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CHRISTIAN DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE
Fifteen years ago, in October 1981, the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) adopted the following statement, entitled “Christianity and Democracy.” IRD had been launched that spring by a small group of evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and oldline Protestants who were concerned about the ambiguous witness of the churches on the cause of human freedom. At that time the Cold War was the dominant fact in international affairs and largely shaped domestic politics. Numerous Christian leaders and some churches associated with the National Council of Churches (NCC) advocated a “moral symmetry” between the Soviet Union and the United States, agitated for unilateral disarmament, and condemned anticommunism as a moral failing and even a theological heresy. In its declaration, written by Richard John Neuhaus, IRD intended to set forth the Christian case for, and stake in, the liberal democratic order. The IRD initiative occasioned enormous controversy at the time. While sympathetic treatment of the IRD argument by popular media such as 60 Minutes and Reader’s Digest provoked vigorous counterattacks against IRD by the officialdoms of oldline churches and the NCC, some historians date the precipitous decline of the public influence of liberal religion from this conflict. IRD, it should be noted, continues as a vibrant catalyst of renewal movements within oldline churches, especially the United Methodist, Presbyterian (U.S.A.), and Episcopal. We republish the original text of “Christianity and Democracy” because of its historical interest and because of its pertinence to the perennial struggle between the totalitarian impulse and the democratic alternative. (That the threat to democracy indeed continues, also in the U.S., is underscored by a sobering symposium coming in the November issue of First Things on the imperial judiciary and its usurpation of politics.)
Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the first and final assertion Christians make about all of reality, including politics. Believers now assert by faith what one day will be manifest to the sight of all: every earthly sovereignty is subordinate to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. The Church, the community of believers, is the bearer of that claim. Because the Church is pledged to the Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus, it must maintain a critical distance from all the kingdoms of the world, whether actual or proposed. Christians betray their Lord if, in theory or practice, they equate the Kingdom of God with any political, social, or economic order of this passing time. At best, such orders permit the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom and approximate, in small part, the freedom, peace, and justice for which we hope. At worst, such orders attempt to suppress the good news of the Kingdom and oppress human beings who are the object of divine love and promise.
The first political task of the Church is to be the Church. That is, Christians must proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel to all people, embracing them in a sustaining community of faith and discipline under the Lordship of Christ. In obedience to this biblical mandate, Christians give urgent priority to all who are in need, especially the poor, the oppressed, the despised, and the marginal. The Church is called to be a community of diversity, including people of every race, nation, class, and political viewpoint. As a universal community, the Church witnesses to the limits of the national and ideological loyalties that divide mankind. Communal allegiance to Christ and his Kingdom is the indispensable check upon the pretensions of the modern state. Because Christ is Lord, Caesar is not Lord. By humbling all secular claims to sovereignty, the Church makes its most important political contribution by being, fully and unapologetically, the Church. While our first allegiance is to the community of faith and its mission in the world, Christians do not withdraw from participation in other communities. To the contrary, we are called to be leaven and light in movements of cultural, political, and economic change. History is the arena in which Christians exercise their discipleship. Because our hope is eternal and transcendent, Christians can participate in society without despair or delusion. We do not despair of the meaning of history, nor do we delude ourselves that our efforts are to be equated with establishing the Kingdom of God. The fulfillment of history’s travail is the promised Rule of God, not the establishment of our human programs and designs.
God has given us no one pattern for the ordering of societies or of the world. For almost two millennia Christians have pursued their mission within a variety of social, political, and economic systems. Among Christians today, as in times past, there are significant disagreements. Today disagreements are especially sharp on how best to advance freedom, justice, and peace in the world. That Christians are to pursue these goals should be beyond dispute. Disagreements about how they are to be pursued need be neither surprising nor destructive. Also in making political decisions, we are all subject to error. With prayer, we decide in the courage of our uncertainties. We strive to credit the intelligence and good intentions of those who decide differently. Especially within the believing community we must, in the words of Reinhold Niebuhr, avoid portraying our conflicts as a war between “the children of light and the children of darkness.” Our unity in Christ is greater than whatever may divide us. Within our several churches disagreement about the meaning of social justice should not merely be tolerated; it should be cherished. We are pledged to the goal that our churches be open churches. An open church engages sympathetically the diversity of Christian views both within and outside denominational structures. An open church welcomes dissent for the strengthening of truth and the correction of error. An open church makes decisions in the light of day, not in the shadowed corners of bureaucratic power. An open church has leaders who are not afraid but eager to engage in the fullest consultation with all its members. An open church addresses social issues not so much to advance a particular position as to inform and empower people to make their own decisions responsibly. An open church understands that the church speaks most effectively when the people who are the church do the speaking, and leaders speak most believably when they speak with the informed consent of those whom they would lead. Sometimes leaders can and should disagree with the views of the majority. To disagree, however, is not to disregard the views of others. Leadership in an open church is marked by candor and never by contempt for the convictions of those with whom we differ. In these ways, an open church becomes a zone of truth-telling in a world of mendacity.
In this century of Hitler and Stalin and their lesser imitators the most urgent truth to be told about secular politics is the threat of totalitarianism. That truth was told eloquently by John Courtney Murray, whose understanding of religious and civil freedom was ratified by Vatican Council II. Many political theories of our time, Father Murray wrote, are marked by a “thoroughgoing monism, political, social, juridical, religious: there is only one Sovereign, one society, one law, one faith. And the cardinal denial is of the Christian dualism of powers, societies, and laws”spiritual and temporal, divine and human. Upon this denial follows the absorption of the community in the state, the absorption of the state in the party, and the assertion that the party-state is the supreme spiritual and moral, as well as political, authority.” The religious term for political monism or totalitarianism is idolatry. The party-state declares itself to be absolute, and therefore not accountable to any transcendent judgment. Regimes that subscribe to this dogma assert that they themselves embody the final meaning of history and are therefore not answerable to any higher authority or morality. Totalitarianism takes either leftist or rightist forms. Our century is shrouded by the specter of Hitler’s Third Reich. Today, however, the only global ideology that is committed to the monistic denial of freedom is Marxism-Leninism. That this revolutionary movement denies what we understand by freedom is not a charge lodged by its critics but a tenet consistently proclaimed by the movement itself. There are significant differences between Marxist-Leninist regimes. In some places their total control is partially checked by religious, cultural, ethnic, and economic forces which restlessly press toward freedom. In other places these forces have been ruthlessly destroyed, even at the price of genocide. The brutal denial of freedom by Communist states is not accidental. It is inherent in and essential to the doctrine by which such regimes would legitimate their power. Although the totalitarian intent is not actualized with the same consistency or brutality in every Marxist-Leninist regime, every such regime and every such revolutionary movement subscribes to the totalitarian intent. To the extent the intent has been actualized, millions have died, millions more have been imprisoned and cruelly repressed. In addition to this unspeakable human suffering, however, we declare that the intent itself is evil. It is both politically and theologically imperative to assert that Marxism-Leninism promulgates a doctrine that is incompatible with a Christian understanding of humanity and historical destiny. Thus Christians must be unapologetically anti-Communist. Anti-Communism is not a sufficient political philosophy, but it is an indispensable component in discerning the signs of the times. Those who do not understand this have not recognized the bloody face of our age and, however benign their hopes, can contribute little toward the establishment of a more humane world.
