Monday, 1 November 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

The Cafeteria at Democracy Junior High 

Culture and Politics - Politics
Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We are one week out from an important election, and from all appearances, it looks to be a rambunctious one. By rambunctious, I mean that the airspace of the cafeteria here at Democracy Junior High will be full of rolls, pats of butter, jello cups, and the occasional green bean. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on our democratic process and the heavenly city.

1. C.S. Lewis said there were two basic approaches to democracy. One is idolatrous, and the other reflects a more biblical view of man. The first is the assumption that every last man's opinion is so valuable that we should do our level best to get his input before we do anything. This is the idolatrous option. The other acknowledges the sinfulness of man, such that it is unwise to concentrate too much power in any one spot. Democracy is, in this view, part of a system of checks and balances, where the power is spread as thinly as possible in order to keep an entrenched ruling class from having its unbridled way. If that were a design feature, then this next election would appear to be a successful example of the design working. But the thing to keep in mind is that corrective elections, even corrective wave elections, are not solution elections. "Throw the bums out" may often be just what's demanded, the need of the moment, and no argument there. Who could not but agree that a Pelosiless hour of evening news would be a real spot of sunshine in an otherwise drab and dreary chain of news stories? But what then? What do we do next? For those who are regular visitors to this space, our very next political move needs to be calling on Jesus. The reason we need to throw the bums out first is that they get in the way of calling on Jesus, and repentance precedes faith.

2. There are significant earthly consequences to what we do, and in how we vote, but we have to be shrewd in understanding what those consequences are. If I owe you a thousand bucks, you've got me. The borrower becomes the lender's slave. But there is a point at which that reality breaks down. If I owe you a bazillion bucks, I've got you. There actually is a point where the lender becomes the borrower's slave. And this is why we should all agree with the bumper sticker, "Please, nobody tell Obama what comes after a trillion."

This election is therefore something of an intervention. The powers that be, the lenders, the bankers, the regulators, the congressmen, the smartest guys in the room, are all of them out of control. They are selling themselves into slavery. Back in the old days, when the people were borrowing a thousand bucks, the lenders were able to maintain their position of control. But now, when they have lent half the assets of America to all the winos in America, and those winos have peed it all away, a moment arises when the responsible adults in the room look at each other, nod, and say, "It's time." But these guys don't want to go to rehab any more than did Amy Winehouse, no, no, no, but always keep in mind the fact that drying out in rehab, however salutary in itself, is not the same thing as fixing the problem. In this case, going into the voting booth, and voting for "It's time," sends both the wino and the guy giving him cash to a place where they have to stop it. One guy goes to wino rehab and the other one to banker rehab. In both cases, it is just to clear the head so that they can figure out they need to call on Jesus.

3. The late Sen. Eugene McCarthy said that being a senator was a lot like being a football coach -- you had to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it was important. This leads naturally to the reflection by Augustine in The City of God, when he said that in the kingdoms of men, the dead are replaced by the dying. In short, the story that God is telling with His sprawling narrative of a world is not the same story that many of His characters are trying to tell. It is the responsibility of sane Christians to try to line up the story they are telling themselves about their lives with the story that God is telling about their lives. Does this seem cryptic? Bring it down to the voting booth. When I go in there, what am I trying to accomplish? Ultimately, I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling, the same thing I am trying to do when I fry an egg, or type a phrase, or drive down the road to an appointment. I am not trying to save America, unless saving America is a proximate means to the larger end of glorifying God through the salvation of His people through the gospel. This is not quietism; this is not activism. This is perspective.

No matter what happens in the election, God is on His throne, and we should still be in the process of gathering before it.

1 comment: said...

i am also interested in the study of early christianity and patristics. I am always happy to talk with others.