Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

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sacred birthrights and democratic ideals

5/26/12

 

 

Ostensibly, democracies are predicated on the idea of equality, liberty, and justice for each and every individual. That all sounds very noble. Supposedly these are the virtues that we propose to export to the parts of the world that struggle yet with despotic governments. The problem with our attempts to promote these virtues, either at home or abroad, is that our prevailing theology, that of Christian Orthodoxy, denies these same ideas most emphatically.

 

It is easy to see that orthodox church is a great proclaimer of eternal struggle between good and evil men. On the one hand they claim to be concerned for changing evil men into good ones; but their words and actions more readily demonstrate that the real focus in on eliminating them, thereby assisting God in His ultimate intention in regards to evil men. The whole gist of the evangelical message is that the world at large is a dangerous place, rightfully forsaken by God, and that good people need to be very cautious and fearful in dealing with elements outside the church. In this regard the church is a very forceful and vocal proponent of redemptive violence as a key element in governmental policy. This redemptive violence manifests itself in the various aspects of the justice system and the so called national security apparatus. The good/bad win/lose dichotomy, which lies at the heart of this attachment to conflict and warfare, plays out in our economic system too, in its reliance on ruthless competition.

 

With its historical insistence on obedience to laws as the route to acceptance by God, the church can hardly be viewed as an advocate of personnel liberty. Clearly laws limit liberty; they do not promote it. The argument that laws prevent someone else's liberty from encroaching on my own is quite hollow. What makes one person's liberty more important than another's. As soon as we concede the need to restrain other folks, we have already denied any commitment to liberty.

 

The very idea of laws necessitates the existence of lawgivers, law interpreters, and law enforcers. Each of these functions require the selection of supposedly superior individuals who rule over the rest through the threat of redemptive violence. In that very selection, both equality and liberty, as viable realities, cease to exist. All of our current political squabbles boil down to the question of who is morally and intellectually superior and therefore the proper rulers over the remainder.

 

We can console ourselves by observing that the majority pick the rulers and therefore this selection process bears some legitimacy. In reality, I think most can see that rulers, however selected, are still human agents subject to manifold temptations when in positions of power. The very act of governing is itself the suppression of liberty and equality, with justice soon to follow. Privilege and claimed superiority are rarely servants of justice.

 

The very concept of the nation state, which we have inherited from western civilizations, implies a birthright for all citizens. Birthrights by their very nature grant special privilege to some because of the accident of birth, not because of any other distinguishing characteristic. In our historical past we have railed against and even fought over the idea that some men are rightfully born into a state of privilege, as in the case of the European style aristocracy. Such sanctimoniousness is hardly consistent with the notion that place of birth should grant special privilege.

 

For some in Christian Orthodoxy, the nation of Israel, enjoys a position of preeminence before God, all through the factors of parentage and place of birth. This is a supposed superiority over all other people, granted by God unconditionally. To adhere to this as a theological fact is most definitely a refutation of mankind's equality before God, and such thinking logically denies equality in general. One cannot honor a god of exclusiveness and at the same time honestly embrace human equality and unity.

 

With all these observations, we can see that any claim to be a promoter of democratic principles introduces numerous conundrums under our current mode of operation, politically and theologically. Resolving these inconsistencies would be difficult to be sure, but just admitting their existence to ourselves should make us more prone to reject trite "sound bites" and actually reflect on what we truly believe and hold dear.