If you care about the state of our Republic, then you can't help but be mesmerized by our front row seat to the vote for Speaker of the House on the floor of the 118th United States Congress. As I hope you understand, the United States of America is a republic, but how is that different from a democracy? If you Google that question, you will get a lot of answers that compare the two forms of government in the same terms. So, what is the difference between a Republic and a Democracy? As I understand it, here are the basic differences:
- Republics and democracies both provide a political system in which citizens are represented by elected officials who are sworn to protect their interests.
- In a pure democracy, laws are made directly by the voting majority leaving the rights of the minority largely unprotected.
- In a republic, laws are made by representatives chosen by the people and must comply with a constitution that specifically protects the rights of the minority from the will of the majority.
- The United States, while basically a republic, is best described as a “representative democracy.”
Confused? Did you know that when the delegates of the newly formed United States Constitutional Convention debated the question in 1787, the exact meanings of the terms republic and democracy weren't exactly clear, even in the minds of the delegates! And most of us are probably familiar with the famous story about Ben Franklin ... upon leaving Independence Hall at the Convention, Elizabeth Powel, wife of Philadelphia Mayor Samuel Powel, asked the esteemed Dr. Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?" "A republic", replied the Doctor, "If you can keep it". Mrs. Powell immediately challenges Dr. Franklin: "And why not keep it"? Ben Franklin replies, "Because the people, on tasting the dish, are always disposed to eat more of it than does them good".
Fast forward to the 118th United States Congress. As we watch the endless proceedings of vote after vote for the Speaker of the House, there are many decrying the "messiness" of it all. But the beauty of our form of government is this rather simple precept: We are blessed to be held accountable for who we elect as our representatives. In turn, we must expect [and demand] accountability from those in leadership, and insist on it from those who represent us. I think we have forfeited that blessing for too long, and that is at the heart of what you're seeing on the floor of Congress today.
Two hundred thirty-six years ago, a group of disparate representatives of thirteen colonies who had, heretofore, operated independently of each other, came together to form a constitution that established laws that determined the powers and duties of our government and guaranteed certain rights to the people of our nation. But, alas, we have not held ourselves accountable for electing principled representatives, nor have we demanded these representatives fulfill their obligations to "do the work of the people". And as Ben Franklin predicted, far too many in the government have become addicted to the taste of power.
And here is a fact that I was unaware of until reading it in an article in Christianity Today. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 completed its task well: it established a central form of government; it preserved the individual rights of the people; and it defined the powers of the states and the nation in their relation to each other. But, they failed to include God in their proceedings. In fact, they deliberately rejected His participation, and when the deliberations became difficult and agreement seemed far off, Benjamin Franklin proposed a motion, stating, "the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings that “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” A footnote to Franklin’s speech tells us that prayers were not thought necessary, and the motion was lost by adjournment.
Perhaps the 118th Congress should revisit Dr. Franklin's motion. If we truly believe that this nation was established through the favor of Almighty God, we must recognize that at the heart of a Christian nation, there is an indisputable tenet: "the Law of God is the Law of the People", NOT "the voice of the people is as the voice of God". I would like to conclude with this statement by the Gospel Defense League in their excellent article, What Does The Bible Say About Democracy? In stating that our nation is a Christian Republic, the article proclaims this form of government "protects basic individual rights derived from the Law of God. These rights are granted by our unchanging God, not by a changing majority vote. Thus these rights are inalienable and eternal. Christianity does not deny 'democratic processes'. A Christian people are to be governed through elected representatives, but only within the framework of God's Law. God's Law, and mankind's Gospel obedience to it, is the check against the tyranny which will inevitably come under a democratic regime".
So, as we observe the "Messy Democracy" on the floor of Congress today, we contemplate just how far our representatives have come from being responsible to those who elected them. We must recognize that perhaps we are at a crossroads in this nation. Will we continue the status quo of the last 50 years, seeing our national debt rise astronomically; the poor become poorer, while the elite in government grow richer; and the citizens of this nation become increasingly apathetic about acknowledging the part God played in the formation of our great nation. Perhaps, it is prescient that in the final adoption of the Constitution, there is no mention of God, Christ, or the Law of God. While our Constitution is a fine document that seeks to protect the individual rights of all men, it is apparent that "trust was placed in the wisdom of men, rather than the guidance of God".
Interestingly enough, there have been attempts throughout the years, beginning in 1863, to amend the Constitution to "acknowledge God and the authority of His Law". A bill has been repeatedly introduced that reads: “This nation devoutly recognizes the authority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of Nations, through whom are bestowed the blessings of Almighty God.” To date, it has not been adopted. So, what do you think? Can this "Messy Democracy" on display in Congress these last few days be resolved to the benefit of this nation and its people? Can we expect to survive without the acceptance of the truth that God's Law supersedes man's wisdom, and the existence of His Sovereignty prevails over the will of men? I have not given up hope on this nation and its Christian identity. But it is time that we take responsibility and ownership of all that God has blessed us with, hold our representatives accountable, and become the nation we were meant to be.
Here are links to three excellent articles that influenced my blog today:
#118thcongress #messydemocracy #speakofthehouse #republicvsdemocracy #americanpolitics
Psalm 146:3 Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.