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Christian democratic parties are political parties that seek to apply Christian principles to public policy. The underlying Christian democracy movement emerged in 19th-century Europe, largely under the influence of Catholic social teaching and Neo-Calvinist theology. Christian democracy continues to be influential in Europe and Latin America, though in a number of countries its Christian ethos has been diluted by secularisation. In practice, Christian democracy is often considered centre-right on cultural, social and moral issues, but centre-left "with respect to economic and labor issues, civil rights, and foreign policy" as well as the environment,[nb 1] generally supporting a social market economy. Christian democracy can be seen as either conservative, centrist, or liberal / left of, right of, or center of the mainstream political parties depending on the social and political atmosphere of a given country and the positions held by individual Christian democratic parties. In Europe, where their opponents have traditionally been secularist socialists, Christian democratic parties are moderately conservative overall, whereas in the very different cultural and political environment of Latin America they tend to lean to the left. It is the dominant centre-right political movement in Europe, but by contrast, Christian democratic parties in Latin America tend to be left-leaning. Christian democracy includes elements common to several other political ideologies, including conservatism, liberalism, and social democracy. In the United States, Christian democratic parties of Europe and Latin America, deemed conservative and liberal respectively in their geopolitical regions, are both generally regarded as farther left-wing of the mainstream.
This is the Christian Democratic tradition and the structural pluralist concepts that underlie it. The Roman Catholic social teaching of subsidiarity and its related concepts, as well as the parallel neo-Calvinist concept of sphere sovereignty, play major roles in structural pluralist thought.
Concurrent with this missionary movement in Africa, both Protestant and Catholic political activists helped to restore democracy to war-torn Europe and extend it overseas. Protestant political activism emerged principally in England, the Lowlands, and Scandinavia under the inspiration of both social gospel movements and neo-Calvinism. Catholic political activism emerged principally in Italy, France, and Spain under the inspiration of both Rerum Novarum and its early progeny and of neo-Thomism. Both formed political parties, which now fall under the general aegis of the Christian Democratic Party movement. Both Protestant and Catholic parties inveighed against the reductionist extremes and social failures of liberal democracies and social democracies. Liberal democracies, they believed, had sacrificed the community for the individual; social democracies had sacrificed the individual for the community. Both parties returned to a traditional Christian teaching of "social pluralism" or "subsidiarity," which stressed the dependence and participation of the individual in family, church, school, business, and other associations. Both parties stressed the responsibility of the state to respect and protect the "individual in community."
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