Without God's Last, Democracy Seen Doomed to Anarchy

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"TEXT 1779.","Canadian Speeches: Volume 15, #01, March/April 2001.","RON GRAY.","Leader, Christian Heritage Party of Canada.","Without God's law, democracy seen doomed to anarchy.","Democracy. Constitution. Law. Religion.","Unless the law of the land is rooted in the higher authority of God's law, democracy is seen as doomed to degenerate into anarchy and mob rule. Speech prepared for delivery to the Ontario Council of the Christian Heritage Party of Canada, at Redeemer College, Ancaster, Ontario, February 17, 2001.","

Ten months ago, Mme Justice Rosalie Abella of the Ontario Appeal Court gave the keynote address to the Constitutional Cases Conference at Osgoode Hall, Canada's premiere law school. I wasn't there, so I had to wait until it was published in Canadian Speeches to see what she said and in the meantime, a federal election somewhat distracted my studies; so I finally read the honourable judge's comments just this month.

The editor of Canadian Speeches summarized her message, in part, this way:

"Those who complain that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has allowed the courts to usurp the authority of Parliament and provincial legislatures are really complaining that the Charter has created too many rights for too many people."

In her speech, Mme. Justice Arbella starts with a definition of democracy -- her definition -- contrasting democracy with totalitarianism. And that's where I also want to start, in replying to the learned judge, by telling you and her that she's wrong.

The reason she misunderstands objections to what the Charter has done to Canada is precisely because she misunderstands the very essence of democracy, the roots of democracy, and the genius of democracy. And perhaps that is because education, in the latter half of the 20th century, when she attended university, has pretty much adopted Henry Ford's dictum that "history is bunk." You can see this in her statement at Osgoode Hall that, "we are supposed to be looking forward to millennial goals, rather than backward to romanticized history."

But history is not bunk. And as George Santayana wrote, those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Plato first described the fatal cycle into which democracy has fallen; and Will Durant and Taylor Caldwell were later to show us how the pattern has repeated, starting with Athens, then Rome, then Europe and Britain, at least, until the time of Magna Carta: monarchy yields to aristocracy; aristocracy to oligarchic exploitation; oligarchy to democracy; democracy to mob rule and revolutionary chaos -- think of what you've seen in recent years outside Queen's Park, as those who've lost the election try to "take it to the streets" -- and finally from chaos back to dictatorship.

That has been what Will Durant called "the great systole and diastole of history," the pumping heartbeat of governmental change. It is why, until Magna Carta, no democracy could last a hundred years.

But all that began to change at Runymede; or so we had reason to hope. For when King John reluctantly signed the Magna Carta, he brought into that historic rhythm a new principle: that there is a higher law which even the Crown must obey -- and it is found in the Bible.

The Greeks and Romans intuitively knew this: we do the early emperors an injustice when we think that they had themselves worshipped as gods. In the time of Julius Caesar, Augustus and Tiberius, it was the genius of the emperor, that is to say, the motivating spirit of the Empire, that was worshipped; only with Caligula did it become personal, when he had the heads struck off the statues of all the gods in the Pantheon, to be replaced by his own likeness. But they knew, even in his own time, that Caligula was nuts! They also knew that, behind the figures in their Pantheon, there was a greater Creator, the One Paul found on Mars Hill honoured at the altar to an unknown god, and the One whom Plato called the Logos. …