And they are related by the common denominator of the specter of democracy, the demon of democracy, the ghoulish freak of democracy. And of course by democracy, I do not mean people having a say or a vote for this or that thing — I mean the tendency to give the people the vote for†everything,†the tendency toward mob rule.
As the fellow said, if you don’t know your history you’re bound to browbeat it or something like that. A Christian social and political theory always begins with original sin — the tendency for people to royally screw things up apart from the grace of God. And since the grace of God cannot be manufactured, scheduled, summonsed up, or manipulated, for human societies to do anything approaching good or progress they are entirely under the mercy of the God of heaven. But this doesn’t mean that any civil structure is as good as any other. As Churchill once ambiguously quipped: “democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried from time to time.”
But what thoughtful Christians have recognized over the centuries is that because of our Adamic nature, society will tend toward tyranny, chaos, coercion, and so on. This is the Christian genius of the American system: a plethora checks and balances. This establishes the principle of personal responsibility and the the principle of accountability, in as many different directions as possible. The passions of the people are checked by different sorts of representatives (senators, representatives, electoral college). But even those representatives are sinful men who need checking. So the House and Senate must work together, and the president can check their work through veto power. Finally, the judicial branch is meant to check all of their work. The whole thing is intentionally slow, grinding, and methodical, doing its best to check the passions of men, assuming at every point that all things being equal, the passions of men are selfish, foolish, and tend to break things. And this sort of set up is what we call a constitutional republic, not a democracy.
But I said there were two goats to sacrifice: the first is education, the second is the passion I’ve been speaking about. So to the first, as Chesterton says somewhere, in education there is much moonshine. And in another place, he points out that the most basic thing to understand about education is that it is not a thing but only a method. To speak of “education” as a thing, and usually as a good, positive thing is utterly ridiculous. The question must be: what sort of education? It turns out that the American people have been voting for unread bills for lo on many decades now without reading them. We laughed at Nancy Pelosi, but we’ve been voting blindly for the bill of “education” with our feet, with our bucks, with our children. And while there have been small squawks and groans here and there (no prayer? no Bibles?), we have overwhelming put up with the liberalization and secularization of the schools and given them more and more money, arguing that math is just math after all and sending our children to the front lines like child soldiers.
But education is like the word love or hate — everything depends on the object of the transitive verb. Love what? Hate what? Learn what? Love Jesus? Great. Hate Jesus? Not great. Learn to hate Jesus? Not great at all. And so Christians really must stop playing along with the game. Of course this means getting out of the public schools but it also means that we must stop voting for education as some kind of automatic good. Nazi education? Racist education? Read the bill, Nancy.
The Christian goal of all education is grounded in the great commission: Go into all the world and preach the gospel, make disciples, and teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded. In the Law, God commanded parents to teach their children the entire law so that they might love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength — and they were to teach this to their children everywhere, all day long (Dt. 6) — which incidentally doesn’t leave any room for sending kids somewhere for 8 hours a day to be taught that God is irrelevant. And Paul reaffirms this responsibility in Ephesians: Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord — literally, bring them up in the culture and counsel of Jesus. All of this assumes that the purpose of education is first and foremost moral. What good is a bunch of math facts if you hate the Maker of math? What good is it if you can read and write and speak clearly, if you use those skills to scorn the Savior of mankind? Arguable, you are worse off for it.
And this leads to the other goat of passion. The goal of Christian education is the subjugation of sinful passions, the crucifixion of the old man, the training in righteousness, holiness, and Christian virtue. Of course, this cannot be accomplished by the will of man, sacraments, venerable traditions, or conservative politics. At the center of this is the necessity of regeneration, the new birth, which can only be effected by the Spirit of the living God. But despite this impossibility, Jesus sent men into the world to preach the crucified and risen Jesus for sinners that this human impossibility might be accomplished by God’s power.
So damn the humanism that says people are basically good and they just need a little more information about the world. No, they are basically evil and passionately driven toward lies and lust and tyranny and coercion. And the end of that road is initially a mob of well educated fools, like a herd of frat boys doing jello shots in tuxedos at their mom’s house, but fools realize very quickly that real knowledge is a hindrance to what they actually want. The truth has a way of spoiling the fun of insanity. And after a few minutes the Rousseauian flower child gospel kicks in. As a prophet, one of your own once said, we don’t need no education…
All of this to say, the current sensationalism and rising emotions and fomenting feelings is exactly what we’ve signed up for. It’s exactly what the founding fathers foresaw happening in a democratic drift, with a blind belief in “education” that did not teach the sinfulness of man, the holiness of God, and Jesus the only mediator between God and man.