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Democratic Implications of the Bible

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Democratic Implications of the Bible

In the form of government known as democracy, the power lies in the hands of the people. Be it to change the laws or the structure of the government, the decisions of the legislature are made by either the people or representatives that are elected by the people. Under most government systems, elections are used for people to express their views and beliefs. There is equality for all, including basic freedoms such as freedom of speech and religion. There has been a conflict of opinion among people for many years regarding the presence of democracy in the Bible. The Scriptural Tradition of both the Old and New Testament can be viewed as either democratic or non-democratic. Many instances are present throughout the texts that can point in either direction, depending on a person's personal views and point of view. After reading select books of both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testament, along with Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Kessmat's "Colassians Remixed", I could easily see how an argument could be made either way. After much deliberation with each of the two sides pulling me their way, I chose the democratic side.

The issue of democracy arises early in the Bible with Genesis, the first book in the Old Testament. The creation of the world was presented in Chapters 1 and 2 of the Genesis. In this creation, there was no hierarchy among the people, as none of them had to face oppression from a higher individual. In a democracy, all people are meant to be equals. Also similar to a democracy, the people had various freedoms, such as the freedom to develop creation and the freedom to disobey. The freedom is also displayed vividly in the broad mandate that is given to human by God. It is a cultural mandate where the people can create their own cultural institutions, from cities to agriculture to art.

An instance where some people consider inequality to arise is between man and woman. Eve was created out of Adam, which can be considered as man's superiority over woman. "...and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made the woman and brought her to the man." (Genesis chapter 2: 21-22) Despite Eve being created out of Adam's ribs, I still do not view this as an inequality. Unlike other creatures, Adam does not name Eve. Rather he just recognizes her as a woman, so the power of man over woman is not really being implied.

This man vs. woman problem was also discussed in "Colassians Remixed". Tychicus and others were discussing the elimination of inequalities based on freedom, religion, and such. Nympha then arises the question of women, and the equality that they deserve as well. Tychicus responds by showing that there is equality between the two groups. "Tychicus answered slowly but truthfully, pointing out that throughout the community in which you minister there are women in positions of authority- even some whose husbands are not." (Walsh, p. 210-211) Equality among the whole family is also displayed in chapter 3 of the book of Colassians. While the wives are told to be subject to their husbands and the children are told to obey their parents, principles are also set down for the men. "Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them...Fathers, do not provoke your children, less they become discouraged." (Colassians chapter 3: 19 & 21)

Something else that may cause some to view the Bible as anti-democratic is the authoritarian power of God. This is what had me struggle between the two sides. God is just, well, God. His power cannot be matched as He has the final word. "Say this to the people of Israel, `The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you': this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations." (Exodus chapter 3: 15) If He has the final say in everything, then what happens to the democratic-like atmosphere? According to the Bible, mere human beings cannot have power over God. Suddenly the power of the people to make decisions for laws and the government seems weaker. God, however, does not always necessarily use His power in an authoritarian style vis-Ðo-vis the likes of dictators such as Hitler and Stalin. In the book of Exodus, God could have made the Pharaoh free the people of Israel through His position as God. Instead, God uses Moses to release the people through a long process that included many refusals by the Pharaoh. This showed that God does not directly interfere with the world. In other words, he lets them live their own lives. Even though he uses Moses to do his bidding, an authoritarian approach is not used.

Another occurrence of possible anti-democracy takes place in the book of Exodus in the form of the Ten Commandments. In chapter 20 of Exodus, God lays down ten rules that are to be followed by all people. It once again seems as if God is imposing his will among the people. ""I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus chapter 20: 2-3)

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