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(An evidence-based approach)

Key messages for Christians seeking to control corruption

God can use the global Christian community to help control corruption [1], but only if we do three essential things:

• model values of fairness and honesty in our leadership roles and social interactions

• promote a socially engaged theology that emphasizes both justice and integrity

• build sustainable collective action [2] against corruption norms and structures in our societies.

1. Introduction

This document aims to help Christians understand, at a macro level, how they can be effective in helping to control corruption. Section 2 summarises briefly the global evidence about what has been shown to work in controlling corruption at a broad societal level. Section 3 addresses the question ‘which of the approaches that have been shown to help control corruption align with the natural and potential strengths of a Christian community?’ Section 4 acknowledges the sad fact that, on the whole, the global Christian community is currently failing to realize its potential contribution to fighting corruption.

2. What works in controlling corruption?

Recent scholarship indicates that legal and institutional measures are not sufficient but that strong values and collective action, involving both a majority of active public opinion and at least a fraction of the elite, are essential to progress in controlling corruption. Reform depends on the presence of widely diffused social norms [3] that constrain corruption, and also on local elites who spur progress by adding their voice to demands for better governance, or by facilitating improvements to governance from positions of power within the state. Change typically takes decades not years, and is often fiercely opposed, so sustained effort and courage are required.

3. The potential contribution of the global Christian community

These research findings indicate that a spiritually healthy global Christian community can make an impact on corruption:

3.1. The global Christian community combines great durability and influence with local agency and global reach. Reputed scholars have found that aspects of Christian faith and practice have had world-changing effects in the past, for example in the global development of democracy and protection of human rights.

3.2. Churches can help constrain corruption by (a) internalizing anti-corruption values through teaching and modeling good governance; (b) promoting responsible and engaged citizenship; and (c) leveraging their social networks to foster collective action.

3.3. As part of civil society, some Christian NGOs in majority Christian countries have been effective advocates for better governance.

3.4. Elites in many majority Christian countries define themselves as Christian, and when they learn to connect their private faith with their public role, they can help to facilitate improvements to governance from positions of power within the state.

4. The current reality in the global Christian community

It is a sad fact that, on the whole, the global Christian community is failing to realize its potential contribution to fighting corruption. The subject is rarely addressed in Christian teaching; church leaders may be benefitting from corrupt practices; the behavior of Christians at all levels of society often reflects prevailing norms rather than Christian ethics; and only a very small minority of Christian NGOs are engaged in advocacy for better governance.

- Steering Committee of the Faith and Public Integrity Network, February 2021.


[1] There is no universally agreed definition of corruption, but many people use this definition from Transparency International: ‘the abuse of entrusted power for private gain’. It extends to public servants and citizens alike and concerns individual actions as well as broader political and economic relationships.

[2] Collective action occurs when a number of people work together to achieve some common objective.

[3] Common standards within a social group regarding socially acceptable or appropriate behavior in particular social situations, the breach of which has social consequences.

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