I know what you are thinking: a Christian Democratic movement will never work in a secular nation without numerous people coming out of the woodworks claiming it is trying to establish a theocracy. No amount of pointing to the secular nature of Germany or Austria’s governments–the ruling coalitions in both nations are comprised mostly of Christian Democrats–will mollify these concerns. Besides, that is European Christian Democracy. What would American Christian Democracy look like? I say, similar and probably more fun because we have better whiskey.
Spirits aside, we need to first examine the spirit of America. Lincoln summarized rather well that spirit.
“[O]ur fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal….It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
We are a new nation. As such, all of our ideas, even if they are just old ones dusted up with some more American language, are new. Everything from the pizza to the automobile, America makes it new. While Germany and Austria have a longer patrimony of Christianity and Christian Democracy, America, I believe, could be much better at it simply because we seek to make things new and that one of the things that Christianity is about: rooted in earth, the leaves change with the seasons.
Lincoln shows what we are rooted in: a belief in the created equality of all men and their liberty. It is a old belief that we made new by declaring our independence and framing our constitution. This belief is older than our nation and comes from Christianity itself. The idea that each man is created equal and endowed with dignity and rights comes from the Gospels themselves. They found their way into the secular founding of our nation because they make sense to every, be they pagan or Christian or Jew or Muslim or what have you. It makes sense because it is not only a divine truth, it is human truth i.e. one that we all know to be true and can understand to be true. It is the law that is in our bones so to speak and our bones and the bones of our ancestors cry out for its execution.
Christianity and therefore Christian Democracy is all about man and his dignity. It places him as the most important issue, the most important question that politics has to address. It is the issue and question of man that is the great undertaking Lincoln talked about because the nation–the collection of men believing in the proposition and its conception previously discussed–is comprised of men, by men, and for men. Christianity says that man is valuable in himself, the same belief that helped spur the Civil War. That tension between the rights of a state and the rights of a man sent our nation into a bloody conflict. Christianity answers the question of the Civil War. It says that a man, no matter what the color of his skin or where he comes from or what debts he contracts, can never be a slave. He is free because he is a man and his freedom does not come from the state. Rather, the state has the duty to protect that freedom.
Nothing I have said could be construed as the establishment of a theocracy. Our vision is not for prelates to rule us; they have burdens enough without tying up more on their backs. Instead, I have merely suggested than man and his dignity should be protected above all else. I believe that American Christian Democracy would follow in the spirit of the Declaration when the founders said to the King of Great Britain: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” America was founded with the committed concern for the common good of the citizens of the colonies, with a willingness to risk everything for the sake of each other. If that is not Christianity, if that is not good and honest Humanity, then I do not know anything at all and neither does anyone else.
Support for Christian Democracy is ultimately supporting man and his dignity and the best means to do those two things. It isn’t about burning gays, lynching abortion doctors, or forced conversions. It is about understanding who we are and figuring out what to do next. In a nutshell, it is everything we know life to be but applied to politics. And isn’t that what we all really want anyway?
After all, it worked for Poland.