Perspectives: What Christians can learn from libertarians

OPINION – It’s a shame they didn’t listen. Plenty of sincere voices were sounding the warning.

For the common good, Christians and social conservatives have long been calling for the state to become more involved in personal decisions with which they disagree. They’ve advocated turning vices like substance abuse, gambling, and certain sexual behaviors between consenting adults into criminal acts.

This has been used to justify using violence against peaceful people whose behavior, at worst, might cause harm to themselves.

This desire to control others through the coercion of the state is now being turned against Christians and social conservatives. In giving government the power to regulate every aspect of society, it has been placed in a position to mandate new regulations for churches and their congregations.

Same-sex marriage and antidiscrimination laws are just the beginning.

Ben Lewis, in a recent commentary about this phenomenon writes:

Over this time, many Christians have essentially bet that societal opinions would always swing their way and that their constant appeals to government power would not come back to bite them. They’re about to lose that bet in a big way.

Christians, among others, are finally beginning to understand the phrase, “What goes around comes around.”

By blurring the line between “beneficial” and “mandatory,” the solution to every problem becomes a political solution.

Political decisions are too often backed up with a threat of violence to ensure compliance. Otherwise, laws would amount to little more than suggestions.

When Christians and social conservatives argued for government force to uphold their moral values, they sought to limit the agency of those who peacefully disagree with them. Now, the shoe is on the other foot and those who were forced to toe the line on values they didn’t hold are eagerly using the state to limit the agency of the religious.

Both sides are wrong when resorting to force that in no way confers legitimacy upon their positions.

Long-term acceptance of an idea or a principle can only come about through persuading and convincing people – not by forcing them.

Eric Peters explains why this is so:

People forced to submit and obey only submit and obey for as long as you are able to force them to do so. But convince them, through moral persuasion, that a given thing is wrong and any laws to the contrary will be rendered nullities at a stroke. They will lose all legitimacy and thereby become unenforceable.

This doesn’t mean that anyone has to surrender their values or abandon their moral compass. It means that they must use reason rather than force to bring people over to their cause.

The abandonment of state force as a means to an end is what libertarians have long described as the non-aggression principle. This simply means that it is never acceptable to use violence against peaceful people.

But violence is the defining characteristic of the state, and this is why Christians should have known better than to use that legal monopoly of force against others.

Christians have been trained to view libertarian thinking with deep suspicion by mistakenly conflating it with libertine behavior. Instead, libertarian thought espouses the primacy of free will accompanied by personal responsibility.

That’s not so different from what most Christians claim to believe, even if they have mistakenly championed the use of government force.

Christians and libertarians share a common belief in the value of the individual rather than the collective. God is not just the Father of one particular race or geographic region of people. Each individual is believed to be loved and valued.

Most Christians believe that even the Almighty will not force a person to believe in or obey him. What does that say about Christians who would use government force to deny others their free will?

Christians are taught that they have a duty to care for the poor and the needy among them. These are voluntary actions by which believers can affirm their love of God and their fellow man. Libertarian thinking is congruent with this concept by calling for the elimination of mandatory or forced charity as a counterfeit for the real thing.

Libertarians and Christians alike don’t want to be forced in matters of personal preference. That can include how to worship, what we can or cannot ingest, and any other number of daily decisions.

Both believe in holding people accountable for their behavior, especially behavior that causes measurable harm to another. Both believe in justice as a means of making things right rather than simply punishing for the sake of arbitrary rules.

All told, Christians and libertarians have far more in common than they might have thought.

Once they both get a better grasp on the bloody history of the state, they should sit down for a nice long chat with the anarchists.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

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Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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33 Comments

  • izzymuse April 27, 2015 at 7:14 am

    Great article. I agree with your points Bryan. However, I would trade the word “agency” with “freedom to choose” or free will. Agency is not a word used by people who are not Mormon. Most people outside the LDS faith have no clue what the word is referring to. Just FYI.

