My Own Pie

Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

A Christian and a Libertarian

with 17 comments

     I have had a hard time reconciling my Christian faith with my libertarian political views, not because I think that they are necessarily in conflict, but because it is unusual for the two categories to overlap.  Most libertarians, apparently, are not Christians.  In fact many of them, if not most of them, do not believe in God.  Meanwhile, most Christians are not libertarians and actually oppose libertarianism, at least as they understand it (or misunderstand it).

     I might be unusual, but I am not unique.  Greg at The Holy Cause blog calls himself a Christian libertarian.  At his blog he has compiled a list of 45 Christian libertarian blogs.

     I cannot speak for other Christians or for other libertarians, but here are just some of the reasons that I find myself comfortable being both a Christian and a libertarian:

     1.  The Gospels put earthly power and the thirst for power in a negative light.  It was the government of Judea and the government of the Roman Empire that condemned Jesus to death.

     2.  Jesus avoided secular power for himself when others would eagerly have crowned him king.  He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”  My point is that I can separate my Chrisitan faith from my rights and responsibilities as an American citizen.  Although the first one influences the second one, they are separate.

     3.  Jesus invited people to follow him voluntarily.  He commaned them to voluntarily love others and share with them.  He never once used the authority of the government to force people to do so.

     4.  In his second letter to the Corinthian Christians, the Apostle Paulsaid that people should support the church and the work of the church voluntarily, and that each person should give whatever amount he or she chooses.

    5.  The early Christians lived in a voluntary community in which they shared their possessions.  They did not force everyone else to join.  They did not petition the government to force everyone to join. 

     6.  Jesus repeated the Old Testament commandment not to steal.  In so doing he endorsed private property and the sanctity of it.  By extension, the government cannot take what does not belong to it.

     7.  Jesus did say that people must pay taxes.  However, he put a limit on what the govenrment can take.  “Give to Ceasar what belongs to Caesar.”  His real point was that if Caesar minted the coin and put his image on it, then give it back to Caesar if he asks for it.  Of course, it wasn’t really about taxes, anyway.  Jesus was avoiding a rhetorical trap and exposing the hyprocrisy of his opponents, who were pretending to be loyal Roman subjects but really weren’t.

     8.  Jesus went on to say, “And give to God what belongs to God.”  He was alluding to Genesis’s teaching that human beings are marked with the image of God.  Our persons and our lives belong to God.  They are not the property of the government. 

     9.  Combining #6, #7, and #8 gives us the principle that the government is stealing and breaking God’s law whenever they try to assert ownership of our lives, our persons, or our fairly and honestly acquired wealth.

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Written by ambrosianideas

October 3, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Posted in Christianity, Libertarianism

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17 Responses

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  1. RG,
    I find myself inclined toward libertarianism also, despite the attitude of many evangelical Christians towards it. I look forward to reading more of your posts about it. I really didn’t start looking at it much until the last election, and I remember being pleased with what I read about the party, less so with their candidate for president.

    In our conversation over at worldmagblog about your decision, you mentioned being more a “conservative-libertarian” than a “libertarian-conservative.” I wonder if you could expand more on what you mean by that. In what ways are conservative ideals (as opposed to what actual conservatives do and say) different from libertarian ideals?

    Pauline

    October 3, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    • Pauline, I will write more about the difference between conservatism and libertarianism. In general, I would say that conservatives see government as having a more significant and more powerful role than libertarians do. Libertarians tend to be more socially liberal than conservatives. That’s a problem for me, but one that I have made peace with.

      renaissanceguy

      October 4, 2009 at 2:09 am

      • Socially, I am more conservative than most conservatives. Meaning I don’t drink, smoke, swear, use drugs, sleep around, etc. I’m pretty straight laced. Some is due to conviction, some due to my personal choices. But all of the above is legal, and you can do it.

        I also don’t believe in stealing from you, breaking into your house, kidnapping you, or killing you. I cannot morally do those things, even if you are doing things (drugs, prostitution, whatever) that I don’t approve of. That would be an act of agression, a crime under today’s laws.

        In the same way I cannot steal from you, break into your house, kidnap you, or kill you, neither can my representative (the government) do so. That would be morally wrong. So, I cannot elect someone to do those things for me. This is even true if stealing is called “taxation”, breaking into your house and kidnapping is called “arresting”, or the killing is caused by resisting the above.

        That is the problem with the state enforcing morality. This explains why libertarians are perceived as being “socially liberal”, they are internally consistent.

        Greg

        October 7, 2009 at 7:47 pm

  2. I think both libertarian and socialist ideals can be reconciled with Jesus. Jesus had a “socialist ethos” in that individual self-interest was to be sacrificed for others, and the community of believers was more important than any one individual. Yet he had a libertarian politics, in that this socialist ethos was to be chosen and not forced. You should want to feed the poor and give shelter to those without shelter, you should see your interest in the spirit and not in material possessions. Ironically, if people really followed the new testament we’d have the benefits of socialism with the freedom of libertarianism. Ironically, that’s sort of what Marx hoped for too (the state withering away and all that).

