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John Fea on the Democracy and this Election Cycle

South Carolina Republican presidential candidate debate, 16 Jan. 2012, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Several great posts from John Fea about the election cycle and how Christians can think faithfully about the role of government and the process of democracy. John is the chair of the Department of History at Messiah College (where I am on the faculty and teach statistics). I’ll highlight two of them here, but you can check out more on his Patheos channel or his blog, The Way of Improvement Leads Home. He’s had a lot of good things to say!

First, some thoughts about how Christians should think about democracy. Here is a taste:

Alexis de Tocqueville, the great 19th-century observer of the political culture of the United States, equated American democracy with a system of morality. He wrote that “the majority [in America] possess a power that is physical and moral at the same time, which acts upon the will as much as upon the actions and represses not only all contest, but all controversy.” In a democracy the will of the majority becomes the highest good. Sometimes the convictions of the majority will be compatible with Christian ethical teaching, but sometimes they will not.

American history abounds with examples in which democracy as a moral system has come into conflict with a competing moral system informed by something other than the will of the majority. In the mid-19th century, for example, democracy manifested itself in the political principle known as “popular sovereignty.” In the context of westward expansion, popular sovereignty meant that the people of a given territory could decide whether or not slavery would be permitted within their boundaries. Such a belief in popular sovereignty meant that it was possible that slavery could extend throughout the continent as long as 51 percent of the people in a given territory thought it was a good idea.

You can check out the rest here.

More recently, Fea offered an opinion piece in reflection on the South Carolina Republican debate and the rhetoric of war. Here is a taste:

Nearly all the candidates on the stage in Myrtle Beach have claimed to be people of faith. Rick Perry is an evangelical Christian. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are Catholics. Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Ron Paul does not wear his faith on his sleeve, but he is a Baptist. All of these faith traditions believe that human beings are created in the image of God and thus have inherent dignity and worth.

During the debate, both Gingrich and Romney lauded their “pro-life” record. But anyone who listened carefully would have smelled hypocrisy.

When asked about whether he would have pursued and killed Osama Bin Laden, Ron Paul said that he would, but he did not see how this issue was relevant to the 2012 presidential election. Paul decried American war-mongering and said that if he were president he would do his best to keep the United States out of foreign wars. He then said that U.S. foreign policy should be based on the “golden rule”–do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He was booed for even making such a suggestion.

Sensing an opportunity, Newt Gingrich called Paul’s remarks “utterly irrational.” He then invoked former U.S. president Andrew Jackson, a South Carolina native: “Jackson had a pretty clear-cut idea about America’s enemies: Kill them.” The crowd went wild. As Fox News cameras flashed to the audience, television viewers could see South Carolina Republicans rise to their feet, fists-pumping, cheering on the Catholic presidential candidate with a supposedly impeccable “pro-life” record who just used the killing of another human being and a reference to one of the most ruthless military leaders in American history to score political points.

Not to be outdone by Gingrich’s utter disrespect for human life, Mitt Romney, seeing the kind of support Gingrich’s remark received from the bloodthirsty crowd, said, in regard to the Taliban and Al Queda, “these people declared war on us. They’ve killed Americans. We go anywhere they are, and we kill them.” More applause: Kill ’em! Kill em!

I am not a pacifist. On rare occasions I believe war is appropriate in order to preserve peace and maintain justice. I believe that evil exists in the world and it must be confronted. I supported George W. Bush when he sent American troops to hunt down Osama. Yet the flippant way in which these GOP candidates disregarded human life on Monday night deeply disturbed me. I hope it might disturb any Christian. Life is sacred because it comes from God. These candidates should think twice before disrespecting God’s highest form of creation in order to get applause lines and votes. Shame on them!

Check out the rest here.

One comment on “John Fea on the Democracy and this Election Cycle

  1. Thanks for the post, Sam. Glad to see you are back in the blogging saddle.

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