    • native born new mexican April 27, 2015 at 8:53 am

      Izzymuse, agency is the word to use because it implies accountability. We are not just free to chose our course in life but we are accountable for the course we chose.
      Agency has the root word agent. A real estate agent represents the company he works for and his client and he is accountable to both for his actions. God gave use stewardship or agency over our own lives and while they are minors the lives of our children but we must account to him for every thing we did or didn’t do. The parable of the talents in the Bible is a good example of this. We are not just free to do as we please. We are allowed to make our own decisions and then be held accountable for those decisions. This is where Bryan is correct. How can we act as agents or stewards over our own lives if we are not allowed the opportunity to do so? How can God give us credit for or hold us responsible for things we were forced into doing be they good things or bad things. That is why freedom should be so very important to Christians. This life is where we take our test- prove ourselves to ourselves and to God. We must have the freedom to do that or else the time we spend in this life is of no true value. That of course means that good people have to be allowed to chose and to do good without being forced to and that bad people have to be free to chose and to do bad things even if that means that they do harm to others. That is how evil comes into the world and into our lives but that must be allowed to happen in order for people to be tested and tried during their time in this life. A Christian must be free and he must allow others to be free or the great plan for man’s salvation and happiness can’t happen.

      • Mike April 27, 2015 at 10:14 am

        Thanks for the explanation, but still not the way non LDS ever think of that word.

        • izzymuse April 27, 2015 at 9:56 pm

          Thanks Mike. That is simply my point.The word “Agency” used in this context comes from an old usage that died out in the mainstream jargon after the 1800s. I know what the word means, but it’s not widely used or understood. Even LDS apostles have made this point over the last decade.

      • fun bag April 27, 2015 at 4:31 pm

        It’s funny since we’re on the topic of mormonism. You guys should know that the whole religion was made up. It’s just totally fake and a lie and made up by a group of con-men, the most prominent being Joseph Smith. I just figured you guys should know, doing you a favor telling you 😉

        • mesaman April 27, 2015 at 8:22 pm

          As usual, scumbag.

          • Free Parking April 28, 2015 at 2:01 am

            Scumbag

        • native born new mexican April 27, 2015 at 9:56 pm

          Fun bag could you post at least ten or twelve pages of well researched, well documented facts backing up your statements?
          I would like to see a good long research paper done by you yourself with lots of foot notes and sources that I could check out for myself. Are you up to that or were you thinking people would just take your word for it?

          • fun bag April 27, 2015 at 10:57 pm

            just have to trust me 😉

  • BIG GUY April 27, 2015 at 9:57 am

    Agree: “By blurring the line between “beneficial” and “mandatory,” the solution to every problem becomes a political solution.”
    >
    Disagree: “But violence is the defining characteristic of the state….” and “…get a better grasp on the bloody history of the state…”
    >
    Costa Rica comes immediately to mind and there are other “states” that don’t have armed forces as a matter of principle. But virtually all of us, even most libertarians and Costa Ricans, understand that police “violence” (I prefer the word “force”) is needed as a counterweight to criminal violence. Does a libertarian society have unarmed police? Thanks but no thanks.

  • Roy J April 27, 2015 at 11:26 am

    The problem I perceive in libertarianism lies in its emphasis on the worth of the individual at the expense of the worth of the social group. Man is social by nature. Basing a political position on the notion of individual rights alone is therefore an error. Also, I disagree with what Eric Peters seems to be saying here; it is not for nothing that the penal system is corrective as well as punitive. Consider the reformation of Raskolnikov in Dostoevski’s “Crime and Punishment”; consider also Aristotle’s conclusion of the “Nicomachean Ethics”. Some men can be reasoned with, but for the vast majority there is the stick. On another note, there is an obvious limit to what actions are acceptable in a “good” society; most cultures have drawn the line at the wholesale murder of its citizens; and at just this point does the social good begin limiting the outline of individual liberty. As for free agency, I think its perfectly acceptable for somebody who posits the material nature of the soul; this avoids confusion with the notion of free will. I may be wrong about this last point, though. I don’t ever use the term free agency.

    • izzymuse April 27, 2015 at 10:11 pm

      Roy J, on your first point/concern against Libertarianism: the USA is founded on Libertarian principles. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. constitution (especially the first ten amendments) are designed to protect and promote the individual rights of each citizen without the control of government and religion. As long as I do not harm others and/or their property I am free to live my life as I choose. No force to do or be good, but consequences to actions which may harm the third party. We have to ask what the proper role of government is; morally force a people to live according to a moral system of one group? Or to protect individual people from local and foreign dangers. This does not undermine the wellbeing of our community, state or nation. Hold all citizens to treating others how they want to be treated is the heart of good government lead by Libertarian principles of freedom.

