[Note: I wrote this article before the election, but I submitted it afterwards. In many states, the margin between Trump and Biden is small enough that the libertarian vote covers the gap.
Conservatives weep and gnash their teeth that we handed the election to Biden. Your tears are delicious . Maybe you’ll try to earn our vote next round. #libertarianvotesmatter]
With a fast-approaching election, many Christians are trying to decide for whom to vote. Just last night, I spoke with a faithful Christian who was stilling tossing candidates back and forth while he waited in line for early voting. I get it. Democrats and Republicans have both put forward candidates that suck. They’re incredibly awful. The argument to vote for one or the
other is, “But the other guy’s worse!”
Barack Obama turned out to be just as much a warmonger as George Bush. His hope and change turned out to be blue paint on the drones instead of red. It’s only natural for people like me to search for a different option. When Kodos and Kang are running president, why not vote for someone else?
Recently, this site published an article titled, Are Libertarianism and Christianity Compatible?
While I applaud the author, Kevin Walrath, for attempting to think critically about Christianity’s implications on politics, his arguments don’t stand up to examination. So, here’s my response.
What He Gets Right:
Walrath doesn’t totally misrepresent libertarian philosophy. I’m going to do my best to summarize and appropriately address his points, but the lack of clarity throughout makes it difficult to understand exactly what he’s saying. I invite him to clarify and challenge me where I’m wrong.
Walrath is right that libertarian policy frees up Christians from government interference in our Christian duty. Governors have placed severe restrictions on Christian worship in the pandemic, but libertarians would let us have free choice to do what we see fit.
Lower taxation and welfare spending would also help encourage Christians to freely give support to those in need. High levels of government social welfare spending mean that individuals push off their duty of charity to the government. Have you lost your income? Go get food stamps. Are you struggling to work? Disability will take care of you.
The separation of church and state is also important to Christian faithfulness. In his fireside chats, Dennis Prager frequently says that the decline of American culture began when they took prayer out of schools. If only teachers could pray, America would be great again! He says that these prayers were non-denominational, too! Muslims, Jews, Nones, and Christians could all pray them without being offended.
That is, except for me. I don’t want the schools to teach my congregation that the distinctions between religions don’t really matter or that prayers other than to the Father through the Son are heard by anyone. I don’t want schools to co-opt my Christian faith to promote some generic American civil religion.
Walrath is also right that welfare spending hurts the people who receive it more than it helps.
What He Gets Wrong
While Walrath gets many things right about libertarian philosophy, his arguments against it don’t stand up to examination. I will do my best to faithfully summarize his ideas, but I invite him to clarify what I get wrong. In short, they are:
● A libertarian society has never existed
● The kingship of Christ is incompatible with libertarian thought
● Romans 13 and Matthew 21 prevent Christians from reforming the government
● Libertarianism opens the door to socialism
No Libertarian Societies
Let’s start with the first: A libertarian society has never existed. Walrath writes:
Not only has there *never existed a libertarian nation; [sic] there's never been one that happened to also have a strong Christian demographic at that.
This is straight-up wrong. He, himself, writes that Israel, during the era of the judges, was a libertarian society before they chose a king (and we saw how badly that turned out ). The Bible has more examples of libertarian societies. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived nomadic,
libertarian lives. They had no king to tell them what to do, lived as they saw fit, protected themselves from attack, and they paid no taxes to anyone. In fact, every anarcho-capitalist would be jealous of the freedom they had.
Furthermore, the natural state of humanity is libertarian. John Locke argued for the basic human rights and self-government, he based it on the natural state of man. That is, humanity began its existence in complete freedom, and it remained that way until powerful people enforced their will on others through violence:
TO understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.
- John Locke, Second Treatise On Government , Chapter 4, section 4
In other words, before the rise of governments, everyone was libertarian.
Jesus Is King, Therefore Monarchy
He writes that the kingship of Christ is incompatible with libertarian thought:
This quickly transitioned into a preference by the stubborn people to desire a monarchy. Then we [sic] are later revealed within the New Testament that Christ is the King of Kings, the Monarch of all Monarchs. Monarchy as a concept tends to conflict with most definitions of
libertarianism and the ideology's desired mode of living life.
