Word Magazine June 1965 Page 10-11
AN ERRONEOUS IDEA
Rev. Robert E. Lucas, S.T.L.
There is no validity in the argument that the democratic idea or spirit should prevail in the Church. How many husbands, or fathers, if after admonishing their children to follow a particular course of action, would tolerate one of them to refuse to acknowledge his authority and adamantly insist a vote be taken of the household to ascertain if the command should be adhered to? Utter nonsense! But this in all objective truth would be the process that necessarily would have to be followed if it were true that democracy should permeate the very depths of our society. Unless the father is possessed of authority in the family circle, complete disorganization and actual hatred will soon breed among members of the group. And where but from God does the father derive his authority? And where does the priest derive his authority? Why is the church or parish any different? There must be one final authority and Christ was not impervious to the needs of good order in laying the foundation for a Church that would endure the ages. Otherwise His words would not have been so heavily weighed: ‘. . . and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” (MATT. 16:18)
The fact that democracy has succeeded and effected many blessings for our land does not substantiate its claim for replacing the authoritative spirit of the Church. As a system of secular government, it has few peers. But as a system of guiding men’s souls to God, it cannot succeed. As a political ideology, it is to be praised and its cause advanced; in the realm of religion where man must be absolutely certain the means he utilizes to achieve salvation will in reality accomplish what they claim, democracy leaves much to be desired.
God is not democratic and therefore it is not surprising that He did not choose this philosophy of government for His Church. If we take democracy to mean precisely what value every dictionary imputes to it, then the democratic form of Church government could never have brought the
Church successfully through the ages. Democracy is rule by the ruled; it means government by the governed, by the people, by majority rule. From Sacred Scriptures alone, the democratic theory is deflated. Almighty God has never asked man to sanction His actions. God does not ask for approval, He asks for love and desires obedience. And God does not permit men to vote and decide on His laws and ordinances. No where in the whole of Scripture is there evidence of the Hebrews deciding by majority rule whether or not to accept the Ten Commandments. Nor was there ever a referendum on the teachings of the Prophets. Christ did not campaign for approval and patronage. He succinctly stated and explained the teachings of His Father. God simply made known what He expected from His creatures. It remained for them to fulfill His desires. No coercion was ever employed, but hell threatened those who refused to make His philosophy a guide and part of their lives.
Democracy is contrary to God’s spirit as it removes man’s faith and trust in his Maker and places all importance and emphasis on the created man. Laws would no longer be God’s, but human if they depended on man’s sanction to have affect. Numerous incidents of immorality occurred because the majority felt they were correct. God, not man, is the final judge of good and evil without the danger of error coming about. God’s immutable moral law cannot be changed. With democracy as its essence, Orthodox Catholicity could never have survived. It would long ago have been done away with as many other institutions dependent upon popular approval have faded from the face of the earth. Democracy in the Church would mean man’s superiority and supremacy over God since man would have the right and the power to challenge divine
injunctions and alter them if they were not suitable to his taste. Rather, the Church is theocratic, established, governed, and guided by Almighty God through His Holy Spirit. Democracy has as its source of power the weak and sinful man while the Church is rooted in God. Men guide the destinies of democracies, but God alone leads His Church. Democracies, because their power is vested in human beings, who are prone to sin, have often erred; but the Church is protected from falling into error by the Holy Spirit. Even hell cannot overcome it.
And it might be said that very few are actually convinced that democracy represents the fullness of governmental wisdom. It may be that this is only a passing phase in the social evolution of man. Even in this so-called democratic age, there is a growing tendency, even among nations, to place limitations on the self-rule of people and to resort to autocratic methods of government. This can appreciably be noted in present day American governmental procedures where the state is more and more restricting the personal freedoms of its citizenry. And then of course, what exists in Orthodox Catholic parishes is not really democracy which infers government of and by ALL the people. Even a cursory survey would reveal only an insignificant few control policy in every parish and in many cases this responsibility is borne by only one person; the majority being content with attendance at the Holy Sacrifice and the fulfillment of their obligations to the Church. It isn’t unusual to find parishes more identified with a particular family’s name than with its heavenly patron!
It is all too plain that in many cases the lowest caliber men wedge their way into positions of influence in the parish and work to the detriment of the Church while those of superior ability more readily distinguish the true mission of the Church and make a sincere effort to live up to it.
In reality, man only has as much freedom as he is willing to place bonds or shackles on his own wants and desires. Unless man does this, he is not free, but a slave to his own appetites. Many mistake license, which abundantly prevails in society and in the Orthodox Catholic Church, with the glorious gift of God, freedom and liberty, whose object is to make us after Christ, Who teaches, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (JOHN 8:32)….. “because whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin.” (JOHN 8:34)
True freedom and liberty will come to the soul of the Orthodox Catholic layman when he accepts the truth and abandons the error he has been so accustomed to hearing. God speaks louder now than in all history for a change. Even His silence proclaims it: “These things hast thou done and I kept silence, thou thoughtest I was altogether such as one as thyself; but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, you that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces and there be none to deliver.”(PSALMS 49:21, 22)