HEART & MIND – June 2024

A lot is in the news about democracy lately. At home and abroad people seem to be considering
their commitment to democratic methods, as authoritarian parties and individuals gain
popularity, influence, and votes. Perhaps it has been taken for granted that once democracy is
achieved, it will always be preserved. Even in our own country, an example to the world of how
successful a democracy can work, our government seems to exhibit signs of falling into
activities and actions we used to consider, and called, “third world.”

Democracy is always a choice, and it takes effort. Democracy, in perception and practice, is
divisive. In the Mother of Parliaments at Westminster, when a vote needs to be tallied, the
speaker will order “Division!” and the members will walk into separate lobbies, one for ayes and
the other for nays, to have their votes tallied. It is only by being confident that the procedures
are fair and honest that those on the losing side of the division can maintain confidence in the
democratic process.

Another drawback of democracy is that it is not very quick or efficient. Hierarchies and
authoritarian governments can move quickly, and offer clarity, which can make a person feel
more secure. That “something be done,” and to “know where you stand,” can be influential when
considering whether or not to back the messiness inherent in democracy.

As trust in our public democratic institutions weaken, and people begin to question whether
efficiency is worth the trade-off for democracy, I think that it is good that at our most grass-roots
level, our church, we choose the democratic method.

If things have gone well when we vote, we are usually pretty near unanimous. I think that is the
result of the time we take to slog through the messiness and contention to build a consensus.
This is often afforded us because we have the luxury of time. Few of our decisions are time
critical. For those matters that are more time critical, like health or safety, we place a lot of trust
in our committee members. We hope to have confidence that they will come to the best
decisions they can based on the information they have gathered and considered. As with
everything, there will be gray areas.

At People’s Church we take the principles behind the democratic method seriously. In our
interesting times, I think it is more important than ever that we do. Whether in a small arena or
the largest, or dealing with a matter of greater or lesser importance, practicing democracy, I
think, is worth the effort. Even with the messiness and inefficiency, and even with the potential
for division, I think the benefits gained from hearing people speak and be heard are what
matters, and tips the balance in favor of democracy. Doing what we do is what sets the
example. In these times, for me, it becomes a question of if not us, who? And if not now, when?