You can’t see it until you see it. And once you see it, you can’t not see it!
Last fall, Dr. Warren Kinston wrote a note on Democracy at the request of some of the dissident leaders in Thailand, where he has a home and spends about a quarter of his year. This is a rough draft, but he has allowed me to post it here for our benefit: Democracy and its Difficulties by Warren Kinston (draft)
The article has much to tick off conservatives and liberals (at least in America). Warren’s thinking is always interesting and usually irritating in that it forces me to rethink something I thought I knew which brings up psychological blocks that I have to work through. Which is a key reason why it takes so long to get through his books.
It should help to clarify some of my thinking regarding church organization and democracy. For example, I think this relevant:
Societies do require governments for social order and to protect life, liberty and property. Regulations for fair dealing are required and governments must prevent the spoiling or waste of common resources (the ‘tragedy of the commons’). Safety nets, legal justice system and defence of the realm do need organisation. But, however willingly accepted, Government is a form of institutionalised coercion. So it is not possible to think of democracy without carefully considering the system of government that is being democratically enabled. The best democratic arrangement cannot overcome an ill-designed dysfunctional system of government.
Americans, especially since the attacks of 9/11, have been convinced that democracy would lead to good things. I’m not sure why we did. Hitler was democratically elected before he took control of all offices as dictator, but that was also with wide popular support. Hamas was elected which upset many people.
What system of church governance is being enabled by democracy? Can local groups enhance the knowledge and belief in functional systems of government?
Warren would insist (rightfully, I think) that the key to a strong democracy is strong families. He says:
[T]he basic political unit is the household. If a household is responsibly governed, then society is off to a good start. The implications here are an emphasis on personal responsibility, essential duties, self-reliance, care for others, upholding group needs and the common good, and fostering harmonious relations with other households. A well-functioning family household needs all its members to discharge their responsibilities and express mutual respect. Efforts devoted to educating about parenting, sensitivity to the needs of children, support for families as a whole, and equalizing legal rights of men and women could directly (and amazingly quickly) contribute to effective democratic sentiments in wider society.
The nuclear family is the core group. It is here that we learn many of our most important lessons. Our model of church governance must take this into account.