How can you be a Christian and a Libertarian?

libertariansIn my personal life, one of the very few things that politically active Christians can seem to agree on is how one can be a Christian and a Libertarian. Most amusing is that I have gotten this question even from those who accept that one can be a faithful Christian and a Democrat or a Republican. Because I have gotten tired of trying to explain the basics of this to those who ask, I have decided to indeed blog it out so that I can simply post a link.

The very basic principal of Libertarian politics is minimum government and maximum personal freedom. You also need to understand that, much like Republicans and Democrats, there is not a monolithic set of beliefs that every Libertarian buy into. I will attempt to use a couple of issues to demonstrate how it is that I can be a Libertarian and a Christian and how those two things are actually complementary to me.

Let’s just start with everyone’s favorite topic these days, LGBTQ matters. I support the ability of same gendered couples to marry, though I do not believe it to be a constitutional right. I also do not agree with the SCOTUS decision as I find it to be a federal overreach and seizure of power over what has always been handled by individual states. I also support moving toward getting the government out of the marriage business altogether.  I see no reason for the licensing fees, for all the legal wrangling that comes from it, for all the tax breaks and penalties, etc. That is ultimately where I think that we, as a nation, should be headed. As a Christian, this works well for me. Marriage, in a Christian sense, has little, if anything, to do with the government. So long as the government continues to legislate marriage, I believe that the church should not perform legal, civil weddings. Blame it on Luther, he gave me the idea. I do not believe that a same gendered marriage is pleasing or acceptable in the eyes of God. There are a slew of reasons for this that are not applicable for this piece. I simply do not think that my personal moral conviction, as well as the belief of the church catholic throughout history until very recently, should prevent someone else from living the life they please. The question is not what would Jesus do, but who would Jesus force. Jesus never forced anyone to follow Him or to live a life that was holy and pleasing to God. He called those who believed to do so. He called those who believe to share the good news. He did not call those who believe to legislate near as I can tell.

Moving on, let’s talk about drugs since that is where many Libertarians get hammered. I find illegal drug use to be a scourge on society. It causes enormous health problems to those who use them and their families. Drug crime has gone a long way toward filling our justice system and costs us huge amounts of money. The drug trade also gives rise to illegal cartels in and out of the US that cause extreme violence and in many areas supports slavery in the form of forced labor of people in local areas to plant, harvest, and refine the drugs. Much like prohibition before it, we have created a black market for illegal drugs that enables all of the above problems. In short, while I believe that the drugs currently classified as illegal are horrible and a scourge, I do not believe it is the government’s job to protect us from ourselves. Will legalizing drugs mean that there is no underground market? Of course not, but ti will severely limit it’s size and scope. Much like we saw with alcohol, once allowed, the industry will come out of the shadows and the violence that plagues it will drastically lesson both here and abroad. So I think that Jesus supports drug use? Nope, not even a little bit. In fact, I think that if He were here today, His greatest miracles might just be healing heroin addicts that are slowly killing themselves because they can not stop. Books like “The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western Civilization” are beginning to explore and show how many of the drugs we outlaw today were used with some regularity in ancient history. That does not mean it was good, or bad for that matter, but it does mean it is not a new thing. All of the laws and programs that we have now have done little to stem the tide of drug use, and there is a good argument to be made that it has increased it. Do I support anyone using narcotics? No, I do not. Do I think it is wise to legislate against it creating a criminal economy and criminalizing self destructive behavior? No not really.

My hope is that these two things will give an overview of the ideas that I hold politically. I do think that a same sex couple should be able to have a legal civil marriage. I also think that a baker should be able to refuse to bake them a cake. I do think that narcotics use is dangerous to an individual, but I do not believe that it is the government’s job to protect me from myself. I do not support regulatory agencies. If anything, they should  be limited to the ability to suggest legislation to congress, not write it themselves. I do think that our legal code is way to complex for the average person to follow and as such leads to selective enforcement which is a form of tyranny. There are more areas. I welcome questions about my beliefs and such, but the reality of it is this. I can be a Libertarian and a Christian. Just like you who are reading this can be a Republican or Democrat and a Christian. For me, the popular question of what would Jesus do is a good, if basic, guide for personal living. Socially, the question is what what Jesus force someone to do. That list of things is very small in my estimation.


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11 Replies to “How can you be a Christian and a Libertarian?”

  1. I say this, not to be mean, but to express my personal observations.

    Two problems:

    1. Libertarians need to establish a base in Congress, House of Representatives or Senate, first.
    Lots of minor officials, but if they can’t get a Representative or Senate seat, they can’t be taken seriously.

    2. Gary Johnson. Aleppo. Really? Going for the whole banana, Presidency, the Libertarians need someone that can be taken seriously. They need someone that is well known, and watches the national news occasionally. Gary Johnson, with his support of the legalization of pot, comes across as a “Bill and Ted’s Outrageous Adventure” candidate. Smokes pot, oblivious to international news on TV, and probably lives in his mother’s basement. Nice guy, but needs to get a real job, and get off of pot.

