Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Christianity and Libertarianism

  I find myself in an interesting position sometimes.  To actually stop and think about what you believe and why you believe is, by all indications, outside of most people’s comfort zone. Most people believe what somebody else told them to believe, and it pretty much stops there. They tend to surround themselves with like-minded people and live in an echo chamber of opinion.  Then there are those of us, admittedly the minority, who don’t have an ‘off’ button on our brains, and we question EVERYTHING, including why nobody else questions anything.  We are not that way because we enjoy awkward silences at Thanksgiving dinner, and we are not that way because we choose to be. More than once I have wished that I had the capacity to ‘go along to get along’, but alas I don’t.  I have learned, as I’ve gotten older, when to talk and when to be quiet and  I have learned that  not every hill is worth dying on, but just because my mouth  stops moving doesn’t mean my brain has turned off.  Most people come to the truth by degrees and while some truths are so urgent that the whole story must be presented at once, some things can be introduced by degrees.
  I am a Bible-believing Christian, and an honest-to-goodness hellfire-and-damnation preacher. As such, I believe Scripture speaks expressly against certain things. As a Christian, and a minister of the gospel I must stand opposed to the things opposed in Scripture. But being opposed to those things, and being willing to lift up my voice against those things, isn’t the same thing as thinking they ought to be illegal.  That is a huge philosophical divide between libertarian philosophy and social conservatism.  Most people, including people whom I dearly love and respect, take the position that it is rational to get the state to stop people from doing things that they personally disapprove of. They think this simply because (at least I hope this is the reason) they haven’t taken their logic to its inevitable conclusion. I’ll  give you some examples.
  I believe a person ought to go to church.  Worship , even corporate worship is an important part of every believer’s life , and if done in accordance with God’s word, an invaluable asset in a person’s growth. Now, does that mean I think the police ought to prowl the streets, rounding up people on Sunday morning and either forcing them to attend somewhere or jailing them until Monday morning? Of course not, and neither does any halfway rational person. We understand inherently that such things are a matter of conscience and a man has the right to obey or disobey his conscience as he sees fit. It may be wrong, but it is not the state’s business to interfere in God’s business.
  I am opposed to alcohol. I think it’s vile, and reprehensible and destroys lives. I preach against it as often as the Spirit leads me to, without apology. But it’s a far different thing to say that my opposition to it justifies putting a man in a cage for having some.  My opposition to it doesn’t justify the state tinkering with people’s right to their own property just to placate my conviction. My hatred of it doesn’t justify the state dictating when you can and cannot sell your property (as they do in Georgia). I don’t want the state telling anybody what they cannot and cannot do with their own bodies or their own property because I understand that just because they are picking on somebody I oppose doesn’t mean they will stop there.  But it assumed among the brethren sometimes that an opposition to something precludes a belief in the illegality of it.  The truth is , Billy Sunday rescued more drunks with his preaching than he did with his support of Prohibition.
  I support Israel. But there is a difference between supporting the historical and scriptural rights of Abram’s descendants to their homeland and being willing to write checks in the blood of other people’s children to defend every whim of the Israeli government.  The Israeli government is populated by  unregenerate power-hungry men just like every other nation on earth, and we have to be careful  that we don’t let our sympathies be manipulated into needless pre-emptive bloodshed.
  I am opposed to drug use, and if they became legal tomorrow I still wouldn’t do drugs. But do I think it makes any sense at all to put a man in a cage for possessing a plant? Or selling a plant? Meanwhile tobacco (which probably really is bad for you) remains legal.
  I find that most people if you talk to them and explain to them how you arrived at what you believe, they will at least be sympathetic. More than once they have gone “Wow, I never looked at it that way.” The question I ask is “Would you be willing to let the government put a man in a cage for doing this?”  Sometimes they say  “yes” and then I just  change the subject lest I waste my time with an irrational person. And expressing my opinion has probably caused some of the brethren to think less of me, but hopefully they understand that just as there is a difference between something being  ‘illegal’ and something being  a ‘crime’ there is no incongruity between thinking something is immoral and still thinking it ought to be  legal.
  What I’ve found though in my brief time in libertarian circles in that these conversations don’t happen as often as they should.  Some libertarians are openly hostile towards Christians, calling them statists and other such names. A lot of Christians assume that libertarians are a bunch of hedonistic pot-heads. Though both statements may be occasionally true, neither statement typifies either camp.  The liberty movement doesn’t have to agree on everything, liberty itself allows that we live our lives in accordance with our own conscience, keeping in mind our ultimate accountability to our Creator.  With so much in common, I think the evangelical crowd can be persuaded towards liberty, in fact I think its vital that they are persuaded, but it’s going to take education, and a lot less hostility.
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