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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