The Bible, the populist, and the preach


The conference on Populism as movement and rhetoric will take place in the University of Jyväskylä. 17-19 March 20016


How does a populist use rhetoric tools? Is there any kind of “populist communication” and how does it work? Which role religion has in it?

“But he is catholic”, said my professor when I was telling him about Timo Soini´s rhetoric and its similarities to pentacostalism in USA. “But so is Jean-Marie Le Pen. He doesn´t use catholic myths either. Even Hugo Chavez is using those evangelical tools.”  It´s common for those populist leaders and for their leadership that they use confession. “I am catholic by confession”, they say, but they don´t use myths or Bible to prove it.

“Bible”, said the supervisor of my MA-thesis when I was still writing it. “Read Bible. They took their language from Bible”, he, a specialist on the Finnish Center party, told me, when I was studying Finnish Rural party. I think this was a really good advice.

Populism is one of most vibrant concepts of political sciences. However, there is not so much research about populism and religion. Dominique Reynie, a French sociologist from Sciences Po, has written a book “Populismes: la pente fatale”, where he points out how populism uses Islam as a target and how religion is in this manner important, but he does not go any any further than that.  His  book from the 2011 shows the difficulties of muslim minority living in France. The new generation faces problems every day. Some imams are using this for their own purposes.

In which way populism uses Christianity and its elements?

Lately I read that Timo Soini, (leader of True Finns and Finnish foreign minister since 2005) is organizing a preach breakfast in Helsinki, where he will be reading a text from  the Bible.  The entry fee is 120 euros . The idea is similar than in White House. Mainly other MEPs and CEOs are invited.

To understand populism as a phenomenon we should study the gap between religion and populism. How and in which way religious populism came to secular Europe? In our panel  “Religion and populism”, in the conference “Populism as movement and rhetoric”, we will be discussing about these topics.

I Hope it will be a fruitful session and after it we will understand populism better! And thank you for my MA supervisor. I am still thankful for all kind of advices I got.

Conference webpage:

Reynié, Dominique: Populismes, la pente fatale. Plon. 2011. Paris.

MA Laura Parkkinen is a phd candidate and researcher at  University of Jyväskylä. When young, Laura wanted to be a milkmaid, but now she is going her dissertation about populism as communication. Laura is especially interested of political rhetoric, the current politics in France, Marine Le Pen. nationalism, the study of French politics, Chavez, and the woman in the far-right.

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