Genuflecting at the Altar of Democracy

It’s become quite the news story. Abdul Rahman, an Afghan and former Muslim, has been ratted out as Christian. According to Afghanistan’s Islamic law, such an offense is punishable by death. This has captured the ire of the international community (i.e., the West), who is pressuring President Hamid Karzai toward a friendly compromise. However, this capital punishment is not the impulsive will of a deranged despot, but is the widely-expected verdict of the Afghan people. In an AP article published today by Daniel Cooney a chief Islam cleric was quoted as saying, “What sort of democracy would it be if the government ignored the will of all the people?”

Well now-the cleric has beat us at our own game. It has been the West’s intention to export democracy to the Middle East. Democracy would be the savior to redeem us from nuclear threats, terrorists, and militant radicals. However, did we consider that a people just might democratically opt to be threatening, militant and radical? Did we factor in that a country may democratically choose to be unjust and tyrannical?

We have placed our hope in the power of democracy to change the hearts and will of a volitile region. However, we have sorely misplaced our faith. The fundamental problem with the Middle East is not its law, rites and rights. It is the same fundamental problem that we have in America–the heart. Sure, we can give people political freedom. But, that assumes that a free people will choose to be a just, righteous and moral people. That’s a tall order and America is a case study in the impotence of democracy to affect morality. We severely underestimate man’s depravity and our sin is the proudest champion of national freedom.

We should be proud to speak as Americans. I write within minutes of Fort Hood, the largest Army base in the free world. Our area is saturated with men and women of the highest caliber and courage. I take for granted that I can run down to the A-Stop for a Pepsi without restraint or fear. So, I do not want to snub the freedom I have not worked one day to provide.

But, we must speak even more boldly as churchmen, as the citizens of Zion. Democracy is not the power of God to change lives. The gospel of the Lord Jesus is (Rom 1.16). And until we make that our main export we have no reason to expect the Abdul Rahman’s of the world to live.

Are there common virtues inherent in all of us as God’s image-bearers? Sure. We all have categories of justice, love, compassion and charity. But, those categories have been severely and irreparably redefined by our sin. For example, we would consider the execution of Rahman a heinous injustice. Yet, we tolerate and endorse the annual execution of millions of unborn babies. Both countries do their killing in the name of justice, compassion and democracy! For another example, we Westerners deplore the sex slavery in Asia. Yet, we endorse pornography, glorify adultery, and consider sex an effective marketing tool. In either case, we both sell sex for profit! Does the freedom of expression mean the freedom to redefine exploitation?

How can we possibly expect to reconcile such contradictory definitions of virtue? Democracy has not made, is not making, and never will make a people holy. That’s because the problem is not with the law, but with the heart. America is not the church (nor the President the head of the church) and we are dangerously close, if not already wedded, to propogating a different gospel (Gal 1). The church is the greatest army in the known world because she is armed with the most powerful weapon. And we may find more camaraderie with the faithful Christians of China than the veteran next door. Let us unholster the gospel and follow our Lord Jesus into battle.

2 thoughts on “Genuflecting at the Altar of Democracy

  1. wow, i really liked this post. sometimes i get frustrated because people tend to associate america and christianity….sadly, that’s what my Islamic friend does–which makes reaching him hard because we have to peel back the falsehoods and misconceptions.
    thanks barry, your posts are very good and helpful.

  2. Thanks for your encouragement, Mark. Indeed, Jesus taught us to maintain an “otherworldly” citizenship. We are ambassadors of Christ’s kingdom, which is not of this world. Any freedom we accomplish as Americans must be seen to serve gospel purposes.

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