Let's talk about really big stuff for a minute.
Why does democracy fail—especially in Iran? The Kingston Trio's all-too-true lines of The Merry Minuet of 1958 still ring true today:
They're rioting in Africa,
There's strife in Iran,
What nature doesn't do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.
Strife in Iran
There is strife in Iran—right now! Incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed victory by a wide margin in the recent "democratic" elections. The supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proclaimed that result official.
But many thousands of Iranian voters, especially the younger set, have issues with the election process—angrily demonstrating against what they claim was a pseudo-election. Now the government is violently cracking down on the rioting demonstrators.
Where the strife will stop is anybody's guess. Since 1979 when another Ayatollah deposed the Shah of Iran, the government has considered itself a revolutionary force. So what do you call it when you have a revolution against the revolution?
The failings of democracy
The Iranian establishment blames a lot of other nations for the strife (no surprise)—but particularly Britain because of her willingness to give vocal moral support for the new revolution. Ironically, it was a truly great Brit who decades ago surmised the weakness of democracy:
"Many forms of government have been tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect and all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time" (Sir Winston Churchill, November 11, 1947, House of Commons).
This "world of sin and woe"—sad, true words.
But look at Churchill's history-long assessment of democracy. It's as good as man's governmental forms get—but it still fails. That thought can leave you feeling cold and lonely inside.
Crisis spells opportunity—poorly
It appears that where planted, democracy functions only until a crisis of size occurs. Even then it functions as long as the leader with the greater power relinquishes his authority when the crisis ceases. George Washington comes to mind.
Many politicians in history have in essence said: never let a crisis go to waste. The crisis often morphs into an excuse to grab power to keep and wield at dictatorial whim and fancy. That kind of leader and crisis can ring the death knell for democracy. Adolf Hitler comes to mind when he used the democratic process to grab power during the economic woes of the Weimar Republic in the early 1930s.
Even the glory days of the typically viewed original democracy in Athens under Pericles in the mid-400's BC suffered the crisis blow. Pericles and his party sought to expand Athenian dominance, so they launched the Peloponnesian War. Although he didn't go dictator, Pericles' dream for Greece bled to death on the blades of Sparta.
The "worst" form of government?
Democracy—"the worst form of government except all the other forms." Do you know what that means?
Just this…"the way of man is not within himself; it is not within man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).
Intuitively, we want freedom to live and do. Responsible democracy provides more of that than any other human governmental structure. The young voters in Iran amply demonstrate a desire to enjoy those precious democratic freedoms. Yet, even if they have their way, the democracy they might build would eventually face a similar crisis. What then—another political or military crisis?
We humans are a race with high dreams but limited understanding. Freedom we sense as truly higher than tyranny and oppression. But we don't know how to establish a lasting governmental form that will remain free from the vices of human nature.
The form not tried—yet!
Because we know so little about governing our own impulses, all humanly devised governments eventually lead to strife and destruction. But the hope of the world as revealed in the Bible involves a much superior government.
Speaking to Pontius Pilate, Jesus explained, "My kingdom does not belong to this world" (John 18:36, The New American Bible). But He will return to establish His Kingdom which will belong to God!
Isaiah reveals what His rule will be like: "...He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever" (Isaiah 9:7, New International Version).