States, Ideologies, and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of Iran, Nicaragua, and the Philippines

By Misagh Parsa | Go to book overview

5
Clergy: actors with relative impunity

From some sociological perspectives, religious institutions and their temporal representatives have often been identified with the forces of inertia and societal reproduction (O'Dea 1966: 2–18). Nevertheless, segments of the clergy have become politicized and proactive in social change projects during the past several decades in many developing countries. The clergy's politicization has come about, in part, because of the formation of exclusive rule, centralization of power in the state, and increased state reliance on external sources of support. These developments have reduced the state's reliance on the clergy and religious institutions in social and political matters. The weakening or breakdown of the historical alliance between the clergy and the state has been a catalyst to the politicization of the clergy. In extreme cases, the result has been the expulsion of the clergy from the polity. Politicization of the clergy has also been caused by adverse government policies imposed against certain social groups that constituted the bases of the religious institutions, such as exclusion of segments of the elite from the polity, or intense economic and political exclusion of the poorest sectors of the population.

In addition to politicization, some clergy have also adopted ideological shifts. Although the majority of the clergy have followed existing, dominant ideologies, a segment, often in the lower ranks, has adopted alternative ideologies that favor social revolution and a radical transformation of the social order. This ideological shift by clergy is facilitated in part by the fact that, like students, clerics are directly involved not in the production of material goods, but rather in the production, dissemination, and continuity of the moral and ideological bases of the social order. This engagement with theoretical explanations, justifications, and standards of judgment for the social order may at times stimulate and facilitate the clergy's ideological shift. This ideological shift was also in part a Vected by ideological changes in Christian theology outside these countries. For example, the Second Vatican Council played an important role in the rise of liberation theology in Nicaragua and the Philippines. The clergy's shift away from an emphasis on social peace and harmony and toward favoring

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