      • maggie April 28, 2015 at 7:58 am

        Izzy,first let me say I would love to have you as a neighbor or a friend. However I do indeed think you trust mankind to much. I agree with what you say,but I was fortunate to have been raised by parents who had morals and ethics and passed thm on to their children. They did indeed ,in every way possible ,teach us that we were responsible for ourselves and should always help those in need.
        I have also learned that all people are not so fortunate, and as a result simply do not care about or understand the documents our founding fathers have written or passed on to us.
        A great eample of this jumped out of the TV this am re the Baltimore riots. Do you really think the people looting,burrning and destroying ever read much of anything ,let alone history, or care about anyone but themselves? Color may not matter for much in our society except if you raise a few generations of any group of people and they do not read or understand freedom for all of us,they will ,as my Dad was known to say”take their half out of the middle” at the expense of all of us.

      • Roy J April 28, 2015 at 9:29 am

        IZZYMUSE,
        For the most part you are right about the ideas contained in the Constitution and the Declaration; both are remarkable products of the philosophical and religious revolutions of the Enlightenment. I agree with you there. But I am not granting the libertarian his self-evident principles, for the obvious reason that they are not self-evident. I do not agree that the rights of the social group are merely derived from a man’s individual rights as corollaries; they are not; and this is as clear as a son’s claims upon his father. This is one point of disagreement between Enlightment-era philosophies and theologies (as I see it), and it is a point of departure from a great deal of pre-existing Western thought and tradition. You have only to look as far as Plato’s “Crito” to see that the ideas of liberty extend to man’s obligations to his social group. So, while I agree with some of what you say about the Founding Father’s experiment in government (we can argue about whether or not the libertarian position is what they had in mind), I don’t agree that it was the best idea, or the only idea (or even the best compromise), or one that was not fraught with difficulties, and this because of the very principles they attempted to lay down at the start.

    • witty1 April 28, 2015 at 2:01 am

      Roy,
      Yours is the best comment in the thread. I find libertarians annoying and unreasonable for many reasons. They tend to be selfish, arrogant and do not seem to have a sense of empathy. I believe a balance must be struck between liberty and coercion.
      The founding fathers, along with whichever intentions you wish to ascribe to them, are also responsible for enshrining slavery in the constitution, excluding women from many basic rights, and failing to protect children from unfair labor practices. While I believe that they created an amazing and wonderful experiment in human government, that experiment is ongoing. Happily, we do not have to stick to what the founding fathers intended; we can improve upon it.
      Libertarians want to lift government regulations, which means that those with capital will benefit the most. Giving more benefits and power to those already with means is not the way to solve social problems. Essentially they are arguing for granting ultimate power to corporations and businesses. In other words, a libertarian society will create the exact opposite of what they claim to espouse. They will grant the power of tyranny to those with capital, and weaken the power of the government, which remember, is accountable to the (poor) people. Even with all its shortcomings, the government is accountable and change can be affected.
      Deregulation is not the way to create a freer society.

      • Roy J April 28, 2015 at 9:38 am

        WITTY1,
        I think we would all like to see less regulation, provided that by removing some of the bureaucratic structures, we are improving the quality of life for the least of our citizens first. However, I think we agree that bureaucracy is just the practical application of our inadequate principles of government, implented by imperfect people with insufficient resources. Oftentimes it seems to me that the top-heaviness of regulations is a result of, or a response to, very real and disasterous social problems…not for nothing do we have all those “We Can Do It!” propaganda posters from World War 2. That is another difficulty that I perceive among libertarians: they seem to be too caught up in their principles to consider the practical necessities of real government. Maybe I am wrong about that, though.

      • fun bag April 28, 2015 at 10:58 am

        I think WITTY hit the nail on the head. Basic libertarian thinking is about complete selfishness and a lack of, or complete absence of empathy…

