My daughter Christy works for a publishing company. She recently questioned the assertion of one of their authors that “The true roots of America go all the way back to the ancient Hebrew republic.” That is, as she wrote, “I also find it weird that he’s tracing American democracy back to the government of Ancient Israel… They aren’t really the same at all, are they?” And were the Pilgrims a kind of continuation of the ancient Hebrew republic?
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” is a gift of God to every believer. Real freedom flows from truth. If more people would take this seriously we would have less corruption among the clergy and fewer Jim Jones’ in the world (Guyana mass suicide). The Pilgrims actually were great examples of freedom seekers. Just look at what they went through to be able to worship freely.
But their theology was less truthful than it could have been. Calvinists who believed in TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints), they became very legalistic, had no real concept of spiritual renewal, and believed that their enemies whom they slaughtered in their unbelieving state were sovereignly predestined by God to spend eternity in hell. This belief undoubtedly helped them to rationalize the sometimes horrendous killing of their Native American enemies.
Which ancient Hebrew government was her author talking about? The government under Moses didn’t last very long. Israel wanted a King. (Was Moses all that different?) Our form of American democracy does not predate American history. But our Judeo-Christian values are what go way back. We, for instance, place great value on human life because of our biblical faith. When it come to forms of government remember that early Americans had to fight for and sort out the kind of government they wanted. The Tories (Loyalists) wanted to remain under the King of England. The war for Independence was not just about wanting to be a separate nation, but about wanting to be a self-governing nation.
“Self-governing” is a bit of a misnomer. We are still involved in the struggle for this ideal. A large portion of our population was under slavery for generations. The black men would not get the vote until 1868 (in the 14th amendment, which by the way defined a “citizen” as a “male” – so much for women.) And women have not been voting very long (1920). Even when we elect representatives today, how many of them are manipulated by lobbyists and others, effectively ignoring the people’s vote?
I also have a question about the fairness of how U.S. Senators are seated. Wyoming, for example, with a state population of about a half million is represented by 2 senators. California with 38 million also has 2 senators. At what point does this system begin to break down? When Ohio became a state in 1803 she met the statehood requirement of 60,000 population and immediately was granted one representative and 2 senators. Today Ohio’s population is more than 11 million. Still has 2 senators. How great does the disparagement have to become before it is no longer the best form of representation?
Some will say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” How do we know it isn’t broken? This prestigious legislative body made up of 100 Senators represents about 300 million American citizens. The 10 least populated states represent less than 12 million people (4%) and have 20 Senators. The10 most populated states represent more than 166 million people (56%) and have 20 Senators.
New Jersey 139,600, Virginia 538,000. These were the approximate populations when the Virginia Plan (representation by population) and the New Jersey Plan (1 vote per state) were put forth. Then the problem was solved by the Connecticut Compromise, adopting both plans. The difference in population: Virginia was nearly 4x that of New Jersey. But what if Virginia had been sixty times that of New Jersey (8,376,000)? Would the Connecticut Compromise have passed? (California’s population is 66x larger than Wyoming’s) Or how about 100x (this could happen)? At what point does this compromise become unfair? Yes, it appears to work the way it is. But this is not the point. The one party system works in China. But is it the best representative system? I think not. What is the best and fairest representative system?
According to James Madison, “The use of the Senate is to consist in proceedings with more coolness, with more system, and with more wisdom, than the popular branch.” The popular branch, the House of Representatives, could not be trusted (subject as it was to “popular passions and impulses”) and therefore had to be watchdogged by an elite branch (which is not representative). If the rabblerousing popular branch got out of hand the elites in the Senate would temper them. Does this still hold today? Think of how much power those 20 Senators wield over the whole nation and yet they come from states representing less than 4% of the population. One senate vote counts as much as any other senate vote.