Majority Doesn't Always Rule
Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17 )
Values are not like elections and voting - the majority doesn't necessarily rule. Abraham, our forefather, stood virtually alone as a believer of God and kindness in a world of idol worship and cruelty, yet he didn't let that stop him from holding strong to the values that he knew were good and true, even if he had to hold onto them alone. Our values are the most important thing we have - and not up for vote.
In our story some kids discover that just because a lot of people want something, it doesn't necessarily make it right.
"A VOTE FOR KINDNESS"
My friends and I were laughing so loud that we almost didn't hear the knock on the clubhouse door. Okay, it's not really a clubhouse - it's just Jeremy's garage. But nobody minds the not-so-nice setting, because when me and the other guys in our neighborhood 'friends club' get together after school, it's a fun and relaxing world that's all our own.
Todd heard the knocking first and when we were finally convinced it wasn't just coming from inside his head, we opened up the door.
We were a little afraid it was Jeremy's dad complaining about the noise or something. Thankfully it wasn't that. But it was Sammy, Jeremy's next-door neighbor, a new kid who had just moved in last week. What did he want?
"Oh, hi guys. Um, I just came over to see if Jeremy could play. I heard voices in here so I knocked. Mind if I come in and join you guys?"
The place got real quiet. We all looked at each other because we didn't know what to say to the kid. It wasn't like we were just hanging out or something. This was our club. Jeremy bought us some time by taking Sammy into his house for a drink while we decided what to do.
"What's the big deal?" asked Greg. "He seems like a good kid. Let's let him join us."
"No way!" Stan yelled out. "There are more than enough members already. Let him go start his own club if he wants."
"Let's vote on it," Josh suggested. "It's the only fair thing to do."
We all agreed and a quick show of hands sealed it. Five to three - Sammy was o-u-t out.
Jeremy popped back in, leaving Sammy inside his house finishing his drink. "Sammy'll be here in a minute."
"Well then he can walk right out again," snapped Stan. "We already voted on it, and even if you vote for him, it's not enough votes to get him into the club. Sammy is out."
"But it'll really hurt him if we don't let him in," Jeremy insisted.
"But Jeremy," I said, "we voted on it. It may seem mean, but it was a fair decision."
Jeremy looked at me. "No it isn't, Barry. We can vote what time to have the meeting or what we want to play, but being cruel is not something you can vote to be or not to be - it's just plain wrong. And what's wrong is wrong, no matter how many people vote and say it's right."
Jeremy had a point that I hadn't really thought about before. Voting to do something that's wrong doesn't really make it right.
"Well, if you don't have the guts to run this club properly, who needs you or your crummy clubhouse? I have plenty of room in my basement to meet. Let's go, guys!" Stan said, getting up and starting to storm out.
But I guess Jeremy's point had made sense to the others too, because nobody followed him as he left in a huff.
Just then, Sammy showed up. Thankfully, he had missed the storm. We all welcomed him to the club, glad to have realized that niceness wasn't up for vote.
Q. How did Barry (the boy telling the story) feel at first about the vote not to let the new boy into the club?
A. He felt bad for the kid, but felt it was fair not to let him in, since they voted.
Q. How did he feel after Jeremy spoke up?
A. He felt that they were being mean to the new boy and even voting to do it didn't make it okay.
Q. What lesson do you think the guys in the friends club learned that day?
A. They had assumed that as long as they took a vote and it was what most people wanted, whatever they decided to do was fair and ethical. But Jeremy pointed out to them that to make a new kid feel excluded and rejected for no good reason was unkind and was the ethically wrong way to act - vote or no vote.
Q. What types of things do you think can be decided by vote and majority rule, and what types of things can't?
A. Things which involve our simple preferences such as which of two items to buy or who would we like to be president of our club or class, can often most fairly be decided by voting and doing as the majority decides. However, things which involve values such as whether or not to be honest, to be kind or cruel, be giving or selfish etc. are God-given spiritual truths that exist on their own. People may chose not to behave the right way, but they can never chose or vote to make it okay to do so.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Should a person bend to the will of the majority?
A. It depends. On most matters it is proper to do so. There is a great benefit in cooperation and that can only be achieved if the individual is willing to bend to do the will of the group. However, as the story pointed out, there can be times that the majority seeks to act unethically. In such a case, the proper thing to is to hold our ground.
Q. Do you believe that society has the right or ability to determine values? Why or why not?
A. Societal influence is very powerful. Whether or not we are aware of it, we have absorbed a large part of how we think, speak and act from the society in which we live. In general this is fine and helps to keep things functioning and people at harmony with each other. Each society also tends to have a set of values that it considers right or wrong. At times, in a healthy society many of these values may be healthy and positive - and at other times these societal values can become very negative and harmful as history has shown. Genuine positive values are a deep and intrinsic part of ourselves that God has built into our souls. They transcend all times, places or societies. One of our main tasks in life is to tap into that part of ourselves and live according to these real values, even if it at times it means going against society's tide.