In breaking news, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote this morning on whether to recommend Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the full Senate.
I watched yesterday’s Committee hearings. The senators were sharply contentious; the two witnesses were deeply emotional.
As conflicted as the day was, however, this thought prevailed in my mind: the process worked.
An American citizen was able to bring her concerns about a federal judge and now Supreme Court nominee before United States senators charged with investigating his candidacy. He was able to respond publicly to her allegations.
The number of countries across world history where such a scene would be possible is indeed small.
“Democracy is the worst form of Government”
Seven decades ago, Winston Churchill stated: “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
C. S. Lewis testified that he believed in democracy because “I believe in the Fall of Man.” He disagreed with “people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true.”
What is his evidence? “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.” Lewis concluded: “Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows.”
The best government is one that holds leaders accountable. Not dynastic rule as in North Korea, or one-party rule as in China, or one-man government as in Russia.
But we also need a system in which leaders hold us accountable. William Wilberforce used the governmental system of his day to abolish slavery. American leaders used our legislative process to enact civil rights. I am glad that sex trafficking and illegal drugs are illegal. I am grateful for police officers who enforce the law for the benefit of those who obey it.
And we need an adversarial judicial system. I am glad we have both prosecutors and defense attorneys so that anyone can gain a fair hearing and anyone can defend himself or herself in such a context.
“The Kingdom of God will not arrive on Air Force One”
But none of these advantages found in a democracy can repair what is truly broken about our society.
Our root problem is spiritual. It is a disease no doctor can cure, a brokenness no law can repair, a condition no judge can reverse.
Even if a conservative majority on the Court makes abortion illegal, there will still be abortions (as there were before 1973). The Supreme Court infamously advanced slavery in the horrific Dred Scott case of 1857.
Time notes that in 1973 the justices “discovered an unwritten ‘right to privacy’ in the Constitution” when they legalized abortion, resulting in the deaths of more than sixty million babies. The Court discovered a right to same-sex marriage in the Constitution, overturning centuries of precedent for traditional marriage.
As Chuck Colson famously noted, “The Kingdom of God will not arrive on Air Force One.”
Human words cannot change human hearts
Christians can make two mistakes in response to yesterday’s hearings.
One: We can shake our heads at the chaos of the system and retreat from engagement in governance. But Plato was right (as paraphrased by Ralph Waldo Emerson): “The punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men.”
God calls us to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:2). We are to speak biblical truth to them, as Paul did to Roman leaders (Acts 24-26). And we are to engage in the political process as God directs.
Two: We can ask our government to do what it cannot. A fallacy popular in evangelical circles is that if we can just elect enough evangelicals, we can “turn around” our country.
While we need more evangelicals in office, human words cannot change human hearts. Laws can regulate society, but they cannot transform it.
“How do you know when the gold is pure?”
Let’s invert the pyramid that puts governmental leaders at the top and citizens at the bottom. In a democracy, our leaders serve us. That’s why they’re called “public servants.” We elect them, and we can remove them.
The esteemed former Congressman Frank Wolf notes that “Congress is downstream from culture.” Beyond participating in our democracy, Christians have a high calling to be the change we wish to see.
As the “body of Christ,” we continue the earthly ministry of Jesus today (1 Corinthians 12:27). The apostles were so Christlike that their enemies saw their “boldness” and “recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Now our Father wants us to know him so intimately that his Son is displayed in our lives and our influence advances his kingdom in our culture.
A group watching a goldsmith at work asked, “How do you know when the gold is pure?”
His answer: “When I can see my face in it.”
How pure is your “gold” today?