My doctorate is in history. My teaching career included seven years in a graduate school of government, showing how history needs to be taken into account when considering the function of government and public policy. And of course the basis for everything I have taught has been Biblical principles.
Therefore, it’s not hard to understand why I maintain an active interest in politics and current affairs. I seek to educate others in those principles and hope to see them influence our nation’s public policy.
I’m also a devotee of a republican form of government, one that is usually called “democratic,” but which is more properly “republican,” meaning that there is a certain amount of representation of the governed involved. In an imperfect world, this outward form is the closest to a government tied to what I consider to be Biblical principles.
But as I said, this is an imperfect world, and there is no such thing as a perfect government.
C. S. Lewis recognized this also. In his essay, “Equality,” he used the word democracy to write about it, but I can give him some leeway on that. He meant the same thing as I would mean by representative government, i.e., a republic.
What’s so good about his ruminations on “democracy” is his understanding for why it is desirable despite its faults.
I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason.
A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true.
Many reading those words might be startled. Where is Lewis going with this? To the foundations of Biblical principles, of course.
I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost, much less a nation. . . . The real reason for democracy is . . . Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows.
Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.
The rub, though, is that many men and women jockeying for political office really do think they are well suited to be the masters of others. They all do it in the name of the people, naturally; they use the grand rhetoric of “democracy” to convince others they should be trusted with power. They are grand in their own minds.
In another essay, “Democratic Education,” Lewis offers this warning:
Democracy demands that little men should not take big ones too seriously; it dies when it is full of little men who think they are big themselves.
As I survey the political field currently, I see a lot of little men—and women—who think they’re really something wonderful. They think that leading a nation is the apex of life. They think nations are greater than individuals. They are wrong. Why? Lewis explains in a familiar passage in Mere Christianity:
Immortality makes this other difference between totalitarianism and democracy. If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilisation, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual.
But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilisation, compared with his, is only a moment.
If our political leaders were to grasp that truth, it would be a start down the path of proper humility. Humility is in short supply in the political realm; it is one of our most urgent needs.