Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Democracy and the prophetic voice in a world of fallen, fallible people

We have begun to discuss the implications of the Acts 27 account of events in Fair Havens, Crete in October of [probably] 59 AD.

For, we have seen how Paul's well-judged minority report that an undue environmental risk was about to be run if they set sail from Fair Havens plainly failed to carry the day with the majority, in the face of the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. [Doubtless, these were in turn influenced by the fact that the ship and cargo were at higher risk in Fair Havens than in Phoenix, so they appealed to the discomfort of the passengers, to induce them to go along with the plan to make the ship safer by sailing on to Phoenix.]

So, when a gentle south wind came up, the ship sailed out towards the more attractive wintering port, Phoenix, only to be caught in an early-arriving winter storm.

That is, we here see several key lessons:

  1. First, let us note how the majority, as influenced by the powerful -- but evidently agenda-driven -- voices of the technical and moneyed elite, made a dangerous decision and nearly lost their lives as well as the boat and cargo.

  2. Thus, we should immediately note a point that should be obvious, but is often lost in the noise over the value and importance of "Democracy": the majority, the powerful, experts and the otherwise influential, can be wrong or even foolish. (It is right -- not might -- that makes right.)

  3. That is one reason why it is very important to encourage, hear out, and protect the minority down to one person, even though it is often "inconvenient" for backers of whatever agenda is being pushed by the powerful.

  4. Lurking beneath, too, is the issue of community decision making in light of an uncertain future and a potentially dangerous environment.

  5. So, in a world of uncertainties, it is important for decision-makers to consider the full "fan" of credible scenarios -- optimistic, typical, pessimistic -- that could play out if a proposal is acted on in the relevant environment.

  6. That way, the community can learn to think in terms of alternatives and consequences, and can see why more robust alternatives -- even if less comfortable and attractive than other alternatives [if things go well] -- may be more prudent.

  7. We can also see Paul, a Christian, acting the part of the good citizen and rendering wise, informed and prophetic counsel to the micro-community represented by the ship's company, even though it was probably predictable that his words would be unpopular.

  8. As we will go on to see, in the crisis that followed, the earlier wise counsel gave him a credibility that allowed him to become the "good man in the storm," as decisions had to be made in the unfolding crisis.

In short, given a world full of uncertainties, and of fallen, fallible, interested people, we must recognise that we can go wrong, dangerously wrong. So we need to govern ourselves in ways that encourage that "still, small voice" of wisdom that we should then follow -- uncomfortable and inconvenient though it so often is. END

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