Back in 2022, a 14-year-old captured the “joys” of democracy we are currently enjoying

So, apparently, Ulster County in New York holds an annual contest in which children can submit possible drawings for the”I Voted” stickers they will hand out that year. And in a moment that calls to mind the Boaty McBoatface affair (a.k.a., “What happens when you let the Internet decide things”), the 2022 contest produced a very… er… special winner from a 14-year-old. I’ll include a tweet with a larger image below at the “Read More” link, so be warned: It’s not pretty. And as… uh… delightful as the image may be, it offers a lot more to think about than you might guess at first.

And, as advertised, here is a look at it. So… enjoy? I guess? More comments below…

You can click and read the news item if the New York Times doesn’t have it behind a paywall. If it does, then this might work. But here’s the gist: Ulster County, New York, wants to increase voter turnout through the distribution of “I Voted” stickers, and they also want more young people (like you) engaged in democracy, so they hold an annual art contest to design the logo, open to 13- to 18-year-olds. The 14-year-old who submitted the above image was encouraged to enter by his mother, so this is what he submitted.

I will set aside any commentary about the spirit in which the young man approached his assignment. His mother has praised his work, and the article does not mention a father, so that’s all the parental evaluation I’ve read. And, while those links are older, we can confirm that it did, indeed, win the contest and become that year’s official sticker image. It’s pretty hard to turn down a pro-voting sticker that got the most votes without seeming like a bunch of hypocrites.

The young author said of his creation, “Politics right now in the world is all kinds of crazy, and I feel like the creature that I drew kind of resembles the craziness of politics and the world right now.” Two years later, I suspect that a lot of people agree (like I imagine you do) that it has only gotten crazier.

Other kiddos who tried to fit the spirit of the contest more sincerely received a hard lesson in the way the world works today, as the creepy-head-spider-thingie won the contest and became the sticker in 2022. But all of that said, here’s the “How does God think?” point I ponder.

Our world praises democracy in its various forms (such as the United States’ democratic republic). Western civilization holds it up as an ideal element of governance. Dictatorial regimes, such as North Korea’s, adopt the word “democracy” to make themselves sound more legitimate (the official name for the dictatorship we often call North Korea is “the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”). And, to be sure, democracy has brought (some) helpful elements to various human-designed forms of national governance. As Winston Churchhill once famously said,

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time….”

At the same time, a different famous political fellow and one of America’s founders, John Adams, once wrote to his wife,

“Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either…. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

(We quoted from John Adams in this podcast about Christianity and the Constitution with Mr. Mark Sandor. Check it out! But not now. Read this first. Then, check it out!)

That brings me to one more quote, this time by William F. Buckley, a famous conservative political thinker:

“We are made to ask what it is that political democracy gives us. The system is utilitarian. But is it a fit object of faith and hope?”

The end of that last quote is where God’s thoughts and that creepy-head-spider-thingie sticker image intersect.

Democracy and participation in worldly government (through actively voting or, these days, protesting—either actively in the streets or lazily on Instagram) is being sold to you, as teens and young adults, with a passion. The powers that be want you to seize worldly power in this worldly system to achieve worldly success through worldly means in their effort to turn this world into a utopia of their own imagining. They want you worked up by your sincere concerns about right and wrong, justice and injustice, fairness and discrimination, and other such concerns so that you will add your voice to theirs as they seek to make the world the way they believe it should be. (They also subtly tweak what those things mean, but that is a subject for another day.)

But is democracy a “fit object” worthy of our faith and hope?

I am super sympathetic to the then-14-year-old creator of creepy-head-spider-thingie and his view of “the craziness of politics and the world right now.” In fact, don’t you feel it, too? If our current round of elections in the U.S., and the recent craziness on Europe for those paying attention, doesn’t have you feeling it, you simply aren’t looking.

What I believe creepy-head-spider-thingie presses us to face is this: Is the craziness of the world right now something temporary that “more democracy” will help the world move past to better times and less craziness? Or is the craziness of the world right now the inevitable outcome of democracy? Is the world we have now the sort of world that democracy eventually creates on its way to, as John Adams said, societal suicide?

The Church teaches that we do not participate in voting for our elected representatives and that God does not want us to participate in this world’s governance in that way. We believe what Jesus Christ said when He told Pilate while He was on trial for His life,

“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).

This world is doing its best to create its own version of the Kingdom of God through its own means, apart from God. And it wants you to help.

It gets tempting, too. We see things in the world that we wish were better. Way better.

But the very means by which you are being pressed into fixing those things is the very means by which things continue to be made worse. Temporary benefits here and there, sure. But the trend is the same. And John Adams, so far, is being proven right. And, of course, so is God, who reminds us again and again that “the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Yet that is what democracy is: mankind working together in an attempt to ignore God’s advice to do just that. (“Pooling their ignorance,” as Mr. John Ogwyn used to say.)

Don’t fall for it. When you feel pressed to participate in fixing things in all the ways that the world is selling you on so hard, think of God’s perspective—even think of creepy-head-spider-thingie if it helps—and remember that God isn’t setting you apart to do what they say, but to set an example for them of something better. He is setting you apart to become a representative not of this cause or that one, no matter how noble the causes may sound, but of Him, His way, His Son, and His goodness, law, and character. An ambassador from tomorrow’s world to today’s (2 Corinthians 5:20).

P.S. I’m calling that creepy-head-spider-thingie Votey McVoteface from now on, unless anyone has a better idea.

P.P.S. UPDATE: If you would like to hear more about why we don’t participate in politics, listen to this podcast.