“Democracy is a name for a life of free and enriching communion.” -John Dewey
Democracy in the U.S. has always been compromised. At the Nation’s very founding, only white male land owners were allowed to participate in governance. Wealth was created from those excluded: the seizure of land from indigenous peoples who were forcibly removed and exterminated, enslaved Africans, and exploited labor from indentured servants, immigrants, prisoners, and the working poor. As people of faith committed to “the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large,” we must strive toward uncorrupted democracy.
As a means to an end, democracy organizes consensus among diverse people and preserves stability while balancing competing interests. But democracy is not merely a means. It is an end in itself, an ethical ideal, a moral and spiritual way of relating to one another.
The promise of democracy is for a life that fashions us as the people we want to be. Terry Tempest Williams asks: “Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up – ever – trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?” She calls us to be equitable, and generous, attentive to one another, resolute and courageous in our trust. If democracy has sometimes seemed, as Winston Churchill said, “the worst form of government except for all those other forms,” it is because democracy has been limited and constrained – merely a means for giving powerful interests the appearance of legitimacy….
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