An old English proverb states that an idle mind is the Devil's workshop. This, to anyone who has either been idle or seen idle, is obviously true.
Those who sit around and think of nothing, put no mental energy into things of value, or refuse to engage with anything important seem to have little difficulty mustering up some creative destruction, crude dialog, or clever disobedience. We see this every day. Whether it is the nasty little graffiti spread so nicely on other people's property, ludicrously insipid letters to the editor, or PETA, the idle little mind joyously entertains and effervesces the demonic. These relatively minor manifestations of this truism, as annoying as they are, do not really trouble me.
As long as they are mediated by a society that knows better, these bubbles of encapsulated sin can serve a useful purpose as object lessons. They can be that lazy and disrespectful child in the back of the class who mothers point to and encourage their children to not be like. They could be that criminal who leaves his wallet behind at the scene of the crime that makes us all snicker a little. They could even be cars stuffed with a bike gang left in a field; horrible, yet effective.
What, on the other hand, do you do when a society refuses to either ask or seek to answer the real questions of life? How do we react when object lessons lose their effectiveness in a swirling pool of mindlessness? Where do we look for stability when our leaders have chosen the easy path and roll along it recklessly? We, as little as we may like to admit it, cling to their idols.
A few hundred years ago some fairly smart men, faced with the opportunity of determining how a new land should be governed, dusted off an interesting old idea, attached it to a Christian worldview, polished it up with checks and balances, and proclaimed it democracy. It had a few bumps and knobby bits to be shaved off, but everyone knew why they were attempting to do what they were attempting to do, and when they figured out how to do it, they did. As time passed, the goals of democracy became less important than the fact of democracy. Somewhere along the way, democracy became a goal in itself. It ceased to be the democratic process and became the idol, Democracy.
Using the democratic process to serve the Creator requires a lot of thinking. Serving the best interests of the individual in a society while crafting a society that serves the purposes of God, necessitates a firm commitment to self sacrifice and careful, thoughtful, diligent contemplation. The nice thing about serving an idol instead of working through a process is that you don't have to think while worshiping. All you have to do is sacrifice every once in a while to convince yourself that the idol has been appeased. This brings up that idle minds thing again. It doesn't take a lot of thought to come up with a list of sacrifices made to this idol.
A long time ago, John Quincy Adams opined, "Our Constitution (and, by extension, the system it enshrines) was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." I happen to think that our experiences in 1930s Germany, Central and South America, and the African countries of, well throw a dart and pick one, serve to support his assertion. That Democracy will be the saviour of Afghanistan or Iraq is an idea dead at its root. A careful lifting of this plant reveals that there is no root at all. Democracy without at least the vestiges of a Christian worldview is a socially acceptable, United Nations sponsored invitation for the strong to subjugate the weak. Without massive corporate and individual repentance it can be, and has been, little else.
But what about here, where the idol has its feet planted? What about here where we can still find the word "God" on the old documents? What about here where good people, Christian people, still seek to work within the democratic process to accomplish the remaining shades of the original vision?
I think I will stand beside Mr. Adams. I think I will notice that he mentions a "moral and religious people", not a moral and religious government, as the prerequisite for a properly functioning democracy. The will of a self-serving, immoral and pagan people, may be the will of the people, but it will always be self-serving, immoral and pagan. It will always be evil.
Perhaps the democratic process can be salvaged from the dust heap of history, but only if Democracy is pulled down and thrust into the heap first. Our primary responsibility as people committed to a society that seeks to honour God is to pray for a great work of the Spirit, an overwhelming repentance creating a thinking, living, breathing people. Until we all start thinking rightly about the whole idea of government, Democracy is, and will continue to be, the Devil's workshop.