In our idolization of modern secular democracy we have imagined that, provided our leaders attain power by a popular vote, that’s all that matters, and that the only possible critique is to vote them out again next time round. The early Christians, and their Jewish contemporaries, weren’t particularly concerned with how people in power came to be in power; they were extremely concerned with speaking the truth to power, with calling the principalities and powers to account and reminding them that they hold power as a trust from the God who made the world and before whom they must stand to explain themselves.insightful posts. This, combined with continuing to read Oliver O'Donovan has led me to realise that elections are quite peripheral to a well-functioning society. Democracy is a procedural system to ensure some measure of respresentation (which for O'Donovan has more to do with the populus seeing themselves in their leader than any idea of congruent proportions of genders, races, backgrounds, religions, etc), but the real heart of our political system ought to be free and open parliamentary debate, informed by a broader public debate, over the imperfectible task of pursuing the common good. Elections can actually impede this through emphasising partisanship at the expense of genuine inquiry into the common good.
Jim Wallis makes a similar point with less nuance (but more memorably) with his image of 'changing the wind' - elections simply exchange one set of politicians waving their fingers around in the air to see which way the wind is blowing for another. Changing the politicians doesn't make much difference. The point is to change the wind.
Actually, now I think of it, I've realised the fairly obvious point that Wallis and O'Donovan are both limiting the importance of elections but for quite different reasons. For Wallis, it's a pragmatic one: popular opinion is more important than the (nearly always derivative) opinions of politicians. This is a cynical admission that few politicians are willing to step out in front of the electorate and lead. For O'Donovan, it's because the pursuit of the common good is more important than the process used to select leaders to take us there. Less important than who is how they interact with each other and their constituents. O'Donovan therefore claims that it's not the ballot box that represents a free society, but parliamentary debate.
Ten points for naming specifically where I was standing to take this photo ('London' is not good enough - and is technically incorrect since this is part of the city of Westminster anyway).