When we pray, bow our heads and recognize the sovereign monarchy of God we may miss the subtle message that through His divine power, grace and wisdom, invested in our nation’s founders, they by and large reckoned the emerging system known as democracy would be recognized as a blessed revolution in human affairs. Perhaps the accounts of historians and experts would draw attention to the various religious dispositions of the founders shaping a Constitution at Philadelphia and overlook what the psalmist says clearly has stated in Psalm 103:19 “The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.” In effect, by designing a fledgling system of government which rested on the good will, education, integrity and core beliefs of its authors the founders were simply doing so with full regard for God’s sovereign monarchy and its relationship to the new way of governing they had fashioned. Democracy dies in the chaos of disbelief and the elevation of man.
The foreign observer Alexis de Tocqueville noted there were profound religious schisms in Europe and their leaders held deep doubts that the private choices of ordinary citizens would overtake the centuries of fleshly monarchies and somehow establish an unexpected system of governance. His concerns about materialism, religious fanaticism, invidious personal aggrandizement and property ownership were well defined. He seemed to grasp that the sheer power of genuine religious belief underpinned a fragile and nascent democracy. In fact, it can be said de Tocqueville reasoned that the concept of responsible democracy actually drew its breath from the notion that rendering sovereignty to God was separate and justified because it enabled a rendering of trust in a government managed by men. In many ways there was substantial trust among the people by 1800 in the new nation that heavenly providence was integral to, and may influence, the minds of clay their leaders possessed. The mutual dependence and necessity of state security and religious belief was sacrosanct with de Tocqueville and helped him see the virtues of separating Church and State. Respect for diverse beliefs, along with safeguarding that diversity, appeared essential to any claim that democracy was demonstrably different that any other form of government before.
This brings us full circle to the idea that democracy itself is a blessed form of governance. It underwent struggles, hardships and deep wounds with slavery, civil war, Jim Crow, two world wars, and a 45 year battle with Godless and rapacious communism. It remains far from perfect even today. We should remember the blessings of democracy began with our first President who, despite resentful criticisms, was a steadfast believer that a sovereign God extended his blessings to a new government that granted a scope of freedom never before seen. Some observers have noted Washington engaged in daily personal devotions on his knees with an open Bible because he believed God guided the creation of the United States. In Michael Novaks’ acclaimed book Washington’s God: Religion, Liberty, and the Father of our Country the author claims Washington believed God favored the cause of liberty and that leaders should beseech God to “interpose” his action on behalf of the new nation. He also called for public thanksgiving acknowledging the many ways God had blessed Americans in its earliest history including evidence of God’s providence in the Battle of Long Island in 1776. During that war with Britain he took time for prayer, established chaplains for the Continental Army, forbade his troops from uttering blasphemies or profanity and called on them to conduct themselves as Christian soldiers because the people demanded it. We therefore bask in a God blessed climate of liberty that fuels our respectful recognition that only a sovereign God could make this all possible.
So we understand better that God’s sovereign and holy monarchy provides a heavenly foundation for a system of governance which rests on the prayerful integrity of democracy’s blessed leaders. To deny that fact is to deny our own existence and ignores the reality of the prophet Isaiah who reminds us that God [Isaiah 40:23] “who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness” guarantees that our relationship to a heavenly sovereign can deliver blessings to a democracy rooted in the flesh. Without a sovereign Lord our democratic dreams surely evaporate.