    Scott Erb

    October 4, 2009 at 12:45 am

  3. Scott, your analysis seems correct to me. Some Christians do in fact live in communes that have a basically socialist structure. I think it works on a small scale with a few people. The difference between a Christian commune and most sociallist states is that in a Christian communes, everyone accepts the terms voluntarily. If somebody changes his or her mind, that person can leave.

    What Christians should not do is force other people to give to charity. It is abolutely essential to Christian teaching that giving to the poor must be done cheerfully and willingly and never under compulsion.

    renaissanceguy

    October 4, 2009 at 2:23 am

  4. It looks like I found another Christian libertarian blog …

    Scott – a voluntary socialist society is not anti-libertarian. When it is imposed, well then is most certainly is contrary.

    Greg

    October 4, 2009 at 8:10 pm

  5. On forced charity: it is interesting that Islam has a similar dictate with a certain percentage of wealth (not just income) to be given to the needy each year. Pakistan decided to treat that as a tax rather than have it be voluntary, and that created a huge fuss. I do think, though, that Christian teaching doesn’t say a government can’t do it. Jesus seemed rather ambivalent about wealth and taxes — give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. The material stuff isn’t that relevant to your soul. While Islam was overtly political (Muhammad wanted to reform Arab society, promote the rights of women and the poor, and connect faith and governance), Jesus seemed to find politics unimportant.

    Scott Erb

    October 5, 2009 at 3:25 am

  6. Quote – I do think, though, that Christian teaching doesn’t say a government can’t do it.

    There I disagree. There is nothing in Christian ethics or teaching which supports forced redistribution of wealth.

    Neither does Jesus’ teaching about “giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s”, for He did not state what is Caesar’s. There is no indication that He meant anything more than the coin in question, which was clearly Caesar’s as it had Caesar’s mark on it.

    Greg

    Greg

    October 5, 2009 at 6:19 pm

  7. Greg, I think you’re actually agreeing with me. There is ambiguity. Also, if Christians feel it alright to try to use government to get policies fitting their faith on abortion, the death penalty, homosexual rights, etc., then is there anything wrong with more liberal Christians trying to use government to get policies fitting their faith on feeding the poor, taking care of the sick, etc.? If it’s OK to do one, isn’t it logically required that the other be OK too?

    Scott Erb

    October 5, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    • Scott, I appreciate your peaceful manner, but I want to be clear – I am 100% in disagreement with you on this subject. A non-voluntary redistribution of wealth is contrary to scriptures. My gifts, tithes, and offerings are voluntary. Taxes are not, if I don’t pay them I will be kidnapped, beaten, and eventually killed, depending on the extent I resist the theft. I don’t pay taxes because it is right, I pay them because I would rather not face the gang that enforces them.

      Regarding “if Christians feel it alright to try to use government to get policies fitting their faith on abortion, the death penalty, homosexual rights, etc., then is there anything wrong with more liberal Christians trying to use government to get policies fitting their faith on feeding the poor, taking care of the sick, etc.”

      That statement ignores the possibility that both parties who wish to force others to behave as they wish are wrong.

      Greg

      October 6, 2009 at 6:16 am

      • I will give you credit for consistency. I fail to see anything in Christian teaching that explicitly makes taxation wrong. Promoting voluntary giving is not the same as explicitly condemning taxation. You certainly can interpret it that way, of course. Ultimately, the Bible, like any text, can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Also, while you may be arrested and sentenced for not paying taxes, I doubt you’ll be beaten. And there is a conundrum here: you can’t really force others to share your view on the use of force as they go to vote and act politically.

        Scott Erb

        October 6, 2009 at 7:21 pm

  8. Scott, I believe that Greg is operating under the assumption that if Jesus did not specifically permit something, then we should not accept it–or at least that we should not automatically accept it without some other basis.

    Also, let’s distinguish between using government and passing laws. For me “using government” would be setting up government agencies and departments to administer government programs at taxpayer expense. It would be persuading the president to issue executive orders or stacking courts to give favorable rulings. Passing laws, on the other hand, would be writing legislation, usually done by elected representatives, to provide guidelines for how citizens treat one another.

    One thing that makes me libertarian, I think, is that I do not want courts deciding for or against gay marriage or abortion. I want legislatures writing laws to proscribe those behaviors (or, if they choose, to permit them). I also do not want a government-subsidized agency like Planned Parenthood pushing abortion, especially when they break laws to do so, as PP officials have been caught doing.

