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Blueprints of Hope


Peter-Ben Smit and Clemens van den Berg presented papers at Protestant Political Thought conference

The Protestant Political Thought section of the Cambridge Institute on Religion and International Studies organised a conference themed ‘Nationalism, Populism, and Protestant Political Thought’ from 15-17 April 2020. Originally intended to take place in Cambridge, the conference was taken to the Zoom video conference platform due to the ongoing pandemic.

Peter-Ben Smit and Clemens van den Berg both contributed a paper in a panel titled ‘Christians, culture, and civil society’, which brought together theological, political, and historical perspectives on the ways in which Christian denominations or organisations face the challenge of populist and nationalist movements in the past and today. Peter-Ben’s paper, titled ‘Resisting Submission – Ecumenical Protestant Theology and Theological Anthropology and Populist Uses of Religion in the Context of the World Council of Churches of the late 20th and early 21st Century’, drew a comparison between the use of koinonia as a metaphor for communal life in the vocabulary of the World Council of Churches and the idiom of a ‘national community’ in the rhetoric of rising populist parties in the Netherlands. Clemens’s paper, titled ‘The Narrowing of the Third Way. The Responsible Society as an Ecumenical Blueprint for Politics in Post-War Europe, 1948-1952’, researched how ecumenists in the World Council of Churches used the concept of the responsible society to transform European politics after the Second World War, opening pathways for both social democracy and European unification.

All in all, this conference was a great opportunity to connect with leading scholars worldwide and will have a follow-up event in April 2021, when travel restrictions will hopefully have subsided.