An alternative to totalitarianism is democracy. There are different and sometimes confused theories about democratic governance. Indeed the idea of democracy is so attractive in our day that even totalitarian regimes attempt to claim it as their own. The understanding of democratic governance espoused here, however, is neither novel nor complicated. Democracy’s marks are obvious to all who have eyes to see. Democratic government is limited government. It is limited in the claims it makes and in the power it seeks to exercise. Democratic government understands itself to be accountable to values and to truths which transcend any regime or party. Thus in the United States of America we declare ours to be a nation “under God,” which means, first of all, a nation under judgment. In addition, limited government means that a clear distinction is made between the state and the society. The state is not the whole of the society, but is one important actor in the society. Other institutions”notably the family, the church, educational, economic, and cultural enterprises”are at least equally important actors in the society. They do not exist or act by sufferance of the state. Rather, these spheres have their own peculiar sovereignty which must be respected by the state. Democratic governance is pluralistic governance and thus the opposite of political monism. By protecting the roles of many institutional and individual actors within the social order, democracy keeps society open to the future. It resists the act of historical closure which is the consequence of the totalitarian impulse. Because it cherishes criticism and change, democracy is a progressive movement invoking the promise of the future. Totalitarianism, which would freeze and consolidate power relations, is essentially reactive and fearful. It represses diversity and dissent in a fearful denial of the human capacity for growth and the human need for criticism. As democracy keeps society open to the future it also keeps the future open. That is, the democratic posture is not one of merely passive receptivity to whatever may happen. Rather, it is one of protecting and nurturing the individual and institutional visions of alternative futures. Democratic society is not a terminal enterprise. The intention is not that at some point in the near or distant future all questions will be answered and all conflicts resolved. The chief goal of democratic governance is to sustain the process of democratic governance. Toward that end, constitutional provisions do not provide all the answers to society’s problems but protect the process by which various answers are debated and adopted, always subject to change. Democratic government is contingent, modest in its claims, and open-ended. What we perceive as the virtues of democratic governance others condemn as its weakness. There is a deep human hunger for a monistic world, for authority, control, and definitive meaning which can cut through the ambiguities and uncertainties of our existence. From this hunger emerges the totalitarian impulse. This hunger is essentially religious in character and is dangerously misplaced when it seeks satisfaction in the politics of the present time. This hunger cannot and should not be satisfied short of the coming of the Kingdom of God. To mistake any existing or proposed social order for the Kingdom of God is the great crime against humanity. We readily acknowledge that democratic governance is unsatisfactory. Everything short of the consummation of the rule of Christ is unsatisfactory. For Christians, it is precisely the merit of democracy that it reminds us of this truth and sustains the possibility of humane government in a necessarily unsatisfactory world. There are tensions and contradictions within democratic theory and practice. Especially problematic are relationships between the individual and the community, between formal process and substantive purpose, between popular participation and power elites. We do not deny these and other problems. Rather, believing that democratic theory and practice is still developing, we would encourage in the churches a lively examination of the problems and their possible resolutions. Such an examination only begins with the basic outline of democratic governance set forth in this statement and should be informed by the maxim framed by Reinhold Niebuhr: “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” Democratic governance is based upon a morality of respect and fairness for all. It is responsive to the diverse moral judgments and meanings affirmed by individuals and institutions within society. It not only tolerates but rigorously protects those spheres within which people find meaning for their lives and share that meaning with others. Most importantly, democratic government does not seek to control or restrict the sphere of religion in which people affirm, exercise, and share their ultimate beliefs about the world and their place in it. As democratic government does not seek to absorb the sphere of religion, so it does seek to respect the autonomy of cultural and economic life. With respect to the last, there is much debate about the relationship between democracy and capitalism. Whatever the economic achievements of capitalism, and they are considerable, our primary concern is to preserve and strengthen democracy. We believe that the personal and institutional ownership and control of property”always as stewards of God to whom the whole creation belongs”contributes greatly to freedom. We note as a matter of historical fact that democratic governance exists only where the free market plays a large part in a society’s economy. Like political democracy, a market economy is a process open to the future. The focus is on the production of wealth rather than on the consolidation and redistribution of existing goods. Experience in America and the world suggests that when a market economy is open to the participation of all, it works to the benefit of all, and especially of the poor. Conversely, we note that the economic systems advanced by totalitarian regimes have been consistently disastrous for all but the new class of the political elite. A market economy may be a necessary condition for democracy. It is obviously not a sufficient condition for democracy. There are more or less capitalist societies with repressive regimes quite unlike the democratic governance we affirm. In modern industrialized societies the state is necessarily involved in aspects of economic life. Apart from pragmatic considerations, however, our bias in favor of a market economy is informed by our commitment to democracy. To the extent that capitalism is a necessary restraint upon the monistic drives of society, it warrants our critical approval. The formal structures of democratic governments may and do vary. Both in theory and historical experience, however, there would seem to be some universal requirements. These include some concept of the rule of law to which any regime of the moment is held accountable. That concept may be embodied in a constitution, in common law, in institutionalized tradition, or in a mix of all three. It also appears necessary that there be an institutionalized division of powers within the government itself. Thus, as society is not monolithic, so the state is not monolithic. Within democratic government there are processes of appeal, whether to the courts or to the parliament or to some other agency. While there must be, so to speak, an agency of last resort, its decisions too are subject to democratic change. In sum, the instruments of democratic government are internally limited, as is the government itself externally limited by virtue of being but one actor in society. As we have seen, democratic governance respects the rights not only of individuals in society but of other institutional actors. Individuals and institutions must associate in order to press their interests in relation to the government and to other associations. Crucial to this process is the freedom to assemble, to speak, and to publish. What in our country is represented by the Bill of Rights is not only constitutionally mandated but is theologically imperative. Such rights, however imperfectly framed and implemented, are necessary to keeping the future open and to resisting the impulse, also in our society, to effect an idolatrous closing off of historical change. Among the universal requirements of democratic governance is the institutional means for transferring the authority to govern. In a democracy every government is temporary, for the time being, until further notice. The means for transferring authority aim at maximum consultation and participation by the people governed. Although this goal can theoretically be achieved in different ways, the way it is generally accomplished is through popular elections. Elections must be regular, at specified times. They must be contested, as open as possible to every viewpoint and interest group. They must be decisive, effectively bestowing governing authority upon the elected party or persons. We note that nowhere today is there democratic governance in the absence of regular, contested, and decisive elections.
