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Friday, August 4, 2017

'What if Christian Organizations Went on Strike?'

The End of American Democracy?
I don't think it is an accident that America has fallen in love with Hamilton, the musical, just at the time our democracy seems to be disintegrating. Hamilton has a nuanced take on the American experiment, but in the end celebrates the courage and insight of the founders. And yet every week I read more and more commentary on how our democracy is threatened. I've shared some in the past, but this last week or so, even more compelling pieces have come across my screen from different ideological quarters. Here are three that most interested me.

"Like Rome, America Could be Ripe for Tyranny" by Robert Merry at The American Conservative looks at "the dangers that confront late-stage democracy." That subtitle alone suggests that Merry believes America may be on its last legs. He calls on Andrew Sullivan and Plato for support. But historical parallels are his main argument: "If the American republic faces grave civic dangers … they might be gleaned through an understanding of the history of the Roman republic and its hundred-year demise." Similarities are not destiny, of course, but it does give one pause to see the parallels between Rome and the United States.

From the left of center, Damon Linker at The Week similarly argues,
There are abundant signs that Trump's victory has heralded a new era in American politics—one in which American political culture has swung free from the constraints and expectations of established liberal- democratic norms and patterns, lurching in the direction of outright demagogic-authoritarian spectacle. The very real possibility is that the United States is ceasing to be a liberal democracy and is evolving into some other form of government. And the change is being accompanied by, and to some extent driven by, a change in the political psychology of the American voter.
On a different democratic theme, Roger Scruton offers a nuanced and thoughtful piece (that is, not yet another screed) on "The Threat of Free Speech in the University." He concludes:
We are wandering in a world of utter relativity but bound by orders that are absolutes—the order not to refer to this, not to laugh at that, and in the presence of all uncertain things to stay silent. In all this we are losing our sense that some things really matter, and matter because they are true and not just because some group of benighted people believe them, or some other group has decided to enforce them. If a university stands for anything, surely it stands for that idea of truth, as a guiding light in our darkness and the source of real knowledge.
To be sure, our democracy has never been fully realized, and also to be sure, there are still many sectors in which it flourishes rightly. And as to whether the sky of American democracy is falling to its death, I dare not predict. But it is certainly true that in some sectors of our life together, the ideals of democracy are already forgotten. In one respect this is nothing new. Just ask an African American, or many other minorities for that matter, who have found that the ideas of democratic justice have failed them time and again. Perhaps we should turn to these friends, especially to our brothers and sisters among them, to learn how to live faithfully (perhaps even joyfully!) in a society that proclaims one ideal but too often lives by another.
'What if Christian Organizations Went on Strike?'
Speaking of what's holding America together, it might not be too much of an exaggeration to suggest that the church and Christian nonprofits play a significant role. The slug above is the subtitle of "Jesus Shrugged," which argues
Many of the services Americans take for granted are provided by churches and Christian organizations. It is not hyperbolic to say that core areas of American life would languish or collapse without the contributions of Christian people and organizations. These enormous social contributions are frequently underappreciated, but would certainly be missed.
For example:
One in six hospital beds in our country is located in a Catholic hospital. In at least thirty communities, the Catholic hospital is the only hospital in a 35- mile radius. This doesn't even take into account hospitals run by other Christian bodies such as Baptists, Methodists, and especially Seventh-Day Adventists.
More examples in the areas of education and community service follow. This is certainly one way to live faithfully—and effectively—in times like these.
Grace and peace,
Mark Galli
Mark Galli
Mark Galli
Editor in Chief, Christianity Today

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