Democracy! Is it an idol of the West? The US dollar might still declare, “In God We Trust”, and although I think the intention of those words lies elsewhere, we might respond, “Of course, what place on earth is the dollar not worshipped”. Democracy and dollars, are they the idols of the masses? Could we add democracy’s gifts of freedom to the tally of our idolatries? Democracy + Dollars + Freedom! And as the public applaud the democratic rhetoric, “by the people and for the people”, might we, ourselves, be the idolatry of the day.
Democracy + Dollars + Freedom + Us, equals what? Personally I look at that equation and it has the potential for something very good. So why, as we look at the recent American elections, does the solution to the equation look so hopeless?
I believe the answer is “idolatry”. To worship as god the things that are not is to demonise what is from God for our good. History indicates that the true God does not tolerate the worship of idols. They are an insult to the giver of these good things. So when we worship the good things and not the Giver it is of little surprise that atrophy, the deterioration of things, follows.
Is this what we are seeing in America, which some say is the greatest democracy in the world? Democracy + Dollars + Freedom + Us = the self-worshipper, exerting freedoms in opposition to other self-worshippers, while investing obscene amounts of dollars to gain or fight for the power to rule. That sounds like an equation, the answer to which is civil war or at least civil disobedience. It’s an observable equation on the streets of protest, evidenced in movements like Antifa, Black Lives Matter and White Supremacists. It is obvious in any fraudulent attempt to corrupt voting outcomes and in the legal challenges to an election outcome that does not go your way. On the Right or the Left, without God the equation has disastrous outcomes. It’s an equation that indicates the mess that follows when God is replaced by things that are not God. An equation answered by a humanity that seeks to ascend a throne that was never ours to sit upon and where idolatry has never been the answer. It’s an equation that removes our ultimate accountability to God and where we live to make others accountable to ourselves. It’s an equation that ends in demanded rights loosed from the responsibilities that come with loving one another.
The casualties of forgetting our accountability to God are significant. The denigration of people made in the image of God becomes common. The ontological and moral value of every life is diminished. Respect for others, so crucial to democracy, dissipates and with it trust. Democracy only survives on the basis of trust and where trust and respect erode, peace is added to the casualty list and freedoms will inevitably suffer. Community cannot survive where self is the idol of worship. Increasingly we will splinter, uniting with others only to get our own way.
I watch the America that pursues life without God with a keen eye. Not because I am American but because so often American trends appear in Australia over time. We kid ourselves if we think the fundamental problems of idolatry in the USA are not already apparent in Australia. We already suffer the consequence of a lost Christian world view and the answer to the equation Democracy + Dollars + Freedoms + Self = division, greed, lovelessness, anxiety and fear.
If only we could take our lead from Jesus Christ. From heaven he came. In humility he stepped down from his divine throne taking the form of a servant. To a world that deserves no divine respect he suffered in love to offer the world what none of us deserve – forgiveness and a future. When Christ came, his task was to seek and save those lost in our idolatries. He valued life and held out the promise of life. When falsely accused and crucified by a world of self-worshippers, he offered no retaliation but simply prayed for his enemy’s forgiveness. The world could do with Jesus Christ who said “I am the way, the truth and the life”. Democracy + Dollars + Freedoms + Self are in desperate need of God who offers us the way, truth and life. There is only one who can resurrect our future.
It is interesting how all people despise the crassness of a Trump and desire his removal. It is fascinating how people equally despise the goodness of Jesus Christ and crucified him. It would seem we are very confused when it comes to answering life equations. We hate the crass and we crucify the good while invested in idolatries to our detriment. The US dollar may be domiciled, “In God we Trust” but when we don’t, then perhaps we should all pray, “God help us!”