    (I’m giving just one example. I could refer to the EPA, OSHA, the EEOC, the FCC, etc. It seems that since the time of Roosevelt we have used about every combination of the 26 letters to name agencies. We might have to expand the alphabet as we expand government.)

    Legislatures are amenable to and accountable to the citizens. Agencies and departments and executive orders and court rulings are not. As government bureaucracy expands, the voice of the people becomes more and more irrelevant, and their power, the power guaranteed by the Consitution, becomes diluted.

    renaissanceguy

    October 6, 2009 at 5:08 am

    • All agencies and departments exist because of legislation, and their powers are provided by legislation. Therefore, I really don’t see the distinction. I really don’t see a point in legislatures proscribe or permit behaviors. Theoretically everything is legal unless it is prohibited or limited. So the starting point would be a blank slate of all behaviors legal — and from there they start making limits.

      Scott Erb

      October 6, 2009 at 7:26 pm

  9. renaissanceguy – “I want legislatures writing laws to proscribe those behaviors (or, if they choose, to permit them).”

    Do you accept the non-agression principle? If so, why should a legislature have anything to do with those behaviors? (By the way, I am ignoring for the moment that I believe abortion to be murder.)

    Quote – “I also do not want a government-subsidized agency like Planned Parenthood pushing abortion, especially when they break laws to do so, as PP officials have been caught doing.”

    How about we eliminate government-subsidized agencies, since they are funded by theft?

    Greg

    October 6, 2009 at 6:33 am

  10. Greg, I am reluctant to answer your question, because I do not want to get pulled into a verbal trap.

    Yes, I accept the non-aggression principle. I also accept a republican form of government and a federal system, as outlined in the Constitution. We have to decide what our laws are going to be somehow, and the best way to do so is to allow the citizens or their representatives to vote.

    Regarding abortion, I think the non-aggression principle supports laws banning it.

    Regarding same-sex marriage, I am not so sure. It’s not very libertarian to say that the will of the people should prevail, but that’s where I am at the moment. I am not a perfect libertarian. I think that allowing same-sex marriage is harmful to society, especially to chidlren. That’s how I justify opposing it and supporting laws to prohibit it. I can live with civil unions, however.

    renaissanceguy

    October 7, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    • renaissanceguy, don’t worry, I am not trying to trap you.

      If I may, I’ll give you my perspective. Abortion is murder, and it will have to be treated as such. That is consistent with both a Christian and a libertarian position. Of course, some Christians and some libertarians will disagree … but I believe you and I are on the same page. No further discussion needed, I think.

      Regarding homosexual “marriage”, there is no such thing. Marriage only includes a man and a woman. Two men, two women, a child, cow, or whatever – don’t qualify. The reason for this is that “marriage” is a word that has a specific meaning. It is a biblical concept.

      So does that mean I am a “homophobe”? Not at all, as first of all that literally means being afraid of homosexuals. Not me. But I believe homosexual behavior is sinful, just like any other fornication. However, this does not give me the right (directly or through my representative) to outlaw it though. Sin, to the extent that it does not harm any innocent party, is between the sinner and God.

      So back to the homosexual marriage idea. I am against state-sanctioned homosexual marriage. Likewise I am against state-sanctioned heterosexual marriage. Marriage is the business of the Church and the family. When the state gets involved, we start getting into these sticky issues.

      How would this work in real life? Well, Tom works for you. He claims to be married to Fred. You, as his employer and a free person can decide whether you accept that union or not (as far as benefits). If you do not accept it, Tom of course has the right to seek employment elsewhere. Since the state is uninvolved, nothing can be forced on you in this regard, it is a contractual issue between you and Tom.

      Tom comes to your church and wants to fellowship there. The church leadership has the choice of allowing or disallowing fellowship.

      I think it is clear that much of the harm which some claim is caused by homosexual “marriage” is caused by state involvement. If the state is eliminated from the equation, both sides of the equation are free.

      Regarding children, I see no further harm to children caused by this than by the current system.

      When people try to regulate others’ behaviors, it is always a slippery slope. The “drug war” is a prime example, it is destroying our country far more than drugs ever will. But we keep on …

      Greg

      October 7, 2009 at 7:28 pm

  11. Marriage is not only a biblical concept — marriage is a concept world wide, often with different rules. In a modern secular society like the US, the meaning can be expanded legally to include gay marriage. If the people of my state, Maine, vote keep gay marriage legal, then we’ll have effectively re-defined what marriage means for Maine. Now, as far as the Biblical (or Koranical, or Hindu, etc.) concepts of marriage go, those can remain defined as the churches see fit. The ELA may recognize gay marriage, the Catholic church will not. That’s all fine. Religions should not be forced to accept secular legal definitions. But religions cannot force their definition of others either.

    That said, Greg’s opposition to state sanction on all marriages is logically consistent, which I respect.

    Scott Erb

    October 9, 2009 at 2:55 am


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