You Have Heard It Said

“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”

-Ben Franklin

“Much violence is based on the illusion that life is a property to be defended and not to be shared.”  

-Henri Nouwen

A couple good quotes about violence, democracy and economics to ponder. How do those three weave together in our lives, relationships and systems? It seems to me they are always at play together.

The first quote points out that democracy is always less than perfect. Consensus is the only model that is able to serve the entire community. Democracy always results in the majority (whether in numbers or power) oppressing the minority. Franklin, as we should expect, seems to think that freedom and violence will keep an imperfect democracy in check. I’m not sure how well that has worked out for the American experiment.

Nouwen adds the dimension of economics to the mix, connecting the basic premise of property to violence and oppression. This connects directly with what I shared Monday about the foundational passage concerning Israel. They were a people without possessions, but possessed by the God who owned everything. Because we belong to God everything is ours. But Nouwen reminds us that our possession of everything as we relate to God is for the purpose of sharing it, not defending or hoarding it.

So, taken together we can say on the pessimistic side that democracy and economics are both fueled and maintained by violence. In light of who we are as the people of God, however, we know that this is an illusion. As a community of saints we live out our calling and purpose by revealing God’s reality in the way we give and share freely all that God possesses, which is everything. This way of being is in direct competition with the way of being that relies on violence and coercion, but we believe that it will prevail in the end.

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