In America, our nation and government were founded upon the premise and principles of a Democratic Republic.
This is the type of government where the majority rules and carries the day at the ballot box, the voting in both houses of Congress and on down to the state and local levels of government throughout the nation.
This democratic form of government, where the majority rules, is even reflected in the boards of corporate America, colleges and school boards that govern the well-being of students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Perhaps no other historic and iconic saying captures and expresses the belief in the rule of the majority than these immortal words of our 16th and most revered president: “… that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
However, in spite of these words from Abraham Lincoln and the fact that we live in a nation where the majority rules in nearly every aspect and sector of our culture, this does not mean that the majority is always right in its choices and decisions.
History is replete with incidences and cases where the majority in their decisions and opinions were absolutely wrong. Many of these times when the majority missed it were extremely essential and ultimately altered the course of history.
Without any doubt or serious debate, the most noteworthy time when the majority missed it took place more than 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem of Judea. The vast majority of the people who comprised the crowd on that day (that shall live in infamy) cast their lot and decided to release a rebel and murderer instead of a completely innocent man who had done no wrong.
Unbeknownst to them, their majority decision would be orchestrated by the Sovereign Hand of God. It would lead to the crucifixion, entombment and resurrection of Jesus Christ and ultimately the birth of Christianity that would alter the course of humanity like nothing has ever been done before or can ever be done again.
There was another classic case in history in the realm of astronomy when the majority was not right. In 1633, Galileo, a famous astronomer and physicist, was found guilty of publishing a theory that disputed and denied the established belief that the sun and planets revolved around the earth. He was condemned and sentenced to a lifetime of imprisonment because he disagreed with the majority of his scientific peers and the religious establishment. Galileo, who studied the heavenly bodies, believed that all of the planets in our solar system revolved around the sun. This again is both scientific and historical proof that the majority is not always right, as it would be proven in Galileo’s case.
Throughout the history of America, there were many times and situations when the majority was proved to be completely wrong in its decisions and opinions. Two of the most notable and significant times when the majority missed the mark of being right was the horrendous and inhuman way this nation regarded and dealt with both the Native Americans who were here when the Europeans arrived and the African slaves they brought with them. Both Native Americans and African Americans are struggling to overcome the impact and psychological, sociological and economical injuries that were inflicted and imposed upon them by the majority for more than 400 of systemic and structural racism.
From a judicial perspective, our justice system that determines and deliberates its decisions of guilt or innocence by many jurors or judges has not always been right.
In my Judeo-Christian beliefs and opinion, I believe that there were quite a few times when our Supreme Court missed it in their majority decision. I will only consider two in my column today. First, I believe that the decision rendered by the majority in Roe vs. Wade that legalized abortion was wrong. It was wrong because it put the reproductive right of women over the right of the innocent and helpless unborn babies. The court’s majority decision has accounted for the loss of more than 60 million babies from being born.
Regrettably, many of these human beings who never got a chance to be born and fulfill their purposes were disproportionately African Americans to the tune of 19 million. According to an article in Guttmacher Policy Review that was first published online on Aug. 6, 2008, entitled: “Abortion in Women of Color/The Bigger Picture,” the black population in America has been reduced by 25% since the decision of the Supreme Court concerning Roe v. Wade.
Then there was the most recent decision of the Supreme Court that legalized gay and same-sex marriages. Though I adamantly adhere to the belief that all people should be granted equal rights under the law in regard to jobs, where they live, joining the military, etc., in spite of race, gender or sexual orientation, I am a staunch believer in the biblical and natural belief that marriages should only exist between a man and a woman.
Finally, I want to conclude with a judicial account where the jury acquitted a man who (in my honest opinion) was guilty as sin for murder. Orenthal James Simpson had been accused of murdering two people, his ex-wife and a close friend of hers. His two high-profile lawyers, Johnny Cochran and F. Lee Baily, did a superb and very convincing job of persuading the jury of the innocence of O.J. Simpson.
Cochran’s now-famous words to the jury, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” left no doubt in an already biased jury that Simpson was innocent. Ultimately, he was declared innocent by the jury.
In conclusion, the majority is not always right until it does right.
Michael Goings is the senior pastor of Outreach Family Fellowship in Dillon and Florence. He also is the presiding prelate of the Fellowship of Interdependent Churches (F.O.I.C.I.). He is the author of several published books as well a conference speaker. He is married to Dr. Louise Goings, who is co-pastor with him and an educator. They have two children, Michael Goings II and Jennifer Goings Rouse.