Democracy and Christianity

by Rick Shrader

I’m glad to be a Christian living in America. But I must admit that as another July 4th comes and goes, it is getting more difficult to put my hand on my heart, which belongs to a holy Savior, and pledge allegiance to what I see around me! I’m not a pessimist. I’m not a dooms-dayer. I get bored reading the conspiratorial views of history. I thank God for the freedom America has brought the gospel for the last two hundred years! But America is not heaven nor the kingdom of God. It is a nation of people. Lost people. People who have a sinful nature.

I believe that a national system that leaves the church alone is best for the church. A group of believers will govern themselves through the Spirit of God within and without the church. The Apostle Paul said that national laws are made for lawbreakers not lawkeepers (Rom 13:3-4). In a country where people have freedom, Christians will thrive. The problem always will be (this side of the kingdom of God) the lost man who is not led by the Spirit of God. To him, freedom is the opportunity to sin without paying the consequences. That is what democracy means to many Americans today.

Consider the words of Urvashi Vaid, former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, spoken at the March on Washington this Spring; ‘‘On one side are the values that everyone here stands for. You know what those values are? Traditional American values of democracy and pluralism. On the other side are those who want to turn the Christian church into the government. Those whose value is monotheism. We believe in democracy.’’ Why? Because democracy represents the freedom to practice sodomy without punishment. Consider the current baseball commissioner’s defense of Michael Jordan’s gambling habit by saying, ‘‘We don’t think we should be regulating whether a player can go to a casino and engage in an activity that is not only legal, but is actually encouraged by virtually all state governments. Go to casinos. Go to Indian reservations for gambling. Go to riverboats. Bet lots. Gambling is good. It supports higher education, lower education, senior citizens, you name it.’’ Pete Rose was just born ten years too soon! Consider our local newspaper which, this week, ran an article on how single parents can arrange their schedules in order to have affairs while the kids are still in the house! Consider . . . well, you get the point.

We could add to these examples the profusion of Christian-bashing both from the various forms of media to the current cultural expressions in art and music. Should we be surprised? Christianity is a Divinely based system of moral absolutes. Democracy is a humanly based system of fluctuating ethics. Democracy works for Christianity as long as Christians out number non-Christians. But because population (the proliferation of Adam’s nature) has out-raced evangelism (the proliferation of Christ’s nature), human nature has gained the upper hand. In 1713, Joseph Addison said, ‘‘A day, an hour of virtuous liberty, is worth a whole eternity in bondage.’’ Really? That seems to be what Americans have opted for. ‘‘Liberty’’ has now come to mean the freedom of man’s nature to make the rules.

It is tempting to add a list of America’s pagan symbols but I think such avenues are inefficacious. We have used pagan symbols to our own good constantly (the birthday cake, the Christmas tree, etc.).  Even if we believe (naively) that everything about this country’s founding was purely Christian, it would not change the subsequent course of man’s nature.

After God judged a world like ours in Noah’s day, He promised not to do it again in such a way for a peculiar reason. Genesis 8:21 includes, ‘‘I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.’’ It almost sounds paradoxical. Man’s nature is why God should curse us in our generation. But our ways are not God’s ways. If He judged man again the same way, there would never be a second generation alive. God was explaining His grace to Noah! It is because man’s heart is evil that he cannot obey God and so God determined to inaugurate a certain uniformity (after the great catastrophe) of judgment in the interim between the great judgments of water and fire (see 2 Peter 3). The fact is, man cannot behave even in the best of situations. That was true in Eden, in the antediluvian world and in a free democracy.

Francis Schaeffer’s title, ‘‘How Shall We Then Live?’’ is such an appropriate question. In that book he writes of freedom and government, ‘‘The latter carries with it an important corollary, namely, that 51 percent of the vote never becomes the final source of right and wrong in government because the absolutes of the Bible are available to judge a society. The ‘little man,’ the private citizen, can at any time stand up and, on the basis of biblical teaching, say that the majority is wrong. So, to the extent to which the biblical teaching is practiced, one can control the despotism of the majority vote or the despotism of one person or group.’’ John Calvin put it this way, ‘‘Scarcely is there one in a hundred who has not in his mouth that diabolical proverb, ‘We must howl when we are among wolves;’ and the greater part, framing a rule for themselves from the common practice, judge everything to be lawful which is generally received’’ (on Genesis 6:10).

The Christian in America is finding himself to be ‘‘one in a hundred.’’ We may lament what the ninety nine do but we should never be surprised! They are simply proving God to be true and men liars. What a relevant truth to present in reaching our generation! Peter started saying it centuries ago, ‘‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation’’ (Acts 2:40).