I believe in political equality. But there are two opposite reasons for being a democrat. You may think all men so good that they deserve a share in the government of the commonwealth, and so wise that the commonwealth needs their advice. That is, in my opinion, the false, romantic doctrine of democracy. On the other hand, you may believe fallen men to be so wicked that not one of them can be trusted with any irresponsible power over his fellows.
That I believe to be the true ground of democracy. I do not believe that God created an egalitarian world. I believe the authority of parent over child, husband over wife, learned over simple to have been as much a part of the original plan as the authority of man over beast. I believe that if we had not fallen, Filmer would be right, and partiarchal monarchy would be the sole lawful government. But since we have learned sin, we have found, as Lord Acton says, that “all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The only remedy has been to take away the powers and substitute a legal fiction of equality. The authority of father and husband has been rightly abolished on the legal plane, not because this authority is in itself bad (on the contrary, it is, I hold, divine in origin), but because fathers and husbands are bad. Theocracy has been rightly abolished not because it is bad that learned priests should govern ignorant laymen, but because priests are wicked men like the rest of us. Even the authority of man over beast has had to be interfered with because it is constantly abused. (C.S. Lewis, “Membership,” from The Weight of Glory, pp. 168-7)
I agree with Lewis that democracy (by which I think he would have agreed that he meant limited, constitutional democracy) is grounded in the sinfulness of human beings. Because we are not only frail, ignorant, and limited, but because we are sinful, our power over each other has to be circumscribed. However, I disagree that the kinds of authority he mentions are part of God’s original plan for things, at least as we would likely be tempted to understand it. If anything, I’m inclined to say that men’s “authority” over women is the consequence of sin, not God’s intention. Even a “benign,” paternalistic rule, while perhaps preferable to outright tyranny, falls short of the ideal as a description of a relationship between equals.
Children and animals are different cases for obvious reasons. Though even here there are qualifications. The “rule” of parent over child is generally agreed to be for the sake of the child’s good. The same, I would argue, is the case for animals. What I think a genuinely Christian notion of “lordship” requires is a subversion of any “vulgar Aristotelian” notion that the “lower” exists for the sake of the “higher” (I don’t think Aristotle himself would have given unqualified endorsement to it, but it’s a sentiment that has sometimes creeped into Christian theology under the authority of Aristotle). Andrew Linzey comes closer to the mark when he describes human beings as the “servant species,” with a lordship patterned after the one who came to serve, not to be served. I think this calls into question the idea that animals can simply be used for our good (however “humanely” we do so). If anything, an unfallen world would be more like an anarchy than a monarchy, at least as far as relations among creatures go. It would be characterized by mutual love and service without the need for coercive restraint.