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Is the voice of the people, the voice of God?

Introduction

The phrase “The voice of the people is the voice of God” is a famous Latin maxim, Voxpopuli, Vox Dei. It suggests that the opinions and beliefs of the majority are a reflection of the divine will or from God. However, there are biblical examples that show God having a preferential option for minority groups including marginalised communities. This implies that the majority may not always be right.

Historical Perspective

In ancient Rome, this phrase was used to convey the idea that the collective opinion of the people was considered sacred and should be respected. In Christian tradition, the phrase has been interpreted in various ways;

1. Some see it as a reflection of God’s sovereignty, suggesting that God works through the collective wisdom and consensus of the people.

2. Others view it as a caution against blindly following public opinion, recognising that the voice of the people can sometimes be misguided or contrary to God’s will.

3.  Some theologians argue that the voice of the people is the voice of God only if it aligns with Scripture and God’s revealed will.

Modern Usage

In modern times, the phrase has also been used in various contexts including politics and democracy, emphasizing the importance of listening to the collective voice of the people in decision-making processes. However, it’s important to recognize that the voice of the people is not always infallible and should be balanced with wisdom, discernment, and a commitment to justice and righteousness.

Ghana’s current situation

We are in an election year where eligible citizens will affirm the viability of the electoral candidates both presidential and parliamentary to rule for the next four years. Ghana is notoriously religious, thus some electoral candidates may use the pulpits, religious jargons and phrases to advocate for divine legitimacy to rule. Additionally, numerous prophecies would be spewed out “left, right, and centre” to support such legitimacy to rule. In the midst of all this, let us examine the “body politic.”

The body politic as a catalyst for national consciousness

The term “body politic” refers to the collective entity of a nation, state, or society, considered as a unified whole, which metaphorically likens the state or society to the human body. This might include; the president, as the “head,” The government or administration as the “brain,” The legislature as the “heart,” The judiciary as the “conscience, and all other citizens as the “body” or “limbs.” The term “body politic” emphasizes the idea that the collective entity is greater than the sum of its individual parts. The second stanza of our National Anthem articulates the above:

“Hail to thy name, O Ghana,

To thee we make our solemn vow:

Steadfast to build together

A nation strong in Unity;

With our gifts of mind and strength of arm,

Whether night or day, in the midst of storm,

In every need what’er the call may be,

To serve thee, Ghana, now and evermore.”

In reference to the “body politic,” our national consciousness should enable us to do our “politicking” based on developmental issues devoid of partisan, racial or religious considerations, and always put Ghana first. The political ideology that most favours the body politic is democracy.

Democracy

Abraham Lincoln famously defined democracy as “the government by the people, for the people, and of the people.” Democracy is a system of government where power is vested in the hands of the people, who exercise this power directly or through elected representatives. Originating from ancient Greece, the term democracy combines the Greek words demos (people) and kratos (power or rule), essentially meaning “rule by the people.” It is characterised by the principles of political equality, equity, participation, and accountability.

The preamble of the 1992 Constitution encapsulates and projects the idea that there cannot be Democracy without the voice of the people.

“We the people of Ghana IN EXERCISE of our natural and inalienable right… DO HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE OURSELVES THIS CONSITUTION”

The inherent dangers of democracy

Winston Churchill is known to have said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.” It suggests that although democracy is by far the most politically friendly of all political ideologies of the state, it also has its many inherent weaknesses.  One of the demerits of democracy is what may be referred to as “disease of democracy”: electing political leaders who make “wonderful promises” and only return to the people when they seek re-election amidst a tough competition. Like Esau, some electorates will exchange their birthright (vote) for a morsel of food; little cash or a donation in kind. Unfortunately in our part of the world, it’s an open secret that political party delegates demand money and other items from the candidates. This is not an isolated incident but the spark that leads to the fire outbreak of fake promises during the main elections.

The way forward

 The citizenry must become “politically” discerning and intensify the demand for accountability for the promises made prior to elections. According to the 2021 census, 71.3 per cent of Ghanaians identify as Christians. It presupposes that majority of the political class may be Christians. Why is the impact of Christianity not felt in our political sphere? Imagine the positive impact this would have if this enormous proportion of Christians were to lead in “healing” the disease of democracy in Ghana. However, we must also praise the few gallant political leaders who have chosen to be different and echoing the proverbial Oliver Twist’s request, we humbly ask for more.

Subsequently, there must be an attitudinal change for both the electorates and the electoral candidates. It is very easy for those of us who are not in political leadership to criticise the political class. This is because, what happens in our own “small corner” may leave much to be expected if we were equally given the nod to rule. In the words of John Dalberg-Acton, “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely!”  There must be a total transformation of heart and mind. Even a “third force” cannot help us if we do not change our attitudes. A call for communal transformation as echoed  in 2 Chronicles 7:14 is apt, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (NIV). This verse is a promise from God to His people, urging them to humility, prayer, and repentance, with the assurance of forgiveness, healing, and restoration. It’s a call to spiritual revival and a reminder of God’s desire to bless and prosper His people when they seek Him with a humble heart.

Conclusion

The idea that the voice of the people is the voice of God isn’t inherently guaranteed unless we cultivate transformed minds and hearts for effective nation-building; and prioritise national consciousness over party affiliations in our political endeavours. The electorates can evaluate the candidates who claim God’s endorsement for their success – did they demonstrate God’s character and wisdom in their campaign and do their actions in office align with God’s will?”

The Rev’d Fiifi Afenyi-Donkor is an ordained minister, Methodist Church Ghana

BYREV’D FIIFI AFENYI-DONKOR

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