I’ve often pondered why Christians aren’t naturally libertarians.
I refer to the old adage: “If you love someone, set them free; if they return, they’re yours forever. If they don’t, they never were.”
To me, this wisely points out that granting freedom, or liberty, to others—respecting their right to choose for themselves, to make their own decisions and take their own actions based on their own values, principles, preferences, needs, and desires—is the ultimate display of love toward them.
And respecting the right and liberty of others to choose for themselves, to make their own decisions and take their own actions, to manage their own lives, is also a remarkable display of faith.
So, if libertarians are willing to freely grant liberty to others, and unwilling to use force, violence, or aggression to coerce others into living a certain way, and if adherence to these ideals also demonstrates a profound faith in others that they will, for the most part, choose and act in ways that not only benefit themselves and their loved ones to the highest degree, but that such liberty, and such human action, is the overall best way to benefit society as a whole—why, then, do not Christians embrace libertarianism?
Now, I understand that terms such as “libertarianism” and “anarchy” have become perverted in our society today, and thus misconceived by the general populace; people generally conceive libertarians to simply be pro-drug, pot-smoking radicals, or they confuse libertarian with libertine, or they conflate libertarian philosophy with the Libertarian Party. Most also believe that anarchy means complete lawlessness, and riots in the streets. (My solution to these misconceptions came in coining the term Sovereigntarian, or one who respects the sovereignty of the individual, understanding that the individual is the sole and final authority over his or her own life, mind, body, labor, property, and wealth).
So yes, the misconceptions are out there; but it doesn’t take much investigation to discover the truth about libertarianism and/or anarchism.
And coincidentally, just as I was pondering the Christian/libertarian paradox, I stumbled upon a brilliant article entitled Why Christians Should Immediately Become Libertarians, by Ben Lewis, published over at Voices of Liberty. In it, the author points out many of the same alignments between Christianity and libertarianism that I have!
In his article, Ben Lewis wrote:
“…I wrote an article in response to a panel discussion of prominent Christian theologians who were discussing the question of libertarianism’s compatibility with Christianity. Unsurprisingly, the panel was opposed to the idea of libertarian Christianity. Libertarianism, they said, leads to declining morality and necessitates the support for a wide range of behavior that is at odds with Christian precepts.
I, myself a libertarian Christian, responded by contending that libertarianism is not inherently contradictory to Christianity and that that condoning actions and saying that they should not be illegal are two distinct things. At the end of the article I attempted to explain why Christians should embrace libertarianism and, in fact, how they already do. I wrote,
“The fact is, Christians already are libertarians. We don’t want the state telling us how to worship, how to exercise church discipline, how to define our orthodoxy, who to marry in our churches, who to put in the pulpit, what we teach at seminary and a thousand other issues.”
Then, pointing to more recent events, such as the volatile gay marriage debate, he goes on to say:
“Fast forward a year and recent developments have made this point better than my words ever could. They also show why it is now more important than ever for Christians to embrace liberty, as the ongoing debate over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Preservation Act shows the trajectory of the dialogue in the country. What has become clear is that not only are social opinions trending away from the church and in favor of ideas like nontraditional definitions of marriage, but there is also an atmosphere that increasingly looks to government to force these opinions down on the rest of society.”
He also points out exactly what I have pointed out many times: that for generations, Christians have been supportive of government power over other people’s lives, and now that same power is being turned against them. Once you grant the state power over one group, then you are paving the way for that power to be used over any or all groups. This is why I constantly say that having a free society is an all-or-nothing proposal: Either everyone must be free, or eventually nobody will be.
“A Government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything you have.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
Lewis summarizes nicely:
“From a political standpoint, there’s only one solution for Christians who want to have the autonomy to make decisions like what kinds of marriage will be allowed in their churches: they must become libertarians – immediately. Clumsy, inarticulate pieces of legislation like that in Indiana will do nothing in the long run to achieve this goal. The only way for Christians to live in an environment in which their faith and doctrines – and not legislators or judges – can guide their actions is to advocate a system of government that respects the rights of all individuals and groups to make their own choices.
This is a lesson that everyone needs to learn. With liberty, there is no assurance that other people will always make decisions that we agree with. It does, however, mean that everyone will be free to choose their own actions. The two options we have are authoritarianism and freedom – and trading the illusion of control for liberty seems like a manifestly worthwhile choice.”
So it’s no longer enough for me to simply wonder why Christians aren’t naturally libertarians, why they don’t seem to be willing to demonstrate enough love for others to “set them free,” and to “have faith” that they will, in most cases, do the right thing—or at least what’s in the their own best interest and that of their loved ones. We’re fast reaching a catastrophic tipping point in this country, return from which will likely be impossible (or at least long and bloody). The American people need to demand their rights and liberty back, and the only ideology which supports the rights and liberty of EVERYONE is libertarianism. So Christians: You need to become libertarians, and quickly.
And by simply understanding that declining to outlaw a behavior is not the same as condoning it, then perhaps it will be easier to embrace libertarianism, and help us libertarians re-secure the very liberty that we are all losing to today’s emerging authoritarian police state.