I think the logic is this: The judges devolved into monarchy, in which the king represented God’s kingship over Israel. Jesus is the king of kings over his church, and libertarian freedom doesn’t work with a divine monarchy.
Libertarianism is political, not religious philosophy which says that It believes that the government should stay out of everyone’s business to give us freedom to make our own decisions. A libertarian government wouldn’t compete with Jesus for our loyalty. It wouldn’t tell us how to worship or use our money for causes we abhor. While nothing in the Bible says that monarchy is incompatible with Christianity, it almost always comes in conflict with it when kings demand more and more obedience to their earthly rule.
Furthermore, if monarchy is the Bible’s government, God is against democracy. All Christians should be against voting freedom, rule of law, and a government of “We, the people,” and we should try to create American monarchy. I can’t imagine that Walrath wants that.
No Government Reform...Ever?
Next, Walrath writes that Romans 13 and Matthew 21 prevent Christians from reforming government:
Even though in the U.S. it's "We the People" who are technically the government (in which God had allowed to sprout during His overall Plan long before us living here today) things have happened in which [sic] have placed more authorities over us as time went on.
I think the argument is about God’s divine providence. God allowed the US government to establish more and more authorities over us, and he wants us to remember that these authorities come from him for our own good. Once an institution of authority has been
established, God has approved its continued existence. So, working to end the EPA or the Department of Education is undermining the authorities that God himself established.
This is what he writes, but I doubt it’s what he believes. Once an authority has been established, Christians must work to preserve it. Many conservatives have argued for an end to the Department of Education. The federal government should stay out of education, because it’s a state issue. If Walrath is right, it is unfaithful to dismantle it, because God established this authority.
Some of the implications are terrifying. If democracy comes to China, should the Christians flood the streets to protest for a return to communist rule? When the continental congress broke away from the authority of King George, should every faithful Christian have taken up arms to defend their country against those freedom-loving usurpers? But even those questions suffer from presentism. That is, they consider a present form of government as established by God while the one prior to it was not.
How far do we go back? The Roman Empire? Tribal Germany? Adam and Eve?
Walrath also misunderstands how libertarians approach reforming government. We don’t want to tear down authority. We want to change it, to lessen the scope of its involvement in our lives. Romans 13 tells us that God established government to punish the evildoer, and most libertarians believe that’s exactly what governments should do, punish criminals and enforce contracts.
Lastly, Walrath believes that libertarian elites will be co-opted into socialism in exchange for being allowed to remain wealthy after the revolution:
There clearly seems to be a lot of activity of collusion between libertarian and liberal forces lately. You have the Silicon Valley types, as well as New York City hedge fund manager types, all sorts of celebrities and artists in between. I mean [sic] just think about it. If a politically left force could convince otherwise libertarian personalities to co-opt its socialist agenda, they'd likely be promising to spare them from ever taking the financial hit from revolution.
Wait...what? There’s collusion between libertarians and leftists? Please, give me evidence. I would love to hear when Jo Jorgensen spoke approvingly of leftists. The closest she came was a tweet which supported BLM, and she has clarified in subsequent interviews. While she
believes that black lives matter , she repudiates BLM, Inc’s political and economic goals. You may disagree with her stance, but she doesn’t support socialism.
Again, give me examples. Which “Silicon Valley types” or “New York City hedge fund manager types” are both libertarian and pro-big government? I can’t think of a single self-described libertarian celebrity or artist who also supports socialism. Asserting that libertarians collude with socialists doesn’t prove it. Walrath needs to offer evidence, otherwise his argument is baseless.
Libertarianism and Christianity Are Compatible
Libertarianism and Christianity are compatible. While our faith can flourish under any form of government, some better lead to the outcomes Christians prefer. The principles of freedom make room for Christian communities to faithfully follow God’s will without government pressure.
It also takes seriously the call for personal love and charity to support the poor rather than exporting our responsibility to the government. It promotes family formation by keeping the government out of subsidizing poor decisions. It promotes a culture where all people are created equal and bear the image of God.
Article written by Pastor James Huenink, Concordia Lutheran Church, for TheTwoThings.org