Finally, and perhaps most profoundly, democratic governance subscribes to a distinctive understanding of human rights. That understanding is that human rights are prior rights. That is, human rights are not established by the state. The state is bound to acknowledge and respect those rights which have their source in the transcendent dignity of the human person created by God. Valid distinctions are made between categories of human rights”personal, civil, political, economic, and social. Individual and communal freedom from terror and coercion is essential to the protection of all human rights. Repressive regimes of both the left and the right frequently and falsely pit social and economic rights against the rights of freedom. But without freedom persons cannot pursue their economic and social well-being as they deem best. And without freedom the economic and social advances which regimes claim for the poor cannot be examined and verified. As a matter of empirical fact, those societies which give priority to freedom generally secure social and economic rights more successfully than do those societies which attempt social and economic advance at the cost of freedom. The most fundamental of all human rights is the freedom of religious faith and practice. Religion is both freedom’s shield and central sphere of action. “For religion,” Pope John Paul II has declared, “consists in the free adherence of the human mind to God, which is in all respects personal and conscientious; it arises from the desire for truth and in this relation the secular arm may not interfere, because religion itself by its nature transcends all things secular.” Religious freedom consists of many parts: the freedom to believe, to worship, to teach, to evangelize, to collaborate in works of mercy, and to witness to the public good. Where religious freedom is violated, all other human rights are assaulted at their source. The churches should be relentless in protesting every infringement of freedom, especially of the freedom of conscience and association, and most especially of religious freedom. In protesting human rights’ violations, governments will of necessity take into account many considerations”political, diplomatic, military, and economic. The ethics of the Church, however, are not the ethics of Caesar. In witnessing to the transcendent dignity of the human person, the churches are bound not by reasons of state but by obedience to Christ. Therefore the witness of the churches should reflect an unwavering adherence to a single standard in the judgment of human rights. Whether the regime in question is repressive only in order to maintain itself in power or whether it aspires to totalitarian control over its people, whether it fashions itself as rightist or leftist, whether it is friend or foe or neutral toward whatever great power, to the extent that it violates the rights of people to be the artisans of their own destiny it blasphemes against the divine intent for human life. The churches dare never be apologists for such blasphemy in the name of some higher social good. Because every person is called to the fullness of humanity revealed in Our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no higher good than the human person. With particular respect to the weakest and most vulnerable members of the human community, Christians insist that no human being is expendable.
In our radically imperfect world, the democracy and freedom which we affirm is always imperiled. As faith-filled realists, we reject the sentimental illusion that democracy is a natural product of the progress of an essentially good humanity. We likewise reject the determinist dogma that freedom is produced by the denial of freedom in a process of inevitable revolutionary change. Wherever it exits, democracy”which is both the product and protector of freedom”is a human enterprise and a divine gift. It does not exist in most of the nations of the world, and nowhere does it exist securely. Those of us who are blessed to live under relatively democratic governments are stewards of a possibility that is to be preserved for the whole world. Democracy is not an achievement secured but an experiment to be advanced. It is both gift and task. In helping to sustain the democratic experiment, the churches act not only in their own interest but in the interest of humankind. In our dangerously divided world, choices must be made. Among the nations and social systems of our time, the choice is never between absolute good and absolute evil. No nation perfectly embodies the democracy we would affirm, and no nation totally represses freedom from which democracy springs. Tragically, the great majority of our sisters and brothers throughout the world live under varying degrees of repression. Certain distinctions can and must be made, however. To all but the willfully blind, it is obvious that some nations aspire to the democratic ideal we have described, while others condemn both the ideal and the fact of democracy as enslaving illusion. The United States of America is the primary bearer of the democratic possibility in the world today. The Soviet Union is the primary bearer of the totalitarian alternative. For better and for worse, each is a global force and between them there is no pattern of smooth convergence but of real and potential conflict. Armed as they are with weapons of terrifying destructive power, their conflict threatens the future of humankind. Christians are called to earnest prayer and work for mutual disarmament that can reduce that threat. Without denying the reasons for suspicion and anxiety, Christians should also cultivate cooperation in the common interests of otherwise hostile powers. More profound than the conflict of military and political forces, however, is the conflict over the dignity and destiny of the human person, and the societal order appropriate to that dignity and that destiny. In this conflict, we believe that the United States of America is, on balance and considering the alternatives, a force for good in the world. In this conflict, the leaders of the churches should more clearly evidence their hope that the democratic ideal prevail. Ideals do not make their way in history except they be carried by persons and institutions. The carriers inescapably fall short of the ideals to which they witness. This is most dramatically true of the Church as the bearer of the Gospel. It is also true in the realm of social and political change. Although it is the primary bearer of the democratic ideal today, America is far from having fully actualized that ideal in its own life. To say that America has a singular responsibility in this world-historical moment does not mean that America is God’s chosen nation, as for instance, Israel was chosen by God. God has made no special covenant with America as such. God’s convenant is with his creation, with Israel, and with his Church. However, because America is a large and influential part of his creation, because America is the home of most of the heirs of Israel of old, and because this is a land in which his Church is vibrantly free to live and proclaim the Gospel to the world, we believe that America has a peculiar place in God’s promises and purposes. This is not a statement of nationalistic hubris but an acknowledgment that we bear a particular and grave responsibility. Beyond this, we are also mindful that this is the nation for which we are most immediately accountable. As America falls short of the ideal it bears, so also some nations aligned with America fall short, while some grievously and systematically violate that ideal. The requirements of national security and international order involve prudential judgments of tortuous moral ambiguity. Because they are not the government, and must always maintain a critical distance from the government, the churches must speak out boldly against violations of human dignity wherever they occur. In a democracy Christian citizens are called upon to make judgments about the wisdom and morality of their country’s foreign policy. The Church”in the biblical sense of the Body of Christ”has neither competence nor responsibility to design or control the foreign policy of the United States. As we have said, the mission of the Church is to be the Church”to proclaim the saving Gospel of Christ and to embrace all persons in a sustaining community of caring discipleship. As part of that sustaining and caring activity, agencies and leaders of the churches should address foreign policy issues in order to help Christians exercise their responsibility as citizens.
