Political thought grouped under the rubric “Christian Democracy” is often considered as profoundly unoriginal and as the product of politicians and party activists (rather than political philosophers). I argue that there is an important body of thought responding to the challenge of how to reconcile Christianity and modern democracy in nineteenth and twentieth century Europe. In particular, I trace three strategies for finding a place for Christianity—and Catholicism in particular—in the modern democratic order (or, put differently, strategies to make democracy safe for Catholicism): the idea of creating or re-creating a Christian demos; the notion of constraining the demos through recognizably Christian institutions; and, lastly, Christian Democratic party politics. I also – very tentatively – suggest some lessons from this history, especially for thinking about the relationship between Islam and democracy today.
Photo credit: Tor Birk Trads