and neo-liberalism which further divide its community. These contradictions demonstrate that liberal Christianity’s moderate approach is too passive to efficiently oppose globalization and further highlights its dependence on secular forces to provide political solutions for the world’s most worrisome problems.

The rise of religious fundamentalism in Christianity

Liberal Christianity’s global decline has helped Christian evangelicals spread their political message in more assertive, faster and active manner in the Americas, Asia and Africa. At the moment, liberal Christianity represents a mere minority within their societies who no longer share their assumptions and are experimenting drastic socio-economic changes as a result of globalization (Stahl 350). This political vacuum has been filled by both secular individuals and Christian evangelicals that have attracted considerable amount of support towards their opposite political goals. Religious movements whether liberal or conservative tend to perceive globalization as a competing form of religion association that contains a set of established ideas, beliefs, authorities, goals and followers (Stahl 341). For this reason, religious groups zealously oppose this expanding force. However, religious conservatives appear to be more successful than their liberal parts in using certain aspects globalization to reach people and transmit their political goals (Jesus Camp). Many Christian evangelicals in the United States believe that their government has been taken over by corporations and foreign agents that seek the expansion of evil and corrupt forces within their nation (Jesus Camp). This threat often takes form in secular institutions and policies that are often demonized publicly by evangelical leaders who lobby their communities to vote for a particular candidate who will accurately represent their traditional values. The ongoing expansion of Christian fundamentals and their active political involvement in public affairs makes them a considerable force that can effectively influence the political spectrum of multiple nations. Despite this, few western scholars consider Christian fundamentalism a real threat to the stability of their nations as they wrongly believe that the most dangerous face of fundamentalism is to be associated with Muslim faith.

Religions of revolution and their radical answer to globalization

The modern social stability of Western secular societies has been built on the free practice of religion in the private sphere. This explains why, westerners are so fearful of the public imposition of a single religious tradition that could violate the freedoms and rights of individuals. According to Stahl, religious complaints against globalization focus on two main themes: the demand for justice and the defense of tradition (Stahl 339). Stahl uses these themes to draw a comparison between Osama Bin Laden whose exemplifies Islam fundamentalism and Dwight Hopkins who embodies Liberal Christianity (Stahl 339). Osama’s complaints are addressed in Letter to America (2002) and Resist the New Rome (2004). He believes that Muslim fundamentalists are fighting a defensive war against the forces of imperialism and aggression which are responsible for the establishment of corrupt and dictatorial regimes throughout the Muslim world (Stahl 339). He claims this religio-economic war is a continuation of the Crusades and other past struggles between Muslims and Christians (Stahl 340). He criticizes the economic, environmental and cultural decline of the West and defends Islamic tradition from what he believes to be an infectious and corrupt culture (Stahl 340). He also denounces the theft of Muslim wealth and America’s refusal to ratify Kyoto. Despite this, most of his criticism is directed towards individual behavior, especially the treatment of women and sexualisation of culture (Stahl 340). Immorality is high on his list, economic exploitation is not. His call for Muslim community to violently resist the enemies of Islam appealed to many devoted people regardless of their socio-economic background (Stahl 341). On the other hand, Hopkins’ complaint based on liberal Christianity is one dimensional because it focuses on the economic aspect of globalization (Stahl 341). As Bin Laden, Hopkins advocates for justice and defense of tradition, although he clearly understands these concepts differently than his counterpart. On the demand for justice, he criticizes the grotesque accumulation of wealth and power into the hands of few individuals. He attributes this to be the cause of corrupt politics and the unrestricted destruction of the environment (Stahl 341). In defense of tradition, he claims that globalization is a competing form of religious organization that seeks to promote material realities and economic values over moral principles (Stahl 341). Bin Laden and Hopkins are quite different. Bin Laden was ready to kill to achieve his version of Islam whereas Hopkins liberation theology called for spiritual resistance and struggle for freedom and justice (Stahl 342). Liberal Christian has slowly become a religion of resistance that has struggled to mobilize its followers against globalization. On the other hand, Islamic fundamentalism is religion of revolution that violently opposes globalization. The means advocated Islamist fundamentalism are not that different from Christian fundamentalists who have also adopted a confrontational direct tone to send out powerful political messages.

Conclusion

To conclude, Christianity’s position and role within the Western World is being redefined by two competing religious movements that aim to democratically capture political power within their state to reassert religion’s role on the public sphere. On the one side, Liberal Christianity appears to have a renewed interest in opposing globalization and neoliberalism which has motivated many liberal Christians to join forces with the secular left. The success of Jubilee 2000 attests on what this cooperation can provide in terms of progressive and inclusive social policies. However, liberal Christianity’s moderate critique of globalization has also been qualified as too passive by many of its members that are drawn by Christian conservatives’ more pro-active and direct message. As Christian evangelical’s popularity and numbers continues to grow, they have become an influential political force that opposes secularism and modernization in their own nations. As the dominant forces within Christianity are slowly turn it a religion of revolution, they are adopting various fundamentalist values and premises which threaten to unbalance the social stability of these secular societies. Western societies tend to picture Islam as the main motor of religious fundamentalism in the world. However, what they ignore is that the real threat to their society’s stability comes from the radicalization of Christianity which supports a more confrontational approach to promote their religious values.

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