We are keenly aware that not all Christians share our understanding of democracy and America’s role in the world. Especially is this true of some leadership circles in the churches, and most especially of many who are professionally involved in shaping the social witness of the churches. It is our purpose to illuminate the relationship between Christian faith and democratic governance. It is also our purpose to oppose policies and programs in the churches which ignore or deny that relationship. With the prayer that we may always speak the truth in love, we will not hesitate to specify policies, programs, and persons when we believe they are demeaning the Church’s witness and obscuring the sufferings of the poor and oppressed. We will speak privately when possible, publicly when necessary. We do not seek controversy, but we will not shrink from controversy. Basic questions about the meaning of freedom, of peace, and of justice must be examined anew. In these ways we would contribute to renewing the social witness of the churches. Arguments for oppression are evident in our several churches, in some churches more than others. Those who advance such arguments become, whatever their intent may be, apologists for oppression. These arguments are voiced at various levels of episcopal, administrative, journalistic, and academic leadership. We believe that those who espouse these arguments do not as a rule act from design but from bureaucratic and intellectual habit. Their behavior does not constitute a conspiracy but reflects selective compassion for human suffering and indifference to the meaning of democracy in our kind of world. Apology for oppression is sometimes passionately anti-Communist. It excuses and rationalizes any injustice if it is perpetrated in the name of defeating Communism. Such an approach is morally odious and antithetical to our understanding of religion and democracy. We emphatically reject it. Much more respectable, influential, and common, however, is apology for oppression that excuses injustice as necessary for the eventual creation of a new and, it is claimed, more equitable social order. The apology for oppression declares that liberal democracy is decadent and dying. It claims that we should welcome, or at least resign ourselves to, inevitable revolutionary change under totalitarian auspices. We declare, however, that history is not the sphere of the inevitable but the sphere of freedom. Within the limits of a life that is bounded by death, free men and women strive for what should be; they do not surrender to what others say must be. Moreover, the results of the revolutions that have denied freedom are now coming in; the record is one of grim failure. In the long struggle of history it is the idea of democracy that is the new, the progressive, the audacious experiment toward the future. We refuse to terminate this promising venture by returning to the false securities of an oppressive past that now advertises itself as the inevitable future. Another form of apology for oppression asserts that we have no right to impose our values upon others. It is said that other people must choose their own form of government. It is said that other people do not share our concern for democratic governance and human rights. This combination of lies and half-truths conceals a host of cultural and, more often than not, racial prejudices. It is monstrous to assert on behalf of others that they do not feel about their basic human rights as keenly as we feel about ours. It is disingenuous to say that other people must be free to choose their own form of government and, at the same time, to support precisely those forces that would deny them their freedom to choose. It is also an apology for oppression to claim that, faced with repressive oligarchies or militarisms, people often have no alternative to Marxist-Leninist revolution. In truth there is hardly a country in the world without advocates of democratic reform. Again and again, however, the democratic forces are crushed between the false anti-Communists of the reactionary right, on the one hand, and naive or knowing supporters of the totalitarian left, on the other. In these and other ways, the freedom and justice which we cherish for ourselves are denied to others. Wherever the churches can influence situations of oppression, and whenever the churches address themselves to American foreign policy, we beg our leaders to heed and support the forces for democratic change. Whether we approve or disapprove of such influence, in many places American power and opinion can be decisive. Those Christian leaders who collaborate in the denial of freedom and justice to others bear an ominous moral responsibility. Some even excuse the denial of elementary religious freedom. This is the most contemptible betrayal of trust. It is said that securing social and economic rights requires the sacrifice of formal, “bourgeois” freedoms”including the freedom to assemble for worship without penalty, to proclaim the Gospel publicly, or even the freedom of parents to instruct their children in the faith. It is very hard to understand how Christians could deem it a secondary or subordinate concern that believers be able to practice their faith. Yet some leaders in our churches praise the alleged achievements of totalitarian regimes, while acknowledging incidentally, if at all, that it is unfortunate that these regimes have brutally repressed religion. And some leaders welcome warmly the religious and secular agents of totalitarian and repressive regimes while seeming to turn a deaf ear to the cries of believers in prisons and concentration camps who are persecuted for nothing more than the profession of their faith. It is indeed very hard to understand. Many church members today voice the suspicion that the primary solidarity of some leaders is not with the Church and their primary loyalty is not to the Gospel of Christ. That suspicion must be understood and addressed in order to renew the credibility of Christian social witness.
Now we have explained, briefly and no doubt inadequately, the reasons for the Institute on Religion and Democracy. The issues are not simple. Our answers are not infallible. We are prone to err and we live by forgiveness. The debate is not between liberals and conservatives, between left and right. The debate is between those who do believe and those who do not believe that there is a necessary linkage between Christian faith and human freedom. The debate is between those who do and those who do not believe that in this moment of history democracy is the necessary product and protector of freedom. And the debate is between those who do and those who do not believe that freedom, an end in itself, is also the surest way to a greater measure of that peace and justice which we are to seek. We do not know whether democracy is the wave of the future. We do know that the future will be darker if the democratic idea is extinguished. We do know that the victims of freedom’s denial already number in the many millions. And we do know that one day, before the judgment throne of God, those who were voiceless will ask what we said on their behalf. What we say or do may seem to be of little moment. But in the face of every discouragement we will persist in hope because finally, as we said at the start, Jesus Christ is Lord.
God And Governance: A Christian Appraisal Of Contemporary Nigerian Political Situation
Wherever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand: in agriculture, commerce, (government) or industry, or his mind in the world of art and science, he is in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of his God1.
The foregoing reveals that God is the ground norm of every assignment. Thus, this responsibility does not exist outside god’s behest; it is call of God which is de jure exercised outside earthly kingdom, Undoubtedly, man is enthroned into leadership position of various capacities so as to carry out fulfil an avowed person’s mastery or his skill or people’s acclaim, it is divinely ordained. Therefore, human governance as quasi-autonomy is exercised with a high sense of commitment, humility and sincerity in the communal life of God’s creature. In a nutshell, sovereignty resides with the Civitas a society of citizens.
