Did you know that the number of people living in democratic states has fallen by more than half since 2003? I didn’t. But I learned that statistic in Allen Guelzo’s new book, Our Ancient Faith: Lincoln, Democracy, and the American Experiment. Guelzo writes to renew democracy in what he calls “a time of shadows” by exploring the life and thinking of America’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.

Allen Guelzo is the Thomas W. Smith distinguished research scholar in the James Madison Program’s Initiative on Politics and Statesmanship at Princeton University, where he teaches courses on Lincoln, the Civil War era constitution, and American intellectual history. If you know Guelzo, then you’ve almost certainly encountered his previous works on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln faced down the greatest threat to democracy in American history, at least so far. And Guelzo sees democracy threatened today by income inequality, cultural polarization, and bureaucracy that substitutes for representative legislation. I’m most interested, though, in the relationship between democracy and culture. Guelzo writes, “You can have a democracy without the underpinnings of culture, but you will probably not have it very long. And even while you have it, it will be disappointing in its results.”

We know as Christians that our beliefs provided those cultural underpinnings, and it’s no surprise that as church affiliation has declined, so has confidence in our political system. Guelzo observes, “It is the collapse of shared mores which has emerged in American minds as the single biggest danger to liberal democracy. For without any underlying set of agreed assumptions, no majority can rule safely and no minority can sleep quietly.”

Guelzo joined me on Gospelbound to discuss what makes our time unique, when national conservatives are the mirror image of progressives, how to understand Lincoln’s complicated views on the Bible, and more.