I stared slack-jawed at our eldest daughter, the truth of what she had just said ringing through my soul revealing the myriad things I held dear which now lay shattered. Not faith. Not family. Thank God these were solidly intact. Democracy. Indeed, any and all forms of popular governance.
You know the ones — starting with the enlightened Greeks and Romans, then lost, until Locke and other Enlightenment philosophers brought it back and fueled the American Revolution and shaped our subsequent Constitution. These United States are founded on the idea that all people are created equal, giving us equal voice in choosing our leadership laws. This is why we vote, to decide who will represent us, who leads us.
For a week or two she had been asking insightful questions, wanting to understand the goodness, neutrality, or inherently flawed nature of our form of government. My response had been that like the free market, our form of government was inherently neutral — the quality and morality of our government depends on the quality and morality of our people. This was why, I reminded her, the people in power should never be responsible for educating the people who select the people in power.
She had nodded and delved further into her books. It had been days with nary a peep. Calm before the storm, in retrospect.
“Popular government presumes God spreads authority equally,” she said without preamble, allowing me time to catch up. I needed a lot. Decades.
Yet as I stared at her slack-jawed, the ring of truth was clear and apparent, even as it shattered the presumed goodness of our Republic. With seven words she shattered the foundation on which our Republic, and that of all republics and democracies of any flavor, stands.
George Macdonald, mentor to the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, described such moments this way: “There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. One of the latter sort comes at length to know at once whether a thing is true the moment it comes before him; one of the former class grows more and more afraid of being taken in, so afraid of it that he takes himself in altogether, and comes at length to believe in nothing but his dinner: to be sure of a thing with him is to have it between his teeth” (The Princess and Curdie, Chapter 2)
The fundamental question before us as a nation is how do we move forward from the death we see now into continuous resurrection instead of settling for the only alternative of continuous death. The only way to access the authority of resurrection is the humility to realize it lies with God, not us.