Is Christianity Clashing With Democracy?

There is no fear of God before their eyes.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.

One of the heralded great achievements of the American experiment is elective government. Instead of power invested in a monarch, it has been invested in the citizens and from the citizens has emerged government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Such ideas directly address the abuses of historical hierarchies and grant tremendous freedom from fixed structures of authority.

From this experiment of citizen liberation has naturally emerged the idea of equality, that humanity has a basic equality and that no authority can violate that equality by oppressing some and promoting others, especially based on traits and factors beyond the control of the individual. For example, democracy cannot tolerate rendering some as second-class citizens based on ethnicity since a man cannot choose what ethnic group he is born into to. This simple and even noble concept has been taken to a much higher and idealized conclusion. No citizen can be held in a different class from than another for any reason.

Liberation from tyranny (such as freedom a monarchy) is a nice idea unless the tyranny is practiced for just reasons. Imprisoning a man or executing him for the crime of murder could be called a tyrannical act, but it is accepted in most democracies. In Norway, the courts found Anders Breivik sane and sentenced him to twenty-one years after he killed 77 people in a rampage in June 2011. This is an act of a government completely committed to the idea that tyranny in any form, even against violent citizens, is considered morally wrong. This is not an unreasonable conclusion from thinking that is driven by the overarching goal of democratic equality. Not even mass murderers are excluded from society in any permanent sense. It should be noted that Anders Breivik is said to be applying for a university education, which he can then apply as a member of society when his sentence is completed.

Christianity in its foundational understanding of man’s relationship to God is not democratic. At the center of its beliefs is the resurrected Christ, who is said to be in heaven ruling planet earth from on high. The language of the bible emerges from the view of a patriarchal monarch being the focus of life. The man Jesus Christ is king absolute. Modern democratic movements and their emphasis on equality without hierarchy have affected the Christian view of its own Christ. Instead of the Christian walking under the sovereignty of a monarch titled Christ, he is said to be walking with an equal named Jesus. The poor carpenter from Galilee doing miracles and preaching to the poor is the model for the democratic idea instead of the historic reality of Christ ascending to heaven to reign benevolently from a throne.

Philip Mauro, writing at the turn of the twentieth century, notes:

The state of ideal democracy would be accurately described as “lawlessness,” since it is manifest that an individual or a society which is under no restraint except such as is self-imposed, is really under no restraint at all.

Democracy in its modern, secular context is currently a manifestation of man’s self-rule without any authority other than what man produces of himself, by himself, and for himself. The idea of transcendent authority is set aside for the idea of transcendent comfort. If there is God, He does not rule man, but helps man rule himself. Modern democracy is a type of spiritual humanism. A man can be democratic and believe in God, but not to the point where God is the final arbitrator of his life and not he himself.

As the American empire continues to herald the spread of democracy in its secular, humanist understanding, the Christian has the task of defending and promoting the reality of transcendent authority. The church needs to remind men as they enjoy the goodness that their democracy has brought them (and it has been good), that there remains a God in sovereign reign over the affairs of man and His authority should be feared.

Democracy is not the perfect holy grail of human achievement and can manifest cruelty the same as any monarch. Man must remember that the universe is not a democracy, but a monarchy and he is not equal with the Christ that reigns over him.