Also, this God-given mandate from Christian perspective is the inherent dignity and irrefragable worth of the essence of individual human commonwealth. This political commonwealth is not something foreign to individuals. Despite these Christians tenets, governance in Nigeria is particularly inexpedient with stringent and dehumanizing rules undermining the inviolable right of the civitas. Meanwhile, the commonwealth of Christian governance comprises of justice, peace and fairness among others. God specially wants this commonwealth of Christian governance realized on the earthly governance, coupled with its eschatological implications. This eschatological implication transforms the present order and the future realization. No doubt, these Christian precepts dignify and defanaticize claims and are bereft of ultimate truth. It is the intention of this paper to look at God and governance. The ethical synthesis of politico-Christian governance would be explored. An appraisal of Christian governance in Nigeria would be tersely examined; with a view to suggesting ways towards resolving the problems of governance in contemporary Nigerian political situation.
Without doubt, our understanding of what God looks like varies from tradition to traditions, but the fact remains that God is generally considered as an invisible, spiritual, supreme, and immortal Being higher than man with great preponderance and corresponding indisputable attributes. God is the living, and eternal Being in whose presence all creatures live and move, and have their being2. He has revealed himself in various ways, and human beings per se have always felt His presence and subsequently responded to Him in worship3. This relationship between the creator and the creatures is the pivot of all religions.
God Himself pre-existed before the foundation of the world; He is not begotten. In which case, He is the oldest, unchanging, insearchable, inscrutable, unlimited, wisest,ominipotent, ominipresent, ominiscient Being who is beyond human description in all His fullness. There is no gainsaying the fact that people have diverse ideas about Him. Writing the word “God” helps us to know that God is a special word which depiets the Eternal creator whom nobody can ever fully understand or correctly speak about holistically and carelessly4.
Not only that, God is equally described as transcendent and immanent Being. He is transcendent because this is beyond what is natural and normal, and different form it5. By and large, God is not confined to a place. He is not static. He is not restricted to particular places and times as human beings are. God does not abide in the physical world which human beings live. His thoughts are indescribable. “God is always there first: He is the creator of all things and the initiator of all events. 6” In point of fact, human beings feel the presence of God within the natural milieu through what happens to them with awe. People verifiably express this belief by saying that God is “dwelling within. 7”
Describing Him, al Ghazzali, the great Muslim theologian wrote as cited by David A. Brown:
His is the power and the kingdom and the glory and the majesty and to Him belongs creation and the rule over what He has created. He alone is the Giver of life, he is omniscient, for His knowledge encompasseth all things from the deepest depths of the earth to the highest heights of the heaven. The smallest atom in the earth or the heaven is known unto Him8.
In the same vein, the Hindu Gita while expressing a similar belief about the relationship between God and the universe describes God as also cited by David A. Brown.
Why should they not revere you?… You are first creator, infinite, Lord of the gods, home of the universe, You are the imperishable. You are the last pro-and-resting place of this universe. You are the knower and what is to be known… You spun the whole universe… Your strength is infinite, your power limitless. You bring all things to their fulfillment; hence You are All… You are the father of the world of moving and unmoving things9.
Some portions in the Bible also assert the close nexus between God and the world. Here is a passage form one of the minor prophets.
He it is who forgets the thunder and creates wind, who showers abundant rain on the earth, who darkens the dawn with thick clouds and marches over the heights of the earth his name is the Lord the God of Hosts. (Amos 4:13) 10
Sequel to the above, it is clearly evident that God is in control of everything that consist the world. Human beings owe their existence to Him. Hence we are the expressed image of God imago Dei. Favoured by His existence, human beings always look towards improving their relationship with the world around them with the anticipation that their existence is enable by God’s prerogative.
Undoubtedly, the relationship between God and the universe is frequently expressed and strengthened by select people who are called the Ministers of God: Ministers in both the secular and spiritual world. They may be ministers of the sacred things and spiritual and the leaders of community. Often times, they have an overall established position within the community as ministers or leaders or guardians. In some cases, however as leaders, individuals are associated with God almost against their will11. People stoutly believe that such ministers both the secular and the spiritual are compelled to act, lead and speak on God’s behalf. As we have earlier noted that human beings owe their existence to God, these ministers of God exercise quasi-autonomy on behalf of god in the theocratic government of the world. They are saddled with the responsibility of various ministerial functions in their immediate environment, such that God’s purpose must be clearly dispensed and entrenched. Thus, these ministers are mirrors in the lives of their followers. Succinctly, God not only created the world but also revealed the basic fundamentals of public and private principles. The purpose of public policies is to seek justice. “A justice measured in quite concrete terms by how the most vulnerable and the weakest members of society are dealt with. 12”
The growing global recognition and awareness of essence of good governance is almost being generally perceived as a catalyst for economic, social and political development in all nations13. Therefore, “governance is generally defined as the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social development14. As a matter of fact, not every governance of a country is good. To assess, therefore, the tenability of good and bad governance in a country, one must compare and consider the vitality of political and economic plurality which enhances choices made by the masses, but also the level of transparency and accountability15. By extension, justice equitable allocation of scarce resources, organizational goals, all-encompassing and all-embracing conditions of political harmony are the condiments that favourgovernance. In the same development, bad governance has been described as the poor management and low level of development in the developing world, and the literature on poverty and development has been enhanced globally on what good governance entails and the ethical problems encountered by administration in many countries enthroning it16.
Governance is the attainment of any worthwhile governmental objectives which can only be possible in an environment devoid of rancour, ill-will, strife, struggle and disdain17. Thus, good governance is a sine qua non for achieving a functional and result-oriented goals, with the resultant overriding need, extending the frontier of welfarism of the government of the governed18.
