28 December 2006

Gerald Ford, the unelected US president

Hearing all the eulogies for Gerald Ford, the only unelected president of the USA, reminds me of what G.K. Chesterton said:
Much vague and sentimental journalism has been poured out to the effect that Christianity is akin to democracy, and most of it is scarcely strong or clear enough to refute the fact that the two things have often quarrelled. The real ground upon which Christianity and democracy are one is very much deeper. The one specially and peculiarly un-Christian idea is the idea of Carlyle--the idea that the man should rule who feels that he can rule. Whatever else is Christian, this is heathen.

If our faith comments on government at all, its comment must be this -- that the man should rule who does NOT think that he can rule. Carlyle's hero may say, "I will be king"; but the Christian saint must say "Nolo episcopari." If the great paradox of Christianity means anything, it means this -- that we must take the crown in our hands, and go hunting in dry places and dark corners of the earth until we find the one man who feels himself unfit to wear it. Carlyle was quite wrong; we have not got to crown the exceptional man who knows he can rule. Rather we must crown the much more exceptional man who knows he can't.
Perhaps the biggest weakness of democracy is elections. because all the wrong people put themselves forward for election. Maybe what we need is for the leaders of a country to be chosen by lot. Let parliament be drafted by ballot. They would be just as representative of the country as elected politicans, and they would be replaced when their term of office ends, so they wouldn't be around long enough to establish a bribe-taking system. If Gerald Ford was as good as they are now saying, this would probably be a better system.


Anonymous said...

Gerald Ford was a person that few, in any, have disputed was a true public servant. He may not have done everything right and sometimes he did what was right even when it wasn't popular - I think pardoning Nixon was the right thing to do for the country, even though I'm sure he knew it would seriously damage his electability.

He was also a man of Christian faith, even if he didn't wear it on his shoulder. He tried to demonstrate it by his actions.

I don't know if lot-based elections are the key to good leaders, but certainly this man who did not seek to be the most powerful civil ruler in the world has demonstrated that it sometimes works.

Steve Hayes said...

I'm not really in a position to judge whether his pardoning of Nixon was good for the country, but it was certainly a Christian act.

It seems that Nixon showed no gratitude for that, but then neither did PW Botha show any gratitude when he was allowed to live in peace when he could do no more harm -- I wonder if similar Christian treatment will be meted out to Saddam Hussein, though his Islamic judges may have a different view of things.


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