    This is “impressions”. I don’t know anything about him, but impressions are what counts in politics, not reality.

    1. I would counter that because reality does not matter in politics, is a huge part of the problem.
      The Aleppo bit is blown out of proportion. What is most important here? That he did not remember the name of a city in Syria, or that he demonstrated a working knowledge of current US policy in Syria and explained how his would differ?
      Part of establishing members in congress is success at the state and local levels. I am not disagreeing with you here, just realizing that this is not a simple or short term process.

  2. Scott, I agree with reasoning, for what it is worth. Rush has now infamously admitted that we have no conservative party in America, that the GOP is for big government, and that therefore we should not be bothered by the Trump child-care plan. He may be right that the plan primarily reduces taxes, yet, his general point seems to be that conservatives need to give up the debate on the size and scope of government. In a country as large America, I wish that most of domestic policy were in the hands of the states. Those days are long gone.

    1. They are gone, but the idea still resonates. Nearly every Republican candidate for national office still campaigns in the idea of reducing government. That means this idea still resonates with the public. The problem is that the public refuses to gold them accountable.

  3. Libertarian is becoming an increasingly attractive option for Christians who choose to engage the political system. To the extent that our tenets may be called “rules” for living they are rules only for us. Heathens are free to behave as heathens. A significant element of the Christ event is Jesus’ message, “If you want to know what God is like, look at me. Follow me if you want–don’t if you choose. There are rewards and consequences. The choice is yours.”

    1. Yep. Politically it is also one of the few places where you find reasonable disagreement on issues as well. Not that Libertarians are any less prone to vitriol and the like, but internally, there is a fairly large amount of diversity guided by a few basic principles. Of course there is the party platform, but just like the big two platforms, there is not a monolithic agreement to it. The basic thing is that Libertarians are not trying to tell someone else what to do, but rather encouraging people to take personal responsibility for their choices and actions.

  4. I get libertarianism, for all of the reasons you described. What I don’t get is how a libertarian can complain about the Western Jurisdiction and others following their own conscience rather than a particular rule in the Book of Discipline that appears (in their/our view) to conflict with Scripture. Why freedom of conscience in secular issues, but not in church issues?

    1. There are differences between a secular civil society and an ecclesiastical order. I am disappointed in the devolution of our language to legislation, enforcement, trials, and rights. We are properly a people of covenant, stewardship, and responsibility. We seek to be formed by the community, and agree to be corrected by the church. There are issues where I have strong opinions at variance with the voice of the church yet I teach and act in accordance with the church. Why? Because I could be wrong.
      I have no problem with the people of the Western Jurisdiction’s “civil right” to do as they please, but not as part of a people bound by covenant.

    2. The Libertarian movement seems to be dragging youth along…and I can’t help but think it has something to do with the legalization of pot. Not that I have a problem with legalized pot, especially for medical reasons. Yea, if you’re dying, or in pain, maybe it’s good if it helps. But for a political party to support legalizing without a medical reason, seems to not match up with religion. But what do I know? Just my opinion.

      The funny thing, is that the similar movement on the religious side, seems to be this “monastic” movement recently blogged about. Never heard of it before. But it appears to be a rather strange throwback to the 60-70’s hippy movement, without the sex and drugs, and under the Christian banner. What might be more interesting, is if it sprouts new denominations. But it certainly seems strange to support unconventional detours like “neo-monasticism”, and be so hardline on violating covenants regarding two gay people being married.
      (Not speaking specifically about anyone’s support or non-support of anything – just in general terms – interesting movements on both liberal and conservative sides – with the gay issue maybe being included as one of these movements)

      1. Yeah, exactly. A lot of cognitive disconnects that I am trying to understand better. I know that for me, the way I behave in the world and the way I behave in church need to be identical…to me, my faith needs to inform everything. So when we say one behavior is good for a Christian in the secular world, but not in the way they relate to the Church, that seems odd to me.

    3. The first reason is that secular issues (civil government) and church issues are completely different. We don’t choose to abide by the governments laws voluntarily, we do so under threat of force. We all did choose to be a part of the United Methodist Church. Freedom of association is a big principal in Libertarian thought as well. We chose to be a part of the UMC, or in my case, chose to leave it behind. Part of that choice is, or should be, based in the beliefs and actions of the UMC. If those beliefs need to change, then so be it, there is a way to do that. That way does not involve succession. To use your government example, if me and mine in the state of Ohio decide that we don’t like the way the federal government is structured and the laws it is passing, we can not arbitrarily decide to change it, no matter how many votes are cast. We also can not decide we are going to follow our own rules and laws and change the way the government functions. This is what the Western Jurisdiction did. While some Libertarians do indeed support some form of anarchy in civil society, most do not. There is also the simple reality that pastors of all flavors took an oath, that is to say made a form of verbal contract, to do things which they are now acting contrary to. To sum up, I do believe in freedom of conscience in the church, but that freedom of conscience does not allow you to do as you please within the church. My conscience has dictated that I no longer be involved in the United Methodist Church. That is the freedom of conscience that , and and anyone else in the UMC, or any US church, has.

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