Democracy Is On the Ballot
On the last day of the Constitutional Convention (September 18, 1787), Maryland delegate James McHenry, recorded, “A lady asked Dr. Franklin, ‘Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?'” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Franklin’s disburing response has never been more challenging than it is today. In the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, it is no exaggeration to say that the foundations of our democratic republic are on the ballot in elections this fall.
The Oath Keepers who were determined “to stop the certification one way or another” including with violence are only the extremist edge of the MAGA movement that attempted to overturn the 2020 Presidential election by force after being rejected by 61 courts. Three-hundred-seventy candidates on ballots this fall have “questioned and, at times, outright denied the results of the 2020 election despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.” Their ongoing efforts to undermine our elections force the question upon us: Will we keep our democracy?
Voting for Democracy
I have an early childhood memory of waiting outside a small, canvas booth while my mother went in to vote. I didn’t understand what she was doing, but I knew it was important.
I have a 7-7 win-loss record in Presidential elections and can’t calculate my record in all the other elections in which I’ve voted. I learned a long time ago that “keeping democracy” means that sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, and often we compromise (as they did in the Constitutional Convention). But our democracy requires our continued commitmeht to fair and open elections followed by the “peaceful transfer of power.” It’s an un-American betrayal of the republic our founders left us for candidates to say, as some have said recently, that they will only accept the results when they win.
But as people who claim to follow Christ, another question is forced upon us.
Article VI of the Constitution says, “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” But Christianity keeps showing up in our campaigns anyway. Here are two examples.
A recent newspaper column described the Georgia Senate race as “an explicit matchup of two increasingly divergent versions of American Christianity.“
Herschal Walker “reflects the way conservative Christianity continues to be defined by its fusion with right-wing politics and tolerance for candidates who, whatever their personal failings or flaws, advance its power and cause. Mr. Walker has wielded his Christianity as an ultimate defense.“
By contrast, Raphael Warnock represents “the legacy of the Black civil rights tradition in the South, where faith focuses on not just individual salvation, but on communal efforts to challenge injustices like segregation.” (You’ll find the article here.)
And then there is Michael Flynn’s “Reawaken America” roadshow. It represents “an ascendant Christian nationalist movement that’s wrapped itself in God, patriotism and politics … [and] that upends the constitutional ideal of a pluralist democracy.“
Biblically, “Christian nationalism” is heretical oxymoron. It contradicts both the Christian faith and the our Constitution.
Bishop Peter Storey, who led the Methodists in South Africa through their struggle for democracy, recently preached a powerful sermon on God’s call for social justice in Duke Chapel. I encourage you to watch it here. (I also recommend his autobiography, “Protest at Midnight.”)
Peter spoke the distrubing truth when he said, “Only the deliberately deaf and blind will refuse to acknowledge that this beautiful land is in an existential crisis serious enough to threaten this country’s way of doing things as the first great democracy in the world.”
So, here we are on the threshold of a critically important election. The Founders gave us a Republic. Will we keep it?
Grace and peace,
P.S. For clarity, you’ll find a helpful comparision of the terms “democracy” and “republic” here.
7 thoughts on “Will We Keep Our Republic?”
assuming u had a terrific reunion with peter …
Thank you, Jim!
Thank you, Jim. Really good! But I’d like you to rest! I want you around for a long time. 💕Sandy
Sent from my iPhone
Thank you for continuing to carry the torch. At 85 years of age, I am stunned by the daily revelations of evil political machinations, and even more horrifying, that so many of my family and friends are Trumpers and believers. Peter Storey’s comment is so on target because I’ve found that the MAGA cult refuses to watch anything other than Fox News, so they are living in their own ignorant bubble. It is heartbreaking.
Love to you and Martha,
Always good to read your words (and hear your voice) in these posts. Thanks for not only bringing a Christian perspective to todays issues but also the historical.
Love to you and your family,
Strickland T. Smith, P.E.
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Jim Well done! I hope you and Martha are doing well and that we will connect soon. Blessings and SHALOM, Tom Mc