American Christianity and Democracy

“But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” – Psalm 2:6

Democracy can be a proud topic for Christians who have grown up in America. It is easy to develop a perception that our nation’s form of government corresponds with God’s established ideal. We know of the Pilgrims’ voyage for religious freedom. We are aware of the faith of many of our founding fathers. We grew up under the umbrella of Patriotism, and we experience daily the blessing of being able to worship God in freedom. Clearly, democracy is God’s ideal way. . . . Maybe not.

It may prove curious to some Americans that in the Old Testament God does not establish the democracy of Israel; rather, the nation of God’s choosing has kingly rule. Why would God do that, especially if democracy is the ideal way? A thoughtful reading of Psalm 2 can shed some light on the democratic dilemma.

We know from the New Testament that Psalm 2 contains important prophesies about Jesus. He is ultimately the “Anointed One” of Israel. In order to apply this Psalm’s teaching about Jesus to the discussion on government, it is helpful to first note a few points by way of interpretation.

First, it is clear in Psalm 2 that the ideal government God establishes is a monarchy that has a flawless king. There is no rule by the people. There is no vote taken. The only criteria for total authority is begotteness. The Son is begotten of the Father and, therefore, receives the anointing as King. Because this monarchy is the rule of the Son of God, it is more precisely a theocracy.

Second, this government established by God is indestructible. All rival governments are confidently called to humbly submit. No other ruler or system can match up to the establishment of the Son’s reign.

Third, those who take refuge in the Son will receive blessing. This blessing contrasts the horrible wrath that will fall on those who persist in opposing the Son’s kingdom.

The implications that flow from Psalm 2 can be applied to the American Christian mind-set in several ways:

1. We should have no delusions that democracy is God’s ideal way to do government. Clearly, theocracy is what God has ordained as ideal. He says, “I have installed My King Upon Zion.” We should not expect the American system to work flawlessly or lead to lasting peace. With an awareness of the rampant godlessness in our country, Christians in America should have a sober mind about the limitations of a system that operates under the principle of majority rule. Democracy creates an avenue for fair representation, but those represented are sinners.

2. We should not think that we are better than other countries because we have a democratic system. The source of such thinking is empty pride. Other countries with various governments have successes and failures just as America does. Psalm 2 places all of the world’s rulers in the same boat. All rulers are called to account by the psalmist. All nations are the Son’s “inheritance.” All rule that is not the Son’s rule is hopelessly deficient of true lasting power.

3. We should recognize that our nation is not indestructible by virtue of its configuration. Verse 12 of the psalm suggests that the duration of earthly kingdoms is based on the will of the Son. It is his mercy that maintains America. If we do not understand our utter dependence on Him and, instead, find hope in our system, the Son’s “wrath may soon be kindled.” He can make any nation “perish in the way.”

4. American Christians should be actively involved in the democratic process. We should promote the acknowledgment of Jesus Christ among our elected leaders and in our legislation. We should oppose those who practice “vain devisings.” Psalm 2 commands earthly rulers to recognize the Son’s rule. The election of Christian leaders is a legitimate concern of the church in America.

5. We should live in the constant anticipation of a better government. Trusting in the reality of Jesus’ kingdom provides Christians with stability for the righteous navigation of temporal government structures. As American Christians attempt to help our imperfect democratic system pay “homage to the Son,” we must remember the promise, “How blessed are all those who take refuge in him!”