The concept of majority rule is essential for democracy. The problem is, what we think is a majority, is really a majority illusion.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
– Martin Niemöller
…a constitution guarded at all points against the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many.”1)“The right of a nation to kill a tyrant, in cases of necessity, can no more be doubted, than to hang a robber, or kill a flea. But killing one tyrant only makes way for worse, unless the people have sense, spirit and honesty enough to establish and support a constitution guarded at all points against the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many.”
– John Adams
The Great Experiment
Today we celebrate 240 years of the Great American Experiment. It’s important that we remember that it’s an experiment; we think America will never fail, and never fall. We would do well to remember that both ancient Rome and ancient Egypt thought likewise, and Rome withstood for over 1200 years, Egypt for over 3 millennia. We have a way to go before we become too confident about our permanence.
With that, as I have previously pointed out, we also need to ask ourselves: If American is never surpassed, would that be success, or failure?
Majority rule – democracy – is the foundation of America. But we weren’t founded as a democracy; at first, only landed white males could vote; then all white males; then all males; and now all men & women. To see how far we have come, consider that in the last two elections we have seen both major parties nominate women, for President and Vice President.
But even there, we are still not a true democracy. In the current election, both parties are struggling against the ability of the party bosses to defy the vote of the people, through allegiance switching, super-delegates, and rules tampering. In November, voters will not elect the President, the Electoral College will. And on occasion, through the Electoral College the majority does not prevail, only ‘a majority of the majority’,2)George W. Bush was the most recent president elected by the Electoral College in contradiction to the people. a clever way of saying ‘minority.’ So first, we do not truly have majority rule.
And second, we struggle against the majority illusion.
The Majority Illusion
As one example, there are many who contend that the USA is a Christian nation, and that Christianity is a founding, unchanging principle. Many of those who take this position would like to create some interpretation of Christian theocracy here.
“Some interpretation” is the exactly the problem. Assume that we could assemble leaders of those who advocate a Christian theocracy in one room, and ask them to clarify what that means, or even invite them to restructure our country along Christian lines.
It should prove highly informative. First, we have the Jews. Many End-Timers feel that Israel is essential for the Second Coming, and they are highly protective of Jews in America and abroad. Should Christians grant citizenship to Jews? Should Jews have permission to practice Judaism when it disagrees with Christianity? It’s a slippery slope; let the Jews be Jews, pretty soon you’re trying to explain why Hindus can’t be Hindus, and even why atheists can’t be atheists.
Then there are the Mormons, who believe Jesus was the son of God, but not God Himself. Would they qualify for citizenship?
Christian vs Christian
What about the Roman Catholics, would the conservative Catholics let the liberal Catholics in? If not, Pope Francis might be ineligible. He’s unlikely to apply for US citizenship of course, but you’re also excluding the American Catholics closest to him. Then there’s the perennial problem of teaching Darwinism in the schools. Evolution is a bugbear for many Christians, but most Catholics want Darwinism included in the curriculum. On the other hand, when the Catholics want Mary and other Saints venerated, what will the Protestants do with that?
And of vital importance in Louisiana, would New Orleans then lose its NFL franchise?
Then there’s the Bible. Christian fundamentalists take it literally, other Christians do not. But even fundamentalists, while claiming the Bible is the perfect word of God, still disagree: few would allow daughters to be sold into slavery (Exodus 21:7), or would advocate the death penalty for those who work on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2).
In the past few years, pro-environmental Christian fundamentalists have appeared. They would need accommodation. And there are many other problems, birth control, selecting Holy Days, and even whether to continue the pagan traditions such as Christmas trees and the Easter bunny.
Religious Terrorism & Pauline Christianity
I will add this one, however: if we include the Jews, what about the Muslims, who are also an Abrahamic (love that term) faith? Many Christians argue that Muslims are terrorists; but in the 1st century, it was the Jews who gave rise to vicious radical terrorists, the Zealots and their extremist faction, the Sicarii. Their activities were one of the motivations that led Titus to raze Jerusalem in 70AD.
That historical fact is important for our considerations, because after that, Paul became the leader of Christianity, and fashioned it upon his doctrines. Before that however, Christian governance was strictly Apostolic, the leadership comprised the Disciples and their followers. Just as with our considerations here, doctrinal rifts divided Paul and the Disciples, and the Jerusalem authorities twice summoned Paul to appear for what we must assume were his comeuppance.
A couple of ‘come to Jesus’ meetings, if you will.
The point is that in the first century Christians could not agree what Christianity was. Why do Christians imagine that today, after 2,000 years of repeated and continuous splits, that there is one, unified view of their religion?
There are political groups today who want ‘ideological purity’ as one of their basic tenets, much as the Christian activists want America to follow the ‘one’ true religion. The idea that any group of people can reach ideological agreement is the majority illusion. There are as many versions of Christianity as there are Christians, which is true of any group, conservatives, liberals, populists, free marketers, environmentalists, states rightists, gun reformers, Constitutional fundamentalists, and really, any group or class you can name.
We need to disenthrall ourselves from the majority illusion. At the end of the day, the world boils down to ever-smaller minorities.
And if you dig deep enough, you find that each of those minorities comprises a group of exactly one.
So we do not protect the minority out of some maudlin3)The other day my son asked what ‘maudlin’ means, I explained it and said I was pretty sure it was related to Mary Magdalene. I checked, it is, because she is always portrayed with tears on her face. So should Christians be maudlin? As always, any majority opinion is a majority illusion… ‘Kumbaya’, ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ sing-along. We protect the minority to protect ourselves.
We cannot have liberty and independence, and then dictate that others agree with us. And it is more than a question of governance; diversity and tolerance are also critical if the nation is to remain competitive and independent.
As we declared independence from England, we also declared independence from one another. That’s what equality means, I don’t dictate to you, because I don’t want you to dictate to me. America can remain independent and strong only if each of us has the maximum freedom and independence from the tyranny of others. That’s our strength.
We have to protect ourselves from ourselves.
Happy Independence Day.
‘Statue of Liberty’ courtesy of Andrew Maiman on Wikimedia.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||“The right of a nation to kill a tyrant, in cases of necessity, can no more be doubted, than to hang a robber, or kill a flea. But killing one tyrant only makes way for worse, unless the people have sense, spirit and honesty enough to establish and support a constitution guarded at all points against the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many.”|
|2.||↑||George W. Bush was the most recent president elected by the Electoral College in contradiction to the people.|
|3.||↑||The other day my son asked what ‘maudlin’ means, I explained it and said I was pretty sure it was related to Mary Magdalene. I checked, it is, because she is always portrayed with tears on her face. So should Christians be maudlin? As always, any majority opinion is a majority illusion…|