Governance in human expression is God-ordined, that is divinely directed and dispatched. The political scientists refer to this Godly governance in earthly kingdom as Divine theory. The Divine theory depicts that the state and governance are designed by God to meet the purpose, yearnings and aspirations of the civitas. So, the rulers are regarded as ordained and chosen by god to serve as representatives here on earth. Sovereignty remains with the people. God only needs total submission form the rulers. As such governance by God is regarded as expressed in the collective will of the people. So the King himself is seen as part of God’s governance expressed collective will of people20. Thus, this collective will of the people does not in any way contradict God’s purpose for the state. It is only God who can protect not only the state but also the entire humanity. Those who will rule must rule in consonance with God’s principles and ordinances. In return, the state enjoys God’s favour and protection. This informs human development in earthly kingdom for when “the righteous rules the people rejoice” (Prov. 29:2)
Furthermore, governance in all transcends individual religion. It covers all those who win God’s favour. “The commonwealth will actually facilitate justice” 21.Commonwealth with Christian approach ushers in peace and justice in the earthly governance when individuals agree on this code of conduct, that is the scriptural command of “Love the Lord with all your heart and your might and your neighbours” (Matt. 23:37-39); and follow peace with all men… without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). Once individuals strictly adhere to these codes i.e. the rulers and ruled. Justice and peaceful co-existence will be realized. All citizens as members of the God’s heavenly kingdom actually can realize this when both seek earthly peace and advance earthly peace. Christian and members of heavenly and God’s kingdom on earth ought to obey the state. While the government ought to seek justice22. Succinctly therefore, governance does not anchor on other people’s rating and accounting, neither is it an impression built on people’s acclaim. God has chosen and prepared for it23. To this end, good governance is delegated responsibilities exercised freely on behalf of God. Thus, good governance comes into full action when the ruler understands his assignment and carries it out as divinely directed.
Politico-Christian Governance: An Ethical Symbiosis
The relationship of Christianity with the political structures and the issues of social and economic justice is not simply of theoretical interest, but of considerably shaped public norms and policies by which governance becomes a twilight of life and a bridge-builder society. At personal level, the Christian arrive at an understanding of the implications of individual belief for involvement in political realities24. At the corporal level also, ecclesiastical institutions attempt to decide how far they are to be involved in specifically political institutions and in detailed political decision-making and implemtation25.
It must however be acknowledged that some political structures seldom adopt unsullied Christian ideas and vice versa. Be that as it may, this appears relatively unproblematic because the church can identify fully with such political programmes.
For many, total obedience to the individual Christian to specific political regimes, ideals, or programmes would also be thereby precluded. But to some… it would still be required, on the grounds that political regimes are always divinely appointed, even when they conflict with Christian ideals and principles26.
In similar, John Calvin argued in his exegesis of Romans 13 that:
The reason why we ought to be subject to magistrates is because they are constituted by God’s ordination. For since it pleases God thus to govern the world, he who attempts to invert the orders of God, and thus to resist God himself, despises his power; since to despise the providence of him who is the founder of civil power is to carry on war with him27.
Like John Calvin, Luther and Karl Barth, in relation to this political question affirm that individual Christian should be obedient to the state and not the state that should be obedient to the individual Christian28. Luther further buttressed “that obedience to the appointed ruler was crucial, even if the latter was a tyrant and thoroughly Christian” 29. Flowing from the foregoing, it is apparent that obedience of the individual Christian is always required by the virtue of their existence in earthly kingdom. However, Thomas Aquinas like Calvin disagrees with those who assert that their kingdom is not of this world rather they are only in the world polluted with pagan practices. He writes that:
Some fanatics who are pleased with nothing but liberty, or rather licentiousness without any restraint, do indeed boast and vociferate, that since we are dead with Christ to the elements of this world and being translated into the kingdom of God, sit among the celestials, it is a degradation to us and far beneath our dignity to be occupied with those secular and pure cares which relates to things altogether uninteresting to a Christian man30.
He was sharply critical to this form of Christian anarchism. It now becomes imperative to show that Christianity, the chief architect of western civilization, has any common cause with politics governance. This is htus easy to achieve for any searching mind31. Jesus Christ paid tax and commanded people to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.on this note, Christianity meant to concern itself with politics and St. Paul confirmed this when he was exhorting the Romans. These are pointers to the fact that Christianity makes cause with governance. Consequently, by addition, all religions make case with politics and there should be no sense of anathema and estrangement between them. 32” The relevance of this is the fact that there are negative radical changes in the world all together, which gives room for the concern of human salvations and crusade against evils and injustices in all its forms. Christianity and politics converge on the same subject, man, man living, man acting, and interacting, man behaving in organic consensus. Any differentiation of them is basically that of aspect and emphasis. Thus, Christianity and politics in one man will never experience a physical separation of distinct and autonomous realities. Therefore, man is the greatest benefactor of the state if perfected.
However, St. Augustine describing the City of God, posited the strained relationship between the earthly and the heavenly cities. This stemmed from his disillusionment about the immense transition in the social status of Christianity, to agonise over the position of Christianity in relation to political realities. Though he appears to oscillate the earthly city as a source of relative good and seeing it simply as a painful necessity while the heavenly city is by far and away the most important34. Meanwhile, he never stressed or advocated for disobedience to the civic authority, since Jesus as his mentor never permitted that. In a way, John Calvin argued that there were some situations when authorities should be resisted, especially when civil authorities’ conduct is inimical to God’s command35. In commenting on Daniel’s civil disobedience, he wrote:
We must remember that passage of Peter, fear God, honour the King (1 Peter 2:17). The two commands are connected together, and cannot be separated form one another. The fear of God ought to precede, that kings may obtain their authority. For if anyone begins his reverence of an earthly prince by rejecting that of God, he will act preposterously, since this is a complete perversion of the order of nature… For earthly Princes lay aside all their power when they rise up against god, and are unworthy of being reckoned in the number of mankind. We ought rather utterly to defy than to obey them whenever they are so restive and wish to spoil God of his rights, and as it were to seize upon his throne and draw him from heaven.
Arising from the above, individual Christians must be obedient to the civil authorities except that feat of God is not is not paramount in their heart. Without this fear, the individuals would suffer unjustly form these tyrant rulers; consequent upon their disobedience to God’s purpose. But if the magistrates connive at the kings in their oppression of the masses, such forbearance involves the most nefarious perfidy because they fraudulently betray the liberty of the ordination of God37. This singularly negates justice form the rulers. This justice has eschatological implications of the present order and the future attainment which may be positive or otherwise. Despite his position, it has been accentuated oftentimes from the Jesus time through the Patristic era down to the period of the schoolmen that civic obedience to a constituted authority is per excellence and must be respected and not compromised ex cathedra. Thus, our study, has shown that the excise of Christianity from political life is as diametrically opposed in principle as it is impracticable in execution.
A Christian Appraisal of Governance in Nigeria
In governance, religion cum Christianity is referred to as the fundamental rights: justice, fair play, equality, human dignity, equity, rule of law, even distribution of scarce resources respect of conventions and norms, transparency, accountability all wrapped in the total will of the people under God’s guidance. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria possess this spirit when it says in its preamble:
We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: Having firmly and solemnly resolved to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereignty Nation under God38.
