In the contest between principles of modern democracy and doctrines of faith, democracy and the rule of secular law must always win.

Janet Daley, 2008

Why should it matter?  Secularists have a fear of theocracy — religion with authority over the will of the people.  At the same time democracy is under attack by the challenge of global markets and transnational institutions.  Active political participation is in decline.  We fear debate.  Popularist common sense will not tolerate dissention.

The motivation of religious faith has produced malevolent groups: the Lord’s Resistance Army, and communalist chauvinism in Hinduism and Islam.  It has also produced people like Malala Yousufzai.  Q. What is the most terrifying thing to a fundamentalist?  A. A girl with a book!

What is Democracy?  Chaplin defines it as a popular election of political rulers, protective of liberty and rights, situated in and limited by robust constitutional order.  It can also violate justice.  The Irish Famine happened after the liberalisation of Britain by the People’s Charter.  As did the expansion of the British Empire under democratic leadership and the suppression  of the first nations of North America, Australia and New Zealand.  In South America it happened under Spanish democrats.

In Christian thinking, and other theistic worldviews, political authority cames from god.  Should there be an active role for the people?  People form human communities.  From the people, after Him.  The divine right of the people was formulated before the divine right of kings.  Justice should come above rulers and people.

Any government that negates these fundamental principles forfeits its god-given right to rule

Declaration of the Church Leaders of Zimbabwe

According to Reinhold Niebuhr we have a capacity for justice and an inclination to injustice.

A natural consequence of human dignity is unquestionably their right to take an active part in government

Pacem in Terris

All human beings have an equal potential to pursue justice.  The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers means we are equal in the eyes of god, equal to understand the word of god, and equal to participate and advance the commonwealth of god.  Popular will is subjected to a higher authority, a wider framework of principles.

God has a preferential option for constitutional democracy.  A participatory representation, constitutional democracy in which popular consent is an essential ingredient; in which both government and people are held accountable to transcendent norms of justice and common good, the co-responsibility of citizens and government.

Three principles:

  • justice, not just us: a Post-Christendom Theology of Democracy includes peoples of all faiths and peoples of no faith.
  • learn to speak Christian in public, without embarrassment or constraint.
  • parity, not privilege: don’t Christianise the constitution.  Work from the bottom up, not top down.

When questioned on a definition of Christendom, Chaplin described it as a state of privilege for the Church, recognised by the government.

Four years ago, I heard a Muslim address the Peace Lecture of the Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group.  He spoke about translating Non-violence into Arabic as a positive value and used the phrase, Jihad al-Madina, which I would understand in Christian terms as ‘Civic Discipleship’.  I think with a Post-Christendom Theology of Democracy we are a step closer with creating an identity for Civic Discipleship.

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