Kevin Lewis

March 09, 2023

State Support for Religion and Government Legitimacy in Christian-Majority Countries
Jonathan Fox & Jori Breslawski
American Political Science Review, forthcoming 


Most assume that when governments support a religion, they do so in the hope that they will increase their legitimacy. However, a growing literature implies that support for religion may decrease a government's legitimacy for three reasons. First, political secularism, an ideology mandating the separation of religion and state or state restrictions on religion, is increasingly popular. Second, state support for religion can undermine religious vitality. Third, support for religion entails an element of government control over religion which can undermine the perceived authenticity of a religion. We test this support-legitimacy relationship in Christian-majority countries from 1990 to 2014 using the Religion and State and World Values Survey data, comprising 54 countries and 126 country years. We find that state support for religion is associated with lower levels of individual confidence in government. We posit this has important implications for our understanding of the underpinnings of legitimacy.

From Investiture to Worms: European Development and the Rise of Political Authority
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita & Ethan Bueno de Mesquita
Journal of Politics, forthcoming 


The endogenous consequences of competition between the Roman Catholic Church and lay political rulers set into motion by the Investiture Controversy contribute new insights into European economic, political, and religious development. The resolution of the Investiture Controversy in the Concordats of London (1107), Paris (1107), and Worms (1122) resulted in an increase in the bargaining power of lay rulers over the selection of bishops in wealthier dioceses relative to poorer dioceses. Empirical evidence exploiting the timing of the adoption of the Concordats interacted with a variety of time-invariant measures of diocesan wealth yields results consistent with this account -- adoption of the Concordats led bishops to become more aligned with lay political authorities in wealthier dioceses relative to poorer dioceses. These findings suggest the incentives created by the Concordats played a role, hundreds of years before the Protestant Reformation, in the rise of lay political authority and its association with economic prosperity.

Missing Discussions: Institutional Constraints in the Islamic Political Tradition 
Arda Gitmez, James Robinson & Mehdi Shadmehr
NBER Working Paper, February 2023


Institutional constraints to counter potential abuses in the use of political power have been viewed as essential to well functioning political institutions and good public policy outcomes in the Western World since the time of ancient Greece. A sophisticated intellectual tradition emerged to justify the need for such constraints. In this paper we identify a new puzzle: such an intellectual tradition did not exist in the Islamic world, even if the potential for abuse was recognized. We develop a model to explain why such ideas might not have emerged. We argue that this is due to the nature of Islamic law (the Sharia) being far more encompassing than Western law, making it easier for citizens to identify abuses of power and use collective action to discipline them. We study how the relative homogeneity and solidarity of Islamic society fortified this logic.

Manufacturing a Protestant Consensus: Religion and Regime Entrenchment in the Eisenhower Era 
John Compton
Studies in American Political Development, forthcoming 


The party regime concept is central to the study of American political development. Yet many questions about the processes through which party regimes are created, maintained, and dismantled remain unanswered. This article argues that religious bodies have historically played an important role in these processes. Specifically, I demonstrate that "mainline" Protestant groups made three distinct contributions to the entrenchment of the post-New Deal Democratic regime. First, the National Council of Churches (NCC) credibly reframed Democratic policy commitments as embodying universal values (as opposed to the preferences of favored interest groups). Second, the NCC's economic policy arm, which included representatives from business, labor, and the clergy, successfully created the impression of an overwhelming elite consensus in favor of center-left economic policies. Third, the NCC used its moral authority to empower the moderate Republican opposition while simultaneously marginalizing the party's well-funded and potentially influential right wing. The NCC was one of many civil society groups that opposed the GOP right's attempts to roll back the New Deal. But the professional diversity of its membership, its ability to frame its pronouncements in religious terms, and its links to the Protestant grassroots made it arguably the most effective.

When to Preach About Poverty: How Location, Race, and Ideology Shape White Evangelical Sermons
Jeffrey Guhin et al.
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming 


Social scientists have long been interested in how intergroup contact or elite messaging can reduce or eliminate racial biases. To better understand the role of religious elites in these political questions, we show how a church location's income and racial characteristics interact with racial and economic ideologies to shape the political content of sermons. Testing our theories through both quantitative and qualitative analysis of an original data set of more than 102,000 sermons from more than 5200 pastors, we show that contact is only effective as a means of decreasing prejudice to the extent that actors -- in our case, pastors -- are ideologically capable of reconciling their potential role in economic inequality. White Evangelical pastors rarely preach about issues of poverty or racial justice overall, but the context of the preaching matters. We find that the greater the share of Black population there is in a church community, the less likely White Evangelical pastors are to mention issues of poverty or racial justice, and when they do mention it, they hold to ideological commitments that avoid blaming systems for racialized economic inequality.

The King's Gambit: Rationalizing the Fall of the Templars
Gabriel Benzecry & Marcus Shera
Rationality and Society, forthcoming 


What can the fall of the Knights Templars teach us about medieval institutions? We highlight that the Templar's annihilation results from the institutional shock of Pope Clement V's decision to relocate the papacy from Italy to France. Prior to the relocation, an equilibrium persisted for more than a century where the Templars made loans to more powerful kings, with the reassurance that they were protected by the Church. The decision of Pope Clement V to relocate the papacy to France altered the Church's relationship with the French Crown and imposed substantial constraints on the Church's ability to safeguard one of its most important monastic orders, the Knights Templar. In a dynamic game scenario, we model Clement V and Philip IV's decision making, emphasizing important choices that led to the Knights Templar's demise. This historical episode illustrates the relationship between credible commitments and religious legitimacy, and the precarious and personal nature of pre-modern political institutions.

The Order of Nine Angles: Cosmology, Practice & Movement
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Emelie Chace-Donahue
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, forthcoming


The Order of Nine Angles (O9A) -- a trans-national esoteric Satanist movement -- is of growing interest to researchers and law enforcement because of its apparent connections to violent extremist individuals and groups. This article presents a primary source-driven exploration of O9A's cosmology, practice, and movement intended to inform objective discussions about the movement's nexus to violent extremism, and to help readers better understand the terms and concepts contained in O9A texts. At the heart of O9A's outlook lies a perspective on human and spiritual evolution holding that the true ethos of Western civilization is pagan but has been corrupted by Judeo-Christian values. O9A thus believes Western society is irredeemable in its present form and seeks to inculcate "heretical" acts that can break the shackles of Judeo-Christian constructs and contribute to societal breakdown. As this article establishes, O9A's philosophy and practice have meaningful overlaps with violent extremism but clearly identifiable acts of violent extremism are less easy to discern at the movement level.


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