Yes, this is part of my immigration series, and no I will not examine forms of democracy. I won’t explain the nature of the constitutional republic (which protects the individuals) and how it operates via a representative democracy either. I’m not even going to touch on the nuances of power balance (technically) ensures that no group in the United States has absolute control. If you want an exact overview of United States democracy, you can read through these documents.
I will say that a representative democracy imbues its people with certain powers that make them ultimately responsible for much of what goes on within our countries policies. Sure, a majority rule with constitutional protections of individuals is the modus operandi, but the powers of the people are vast. Lincoln rightly called the United States a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
The people don’t personally write the laws, but they do vote for the people who will write those laws. State constitutions, approved by the people, are structured in such a way that certain legislation has to be run past the people before it becomes law. Individual citizens don’t declare war, but they do vote for the President, the Senators and the Congressman that would decide those actions accordingly.
This unlocks a Pandora’s box of Biblical principles that usually apply to rulers but now extend to the people of a democratic society.
Drawing from our old thought model, we wind up gathering these helpful ideas about rulers and finding their application in the US. God stands behind the authorities that exist, and that would mean he stands behind a democratic republic—including its members (Rom 13). Prayer should be made for the elected leaders as well as the voters going out to vote (1 Tim. 2:1, 2). Rulers (and so the people of a democratic society) should be impartial in their decisions (note how this even applies in a jury of peers— Ex. 23:3-7). Any rule should reflect the fact that God has set up the authority—else wise it is a repudiation of the one who has established the kingdom. Even the wisdom for kings and proper rule becomes applicable to the people (Prov. 24:23-26 25:2; 28:16).
All this underscores the responsibility of citizens within a democratic society but it especially cranks up the Christian’s burden.
The Christian can’t sit back and point to his or her need to obey the authorities (or not); ultimately, the American Christian is part of that governmental authority. If they vote, they use their political power as a co-ruler; if they don’t vote, they are abrogating their decisions to someone else while remaining rulers. As citizens, they are automatically co-rulers, and they should be concerned for the laws of the land as well as the mistreatment of those who are not currently protected by the political umbrella. Christians should be appropriately concerned for the citizens as well as the name of the country which they are rulers over because as part of a representative society it reflects, in some part, on their own sovereignty.
Of course, majority decides, but if the majority’s decision is evil, the margin should reflect that the Christian rulers opposed the move toward evil. Moreso, the response by the Christian should focus on realigning the embraced evil.
Anyone reading this series will understand that these things might not only apply to immigration; it might apply to the unborn, the elderly and minorities just as well. In the case of Immigration though, I think that Christians shouldn’t be solely approving all illegal aliens nor barring them from the country but rather trying to figure out the best means to get the illegal to act with respect to our laws but with an understanding of their situation and seeking their improvement.
This should mean that illegal aliens are personally cared for and motivated to report their status to follow a proper track of residency. If the laws are overly harsh, the Christian rulers should be concerned about rectifying the laws so that they are not cruel—the things that reflect poorly on the society, reflect poorly on its people. If the laws don’t properly address concerns across the board, then the Christian rulers should be considering how to make the rules better but always with an eye to compassion coupled with justice. They are not to be ruled by anarchy, but governed by what is ethical, what best represents God, what gives proper respect to persons, and what is not a revolt against conscience.
When majority overrules and embraces an outright evil by running toward an idol, then I think it might call for some benign form of civil disobedience, such as in Acts 16 or in Exodus 1. For example, in Nazi Germany, the citizens representing the true Germany should have been performing civil disobedience in protecting human life and defending the oppressed; they shouldn’t have been supporting the Germany that had embraced the idol of super-nationalism.
The question that American Christians have to answer is if society has embraced an idol on whose altar the illegal alien (or the elderly American citizen, or the silent young, et. Al) must be sacrificed. If that is the case, the Christian is required to point out that idol, but to do so sanely and without being carried away by sheer passion. The Christian has to be a Josiah but in a Pauline situation which will result in people being Daniels or Esthers in their own day.