        • fun bag April 28, 2015 at 10:59 am

          Basically the exact opposite of what Jesus Christ was out preaching…

      • izzymuse April 29, 2015 at 7:50 am

        The corporate powers were and still are the Titans they are NOT because of Libertarian principles, but because of the “corporate welfare” structures and policies of a few corrupt Republicans and Democrats. Libertarians do NOT govern that way. The Republicans and Democrats are the ones who have been running t Hingis for the last 50 years with the lie of “too big to fail” bailout programs! Look at the facts of history, my friend. Libertarianism gives the balanced solution: Less government = more freedom and progress, NOT the same old monopoly game we’ve had in America for the last 100 years overall with the governments subsidizing and heavy regulations of US businesses. Your claims of Libertarian principles creating slavery and child labor are not true! Libertarians do not allow individuals to be controlled by government or corporate powers. That only happens when big business and government make behind closed door deals (remember the recession and recent global financial crisis?) That didn’t happen because evil Libertarians were running things. See the platform for yourself and prove which Libertarian principles would even allow the mythical problems people always try to scare others about the libertarian party would bring: https://www.lp.org/platform
        It was NEVER Libertarian principles which created slavery because Libertarian principles do not allow humans to be controlled by other humans, institutions, or government without consent. There is a lot wrong with your ideas of what Libertarianism stands for and would ever allow. Do your homework and first seek to understand BEFORE you elaborate on false claims. Thanks!

        • sagemoon April 29, 2015 at 8:58 am

          Right on, Izzymuse.

        • Roy J April 29, 2015 at 9:16 am

          IZZYMUSE,

          It seems to me that what you’re saying here is that the Founding Fathers had some libertarian principles in mind when they founded this country, but only some, because they also allowed for things like slavery at the time of founding…which therefore means that your earlier claim about our country being founded on libertarian principles is partially (if not entirely) false. At any rate, it’s clear from what you have said that the Founding Fathers were not, entirely libertarian either in their principles or their world-views.

        • fun bag April 29, 2015 at 10:21 am

          “The corporate powers were and still are the Titans they are NOT because of Libertarian principles”

          blah blah blah, what principles would those be? you act as if there is some holy libertarian bible somewhere. You’re making huge generalizations and assumptions.

        • Roy J April 29, 2015 at 4:39 pm

          Also, checking out your link (thank you in advance), libertarian principles 1.1 and 1.5 are going to come into direct conflict with each other at some point. I grant the libertarians have a practical platform for agreeing to disagree on some issues (until they have got what they want); in this they are certainly following the approach of the Founding Fathers. However, as we can all agree that the issue of slavery was not solved by ignoring it (quite the opposite, actually); neither is the issue of abortion (1.5), nor the issue of homosexuality (1.4.), nor the manipulation of the right to privacy by judicial legislation to include under it any damn thing a judge wants it to include (1.3) going to go away because you agree to disagree for the sake of accomplishing…well, what are you really capable of accomplishing at the end of all this compromise, anyway? Sounds to me like libertarians are willing to sacrifice everything just so long as other people “keep their filthy hands offa my stuff”…no thanks.

          • izzymuse May 9, 2015 at 7:33 pm

            ROY J, thanks for taking the time to look into it! 100 points for social consideration! At least we can agree to disagree on civil terms and with a little understanding. I appreciate the good debates. Any readings you recommend for me to read? What is the essential “need to read”? Thanks again.
            🙂

  • sagemoon April 27, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Another good piece, Bryan.

    • fun bag April 27, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      that good huh? i didn’t read it…

      • mesaman April 27, 2015 at 8:24 pm

        You can read? Well surprise, surprise.

        • Free Parking April 28, 2015 at 2:00 am

          Wow mesaman can read to. Well surprise surprise

  • pam jeremiah April 28, 2015 at 12:56 am

    great article BH, keep up the good work

  • fun bag April 28, 2015 at 10:56 am

    What Christians can learn from libertarians: Jesus wouldn’t want Obama takin’ away all the guns!!!

    • izzymuse April 29, 2015 at 7:58 am

      Libertarians aren’t Christians. They don’t care what any religion preaches. In fact, thanks to Libertarian principles the founders of this country had when writing the Constitution we have protection FROM religion (study Thomas Jefferson and you will come to understand that he was NOT a superstitious Christian, he was a deist— search the info on him and Thomas Paine- they were all about the separation of church and state) Do a little homework on the Libertarians before you embarrass yourself – or others – with your ignorant rants
      https://www.lp.org/platform
      Prove which platform policy is wrong, then we can have a somewhat intelligent conversation.

      • Roy J April 29, 2015 at 9:09 am

        IZZYMUSE,

        I am pretty sure that if libertarians care nothing for religion, then a fortiori they care nothing for morality either. Or am I missing something here?

      • fun bag April 29, 2015 at 10:18 am

        All well and good, but what I hear around here is just kooky libertarian dreams of living in something like the wild west, and havin’ old fashioned shootouts and such. And old Perspectives doof himself seems to want to rule over his own little kingdom from what i’ve read of his bs over time… basically just to kooky and i don’t care for it…

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