With less than a month remaining before the presidential election, a survey finds that, “The values that support American democracy are deteriorating.” Scarcely more than half of respondents agree that, “I have faith in American democracy.” The conclusion: “Large numbers of Americans across party lines have lost faith in their democracy, and many will not accept the legitimacy of this election.”
We confront the question: In what way has our democracy failed us? And, yes, I’d like to propose an answer.
Democracy has failed to produce Utopia. Discarding the concept of sin, post-Christian America has made mankind perfectible. If we are not corrupted by sin, we can evolve into fully rational beings capable of identifying policies that promote the common good, agreeing on them and implementing them.
The demos – the people – will rally round the virtues of equity, justice and fairness and bestow Utopia upon ourselves.
It sounds good in theory but the lamentable evidence shouts that it isn’t happening and looks less and less likely. Democracy can’t deliver.
An American president – a Democrat, by the way – once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy encapsulated in those few words an ethic of shared commitment and sacrifice for the benefit of all. In a little over a half-century since, we have inverted his declaration.
Following an idol named Diversity, we have made our country responsible for promoting our various agendas rather than submitting those agendas to the shared vision.
Now, diversity has always mattered greatly in America. Italians came and spoke Italian and ate spaghetti. Poles came and spoke Polish and ate kielbasa. But both learned English and ate hamburgers. And sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Of course, we’ve never agreed on everything – or many things. The television personality Soledad O’Brien came to Tulsa this fall and told of the experience of her parents. Living in Baltimore, they decided to marry, but Maryland law at the time would not countenance the union of a white man and an Afro-Cuban woman. They left the state to marry and lived as man and wife in Baltimore.
And when they walked together down the street, some spat on them. Asked about the effect of that experience, Soledad’s mother replied, “America is better than that.”
She might have wallowed in grievance; most of us would say she surely had a valid one. Instead, by an act of will she chose to see her adopted country through the lens of its potential rather than its present reality, and in the process she made it better. And she has been proved right in her assessment.
Yet neither her defiant optimism nor President Kennedy’s bold exhortation have stuck. Pursuing diversity for its own sake, we have made it Diversity – a celebration of the things that divide us while dismissing, even repudiating, the things that unite us. More and more of us see ourselves not as Americans but as Hyphen-Americans.
If this nation has failed to work as a melting pot it has failed to work. Democracy was only up to the job as long as the demos agreed on core principles, notably including the place of religion and the proper role of government. When Diversity overpowered that consensus, the fabric was torn. They’re right: Democracy is failing.
It is failing because man is a sinner and, as such, he is not perfectible. Under the old covenant, God demonstrated by His law that His covenant people were incapable of saving themselves. They simply couldn’t be good enough to keep the law.
Under the new covenant, He is showing us that we can’t govern ourselves. God’s government is theocracy. Democracy is a human invention, and like all human institutions it is flawed. It is the best form ever conceived by man but like all the others it was destined to fail. We sinners cannot redeem ourselves and, because we can’t, we cannot order our affairs for the good of all.
Hope begins in the confession of sin:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10).
Hope grows in our certain knowledge that God is in control. This truth does not deliver us from our distress as we watch our governing consensus crumble but it assures us that our pain has a purpose. God is working out His perfect plan, showing His people our need for Him not as Savior only but as King as well.
Hope blossoms in the presence of our Lord, where the perfect, sinless society materializes in theocracy. Bless His holy name.Ω