Discipling populism: a theopolitical alternative to denial or demonizing

Gay, D. (2021) Discipling populism: a theopolitical alternative to denial or demonizing. In: Schmiedel, U. and Ralston, J. (eds.) The Spirit of Populism: Political Theologies in Polarized Times. Series: Political and public theologies (1). Brill: Leiden ; Boston, pp. 212-225. ISBN 9789004498310 (doi: 10.1163/9789004498327_015)

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.


Populism and nationalism are often seen as inextricably linked and, singularly or jointly, as toxic phenomena which are intrinsically unethical. A consequence is that working definitions of both often have an ethical deficit pre-loaded. In this chapter, Doug Gay develops the argument first advanced in his Honey From The Lion – Christianity and the Ethics of Nationalism that it is possible to conceive of an ethical nationalism and to posit what the theological conditions might be for such a position. He argues for a resetting of definitions of nationalism and populism towards more neutral formulations. He draws on the language of ‘discipleship’ to argue that, from the perspective of theological ethics, we learn how to be ‘Scottish’, Danish or Ghanaian and that such identities need to be ‘discipled’ (as opposed to simply ‘demonized’) so that they can be inhabited and performed ethically. This approach to the ethics of nationalism can be extended to growing debates around populism. The experience of active involvement with campaigns for Scottish independence is brought into dialogue with post-colonial perspectives to argue a distinctive case for a critical and nuanced ethics of nationalism and populism.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:Political theology, populism, nationalism, religion, Scotland.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gay, Rev Doug
Authors: Gay, D.
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Published Online:08 November 2021

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record