The constitution is made only for a moral and religious people under God. It is thus insufficient for the government of any other Nigerians as a people areuncompromisingly religious. Their religious allegiances are identifiably distinguishable in Africa Religion, Islam and Christianity in the history of Nigeria. Put differently, the nation has form her inception been pluralistic, not only in its religious and political parties, but also in the philosophies that have informed her life. Christian values are regarded as a rich source of renewal and empowerment of the Civitas39. Christian governance at its best dignifies government, invest it with a certain weight and seriousness but it does not permit it to claim its own ultimacy40.
In Christianity tradition, God not only created the universe but also revealed the foundations of public and private morality, not the specifies but the foundations41. Furthermore:
The God of… Christian traditions is believed to be involved in human history, not utterly beyond it, involved as one who vindicates the poor, the voiceless, the homeless, the oppressed42.
Based on the above, it is expedient to assert that Christians in governance especially in earthly endeavour ought to integrate development and advancement, fair play,neighbourliness, “we-feelings” colleagueship, justice, candour and contribution in the political and economic dimensions, and to be effectively present in the safeguarding of human dignity. For some, certainly, the most effective and appreciable way is to hold public office and work for policy decisions and implementation based on moral principles.
But in Nigeria, the salient fact is that this unfeigned good intention at the very beginning later turned to canal ambition. Yet, today we see Christian politicians in legislatures, courts, executive offices and bureaucracies aborting their moral values when they discharge their official duties43. Akanni is apposite when he stresses this worldly ambition of some of these Christian leaders after finding themselves in public office, he says:
This seemingly good desire, most of the time comes with a strand of canal ambition. The lust for power often gets mixed up with many of our cries for God’s manifestation of power through us44.
This damages the core value of true governance and the future governance is in no small measure endangered. The obvious fact regarding governance in Nigeria is that it plunges Nigerians unto the murkey political unwholesomeness we are currently witnessing. In Nigeria, some Christian leaders talk about God with so much commitment before taking an oath of office and in getting to office, the same “God” is sent on errand when brokering or exercising power as well as implementing decisions. Most Christian leaders today often suspend “God” invacuo before de-valuing human face. In Nigeria today as well, most of the Christian leaders deliver sermon about God still justice, equity, candour,neighbourliness, human dignity among others, which are God’s principles, are murdered and buried by them at the cathedral. Today, Nigeria showcases contorted transparency, accountability and justice. Today, rhetoric is being herald everywhere on “we-feelings” colleagueship, fundamental human rights, but every action in government is precisely the opposite. Today’s Nigeria speaks of peace and there is no peace. Even the peace that exists in a fragile one.
In fact, some Christians who found themselves in government today easily turn Czars preferring material rewards to men; matters of personal interest and group promotion hold sway at the expense of those they are representing.
In Nigeria, the game, style, method and attitude of politics have changed radically and the Christian politicians’ purpose turns anit-people, unjust, inhuman codes, which pervade the polity. With this there is the promotion of political rascality, social dislocation and hunger for raw power45. Justice, in all ramifications, coupled with fairness, human right, hve all been sacrificed on the alter of political expediency. No doubt today, some Christian politicians suddenly become base plotters of the killing of leading champions of genuine humanism and relentless persecutors of all who seek liberation form slavery and poverty of monopoly capitalism. The superabundance of falsehood and hypocrisy is being displayed as a screen for men eating predators46. This is certainly obvious in the much talked about Nigerian Labour Congress which seemed to fight against anti-human programmes all in the toga of economic reform. The allegiance under “God” is at the same time bottled and “His” soul on break. These practices are obviously on course as immoralities, such as hypocrisy insincerity and deception, close-door, policies corruption, among others are soaring daily. Political governance arising form these distasteful problems becomes a poor imitations, callous characteristics which have drawn Nigeria back to dark ages. It thus seems as if they are not aware of the inconsequential and deterrent measures they are employing and promoting without knowing their attendant eschatological implications; the sigh post to Armageddon.
Having discussed god and Governance with particular reference to some Christian leaders in Nigeria, we discovered that transparency, justice, accountability, reciprocity, righteousness mutual trust, rule of law neighborliness, we-feelings among others, are conspicuously absent. Despite these, it becomes pertinent to assert that these Christian moral values become necessary in Nigerian governance, the Bible passage supports this. In II Samuel 23:3 that:
When one ruling over mankind is righteous, ruling in the fear of God, then it is as light of the morning, when the sum shines forth, a morning without cloud.
We align ourselves with this foregoing by asserting that those in authority should govern well with quasi-autonomy as derived from God. The hallmark of their message being that all should exercise good thoughts, good deeds, pursue justice, pursue living, maintain an equilibrium in the relationship between the rulers and the ruled, search for sanity in an insane world so that they might live worthy47.
This masses have a right in the polis to know how public institutions apply the power and mange the scarce resources entrusted to them. Public scripting should be facilitated by transparent and democratic processes. Thus, this transparency should further be strengthened by measures such as disclosure system with recognition of the role of an active and independent media48. Transparency in Nigeria governance will therefore rekindle the interest of the people in public affairs, the quality of which can only be greatly improved through openness in and unhindered flow of information on the activities of the governance and its agencies. Indeed, it is transparency, in the opinion of ht commonwealth that enhances public participation in public affairs, promotes the accountability of public agencies and officials and provides a powerful aid in the fight against corruption49.
Accountability as a responsibility for man’s actions and inaction on behalf of God and man demands that everything must be done in the public. The rule governing the conduct of business, government activities, practices and procedures in all transactions must be known to all and sundry and recognized and all their implementation should not be hindered by bureaucratic bottleneck50. Thus, in Nigeria, all government activities should be made available and accounted for appropriately for public consumption. In other words, accountability in governance makes those who deliver services answerable to the people who finance such service through their taxes, and who use the services. This accountability ensures hat elected and appointed government officials render account of their stewardship and justify their persistent stay in the office. Through accountability, the citizens, the legislative, executive and judicial arms of government exercise God given mandate over public officers and justification to seek further support for their actions. It is to be stressed that the same accountability will be rendered to God in the hereafter, a sovereign nation under God.
