Moral Majority redivivus

Assertive religious politics and the threat to religious freedom and citizenship in Malawi


  • James Tengatenga School of Theology, The University of the South Malawi



John de Gruchy’s 1995 work Christianity and Democracy: Theology for a Just World Order was published at a heady time, not only in society but in the ecumenical churches, who were prominent as “midwives of democracy.” While the changes in Eastern Europe and South Africa were in the foreground, the book also covered emerging movements for democracy in sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa. Sadly, De Gruchy’s optimism was not borne out in the decades that followed. Partly, this was due to internal problems within the movements themselves; partly, it was a transformation in the identity of Christianity away from the role of an enabling midwife to that theocratic master. A new kind of Christian politics asserted itself, modelled on and enabled by conservative Christianity in the United States. Moreover, it asserted itself in rivalry to a new “other”: fundamentalist Islam, which succeeded communism as America’s global enemy. This article traces the emergence of this new assertive religious politics, criticizing both its theologically problematic “Christian nationalism” and its lack of concern for sustaining the human rights gains of the early 1990s.






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