Democracy in America

As I heard on the Writer’s Almanac today (Tuesday, July 29, 2008) :

 Today is the birthday of Alexis de Toqueville, French aristocrat who in 1835 wrote DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA after touring the United States.  

What impressed Toqueville the most was that American democracy actually worked.  He wrote, “America demonstrates invincibly one thing that I had doubted up to now: that the middle classes can govern a State. … Despite their small passions, their incomplete education, their vulgar habits, they can obviously provide a practical sort of intelligence and that turns out to be enough.”

Gospel Lessons: Never Simply Bare Historical Facts

“As I have explained and shown … the evangelists always included stories in their Gospel books for the purpose of conveying a message, never simply to record bare historical facts.”  (Fr. Paul Tarazi,   THE NEW TESTAMENT INTRODUCTION: JOHANNINE WRITINGS, p 199)

This truth was always known by the Church.  However, because at times Christians in search of that deeper message of the scriptures became somewhat fanciful in their interpretations of various passages, there occurred a reaction against such messages during the Protestant Reformation.   The Reformation challenged the deeper messages which the Catholic Church saw in the scriptures, but then during the Enlightenment the Reformation itself was challenged by the demands of scientific rationalism for absolute “scientific” and historical facts rather than lessons of faith.  This movement pushed Protestantism toward greater biblical literalism and the reduction of the Gospel lessons themselves to bare historical facts.  While biblical literalists claim to be seeking and teaching “the truth” they in fact accept the secular scientific definition of truth and forced the Word of God to become a scientific text book.   This is biblical reductionism.

Treating the Gospel books as mere historical facts, causes people to lose sight of the meaning of miracles for example.  The miracles are presented in the Gospel books as signs of the kingdom of God.  But when we forget that message, we reduce the miracles from signs of God’s kingdom to perks and benefits in this world and lose the full power and meaning of the Gospel lessons.  One need only remember John 6:26-27:  

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.” 

When we reduce the lessons of God’s kingdom to bare historical facts, we also end up turning the Lord God into a menial servant whom we feel we should be able to order about and demand from him to do for us everything we want – we think God is to work for us and be our servant.  And it causes people not to seek out a relationship with God, but to seek out miracles that give us what we want.  We end up seeking out the gifts rather than the Giver.

Reductionism in interpreting the scriptures – the Word of God – leads to reducing the Word of God, the Lord of the Universe, to some kind of servant genie.