Justice is pivotal to all organization not only government of the state. The ultimate will of the state is to ensure that justice is enjoyed rhapsodically by all. This is indispensable for good governance and national development. This is also needed for individuals to develop their potentials to the fullest and the much needed happiness of justice permeates the perceptions of personal or collective desires, pleasure, love to follow man, sacrifice, truth and peace. These collective desires were displayed in practice by Jesus Christ the foundation of Christianity. The enjoyment entails, political freedom, right to duties and obligation, franchise, freedom from injustice, imperialism, exploitation, starvation, dehumanization, social vices, oppression and insecurity among others. These fundamental human rights are those entitlements or rights which are universally identified as given to may by his creator which nobody can take away from. Him. When any man is violated, the violator has reduced the sufferer to a level below human idginity53. As a matter of fact, those rights are needed by men to have peace, to develop their potentials and to enjoy self-actualization. These are indispensable in a civilized society. Likewise, these rights are enshrined in the UNO charter and in the Nigerian constitution54. Succinctly, what provides human rights for a person is not the constitution per se, but the fact that he is a human being who should enjoy natural privileges which are God given mandates. The constitution only guarantees these God given rights.
With this justice at hand the masses can adequately be active to check mate the political class, the military among others that possess power in the state. Ikelegbe is apposite when he aptly observes that
Civil society has often tended towards popular struggles, civil action resistance and constellation in respect of freedom, justice, fairness, good governance and redness55.
V. Dicey asserts that every body is equal before the law. Equality before the law means that all people irrespective of gender, race, occupation, language, ethnicity, status etc are equal before the law. The law does not discriminate among people56. It surpasses every individual. Therefore, the people in governance and the governed, the powerful and the weak, the rich and the poor etc are all equal before the law. There should be no different laws for different people. The scripture stresses the selfsame. Christian should continually uphold the integrity of equality, egalitarianism and impartiality
Christianity and Governance
The role of Christian in the maintenance of peace, paying of tax promptly as when due, obeying civil authority as divinely ordained as God’s representative on earth should be extended to the government. The Christians are enjoyed to regular pray and fast for the stability of the government especially when they are fully convinced that such government has good intentions for the masses. As Obafemi Awolowo (of blessed memory) had earlier observed as cited by C.O. Ayodele,
It is very good indeed for the churches to pray for the success of the government of the day… and futile for them to pray for the success of a manifestly satanic administration57.
Prayer should be offered for Nigeria because the peace of Zion is the peace of the people. In like manner, clergymen as apostles of welfarism and impartiality, also as challengers of oppression and injustice should be main development partners of the government. They should wage war against fraudulent intrigues, disintegrative loyalties and the numerable machinations of reprehensible, predator and anti-Nigerian politicians58.
The Christians should preach full-fledged democracy to everyone. Clergymen should be made to participate actively in each plenary session of the three arms of government. This will persistently allow the fear of God to be their watchword vis-à-vis conscience. This Christians should commit themselves to these and other avowed programmes of the Nigerian government. Pope John Paul has this to say in this regard.
Let Christians… be proud of the opportunity to carry out their earthly activity in such as to integrate human, domestic, professional, scientific and technical enterprises with religious values, under whose supreme direction all things are ordered to the glory of God59.
A Sovereign Nation under God
Despite our secular state without state religion, God certainly allows secular governance. This secular promulgation in the constitution notwithstanding is still “under God”. This makes us to know that both positive and negative rewards await any nation that frowns at God’s purpose of the state. Internal sovereignty resides with the people while the overall sovereignty is God’s prerogative. Therefore, we are, as our pledge of allegiance assets, a nation “under God” that means a nation under God’s judgement, constantly reminded by the true position of ourselves comes from beyond ourselves. Not only that, the church and the state preserve the integrity of both the political process and the church60.
All stakeholders in governance must learn to appreciate and show understanding towards political tenets and objective will sin governance. All these people must co-operate and work to strike a balance in political will and value thereby helping to secure a harmonious co-existence and conducive environment. This agenda internally affirms the positive continuity between the future of God’s justice and its political embodiment in the present. In other words, the place of political virtue and order is to point ahead to thekingdom of God as a sui generic reality distinct from itself. This political virtue and order is built right into out nature, which is intrinsically disposed and oriented to a communal life. Ted Peters asserts that:
Political order… as the general human tendency towards the forming of community and the ordering of community life around principles of fairness and justice is the eschatological call ringing in the ears of everyone in organized society. Life in the temporal body politics can offer us apositive foretaste of what will be our final destiny in the everlasting polis of God61.
It can be tersely deduced from the above that justice, fairness, equity even distribution of scarce resources among others have eschatological implications. It is a truism that every stakeholder must account for his deeds if not now but in the hereafter. The internalization of political virtue and natural governance in view of this eschatological vision must require transformation of the present order of things on behalf of what we see coming in the future. Thus, the rehearsal of the qualities of the eschatological kingdom peace, love, joy, freedom, Justice, unity, equality etc. in the course of history’s towards movement should be irreducibly emphasized. Similarly, the ordering of community life around principles of fairness, justice, unity and faith in the Nigerian nation can come by ensuring that only people with unquestionable integrity, requisite capability, vision, sincerity, track records of good performance, are duly elected into governance.
This paper has revealed that governance is a department of God’s earthly kingdom which affords the rulers and the ruled the privilege to freely express themselves in thepolis. This is essential with a view to striking a balance, i.e., not to rise up against mankind and spoil God’s purpose and rights. Governance should not be made a principal of mutual exploitation, the survival of the fittest and the triumph of the wrongdoers. Rather, it is a striving and collective responsibility of all stakeholders in governance to usher inconducive political climate. Thus, maintaining political security of lives and moral virtue indispensable for sustaining national and economic integration and development, peaceful co-existence, new political order, re-engineering and national rebirth should be pursued.
This responsibility is also extended to Christians and Christian politicians with the view to re-emphasizing God’s tenets and the golden rules of “treat others as you would wish to be treated”. This governance on the ground of civil responsibility is to be exercised as God’s authority to establish and protect justice to the latter in the Nigerian nation. It is worthy to note that this justice is the virtue God wants, realized in the communal life of God’s people, which must be treated and guided jealously towards attaining a sound religious validation of the present authority and its future as a “sovereign nation under God”. Thus, citizens of the eschatological city or state must transform these natural rights towards enhancing human dignity which will consummate in the future as well locate the supreme good, the lure towards which all stakeholders are drawn; the ideal of the future being made actual in the present. To this end, dignity, liberty, virtue, justice, “we-feeling” among others supreme good are true purpose of governance in the polis of God.
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