What Is A Democracy? -- By: E. C. Gordon

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 076:301 (Jan 1919)
Article: What Is A Democracy?
Author: E. C. Gordon


What Is A Democracy?

E. C. Gordon

St. Louis, Missouri

According to a prominent daily newspaper in the Middle West, a reverend professor, in a college under Christian auspices, has gravely and publicly proposed to amend the Lord’s Prayer by substituting for “thy kingdom come “the words “thy democracy come.” Devout Christians will probably resent this proposal to transform the Lord’s Kingdom and to mutilate the Lord’s Prayer. Instead of giving tongue to this resentment, it may be worth while for Christians to consider what is involved in the proposed transformation. If accomplished, would it involve any fundamental change in our Lord’s kingdom? Is this proposal only a bit of popular clap-trap? In order intelligently and correctly to answer these questions, we must determine what a democracy is; and in what respects it differs from a kingdom.

The oft-quoted saying of President Lincoln at Gettysburg by many is regarded as a brief, but well-nigh perfect, definition of democracy. It is a government of the people, for the people, by the people. This definition needs to be defined. The phrase “government of the people” is ambiguous. It may mean a government over the people. It may mean government on the part of the people. This second possible meaning is substantially that of the phrase “government by the people.” We may, therefore, accept the former of the two meanings as the correct one, and describe a democracy as a government over all the people, for the benefit of all the people, by the people themselves. The word “all “is purposely left out of the last clause because a government by all the people in any extensive and complex community is impracticable if not absurd. “The people” regarded as rulers must be limited. Immature Children, mental and moral imbeciles, criminals, tramps, persistent idlers of every class, must be excluded from the exercise of governmental functions. The people who really exercise these functions must be limited to the intelligent, industrious, and moral men; and, if any one chooses so 1o believe and say, to women who possess these characteristics.

Let us, then, admit that the only practicable democracy is a government in which the ruling functions are exer-

cised by intelligent, moral, and industrious men and women who contribute by their mental and manual labor, and by their accumulated wealth, to the good order of society and to the welfare of all the people. These constitute the only rational demos, to whom alone can authority to rule be safely and wisely committed.

It is also evident that even in such a democracy all the functions of government cannot be exercised by all the indi...

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