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An Easter lesson for our government

Published: Monday, April 8, 2013 11:12 a.m. CDT

Friday, April 5 marks a very important hurdle for legislation in both the House and Senate chambers as it is the second “funnel”.  This means legislation (outside of tax and spending bills) must be voted out of their respective committees by that deadline in order to “stay alive” for the session.  With that being said, this week was extremely busy for all legislators as we were scrambling to get key bills past this self-imposed deadline.

While we are still within the wake of the Easter holiday, I thought it would be appropriate to share an important lesson for government that comes from Easter, particularly the story behind Good Friday.

Good Friday highlights the world’s most famous trial: the trial of Jesus Christ.  Although this trial took place 2000 years ago, its effects are still realized to this day.  Here we have a situation where the ruling Roman governor of the region, Pontius Pilate, has the power and authority to judge, to grant freedom, or to sentence death.

When Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, Pilate was having a difficult time understanding why this Man had been brought before him.  In fact, he was just having a difficult time understanding the Man.  Not to shirk his duty, though, Pilate set out to examine Jesus and the allegations made against Him.  However, Pilate not able to ascertain any compelling evidence against the accused (“I find no fault in this Man.” – Luke 23:4;14) was still not sure what to do.

Luckily for Pilate, a Passover custom rescued his uncertainty.  He decided to utilize the Jewish custom and release to the people the prisoner of their choice.  How could this plan go wrong?  Especially if the choice given to the people was between an obviously innocent Man and a known “notorious” individual (Matthew 27:16) that had been “thrown into prison” for “rebellion” and “murder.” (Luke 23:19)

However, the people did something totally unexpected as far as Pilate was concerned.  They chose the murderer, Barabbas, over the guiltless Man, Jesus.  Now what would Pilate do?!  Should he do what he knew was right by setting Jesus free?  Or should he give the people what they wanted by freeing the notorious Barabbas?

We know how the story goes and the significance of how the results of this trial played out for the benefit of mankind.  The point of this article is not to question the wisdom of God’s providence.  My goal is to point out that there was another trial going on that day between two principles of government: a republic and a democracy.

The principles of a republic would demand that Pilate set the innocent man free regardless of how unpopular it was with the people.

The principles of a democracy would demand that Pilate give the people what they wanted, even if it meant putting an innocent man to death.

The reason I chose to draw this distinction is that we are at a critical crossroads in our nation’s history.  A large portion of our citizenry incorrectly identifies our government as a democracy. This is not only inaccurate but also incongruent with the wisdom of our Founding Fathers.  They rightly understood that democracy has no safeguards to ensure that our liberties would be protected against the passions of mob rule.  That is why they chose a republic and even codified it in our United States Constitution:

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government…” Article IV, Section 4

Of course, this does NOT mean that only Republicans can be elected to government.  It means that we have a representative form of government where we are ruled by law.

While it is true our representatives are democratically elected, that does not mean we live in a democracy.  A democracy is a government ruled by the whims and passions of people.  It is where fifty-percent-plus-one has the power to demand what it wants from the remaining populace, even if it’s wrong.

Benjamin Franklin said it best when he quipped, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.  Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”

If we truly prize our liberties, as our state motto suggests, it is incumbent upon us as citizens to know the difference between a democracy and a republic and to make corrections where necessary.

As always, I appreciate and welcome your comments and feedback.  Please feel free to contact me with your issues or concerns as they arise either by phone (515-281-3221), e-mail (greg.heartsill@legis.iowa.gov), or in person when visiting the Capitol or a town hall forum.

On Friday, April 12, I will be at the Sully City Hall at 3 p.m. and finish at Monroe City Hall at 5:30 p.m.  I hope you can make it to one of these forums.

I consider it an honor to be your representative in the Iowa Legislature.  Until next time, God bless!

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