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A Bad Way to Argue Against Being a Christian Libertarian

A few days after the Washington Post published my article on Christianity, libertarianism, and Ron Paul, one Dana Loesch, a former talk-show radio host and leader in the St. Louis, Missouri Tea Party, wrote a response piece on BigJournalism.com. Although I am flattered by the coverage, unfortunately the content itself is less than impressive.

She begins by discussing money and quoting my article:

Libertarians talk a lot about economics, and rightfully so. Money is central to a healthy economy. Christians are also concerned about money; in fact God talks frequently about money in the Bible. [Horn]

Actually, money is mentioned more in the Bible than anything else. I’ve written previously of this here. Scriptures tell us that money is a tool with which evil can control man. The Bible obviously doesn’t give political doctrine specific to the Fed, but rather as Christians we are taught to use our access to money as a way of evangelism through deed. This is something libertarianism leaves out, the God part. Are libertarians conservatives without God? That’s a question friends and I have discussed.

Yes, money is mentioned in the Bible a lot. Nonetheless, money is is not “a tool with which evil can control man.” “Evil” does not “control” man. Man has sinful desires, and he chooses to follow after those desires and commit evil actions. This is an important distinction, lest we become metaphysical dualists. Sin is indeed personified sometimes in the Bible, but it is clearly absurd to take such personification too far. As James 1:14-15 tells us, “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

The language of James likens our sinful state to a struggle going on inside us, and it fits very well with what Paul says in Romans 7. Still, never do Paul or James imply that some ethereal “evil” controls the Christian. On the contrary, Romans 6:6-7 says, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”

Money is indeed a tool, and man can use it do great good, or great evil, or anything in between. I would argue that money has a far greater potential for good than for evil, as is evidenced by the market ecosystem that produces such amazing things as, for instance, computers and the internet, or Bibles and theology books.

Now, although Loesch is right that there is no specific doctrine for the Federal Reserve, Loesch’s statements above are completely non-responsive to the actual substance of my argument: (1) that we need sound money in order to have genuine prosperity and to avoid the business cycle, and (2) sound money, as opposed to state fiat, is the proper moral and Biblical position. Stranger still, she somehow transitions from talking about money – and ignoring the Biblical point about money I was trying to make – to declaring that libertarians leave out “the God part.”

This statement is rather silly and also, quite frankly, rather insulting. It is clearly meant to stand in contrast to Christian “conservatives,” whom I suppose categorically make sure God is in every one of their doctrines, including big government national security and war, big government social security, big government education, and big government health care so long as it’s sponsored by Republicans like Bush or Romney.

More importantly, Loesch misses the point of the article. Libertarianism is a political philosophy that expounds upon natural law, and whose critical ethic is the non-aggression principle. Though not all libertarians believe in God (just as not all conservatives believe either), a vast number admit from the outset that natural law comes from a higher authority. It is transcendent to man, and no man is exceptional to it. The Christian libertarian takes the particular position that natural law was created by the God of the Bible, and that natural law will always stand in concordance with Biblical revelation. This stands in stark contrast to the typical conservative stance that is perfectly fine with giving special moral privilege to American leaders for various purposes regardless of what natural law or the Bible says.

Loesch moves on to war and peace, quoting my article once again:

It is truly unfortunate that modern American churches seem to think the state’s means of “spreading democracy” through aggressive war is more important than spreading the peaceful message of the Gospel of Christ. Jesus came to bring “peace on earth, good will to men,” and by extension the Christian’s goal ought to be the same. [Horn]

This passage presupposes that every conflict in which the United States has ever engaged is due to the United States’s frat boy aggression and need to sow its seed of democracy by force.

No, it does not make such a presupposition, but it does imply that I think the litany of recent wars is completely evil. Such an implication would be correct, in fact. Reader, if you are curious about the effects of American interventionism over time, perhaps you should peruse this article on the Middle East. George W. Bush eventually even admitted that the point of the Second Iraq War was to bring democracy to the Middle East, after the lies about WMDs and such were fully abandoned and they needed a new excuse to continue the violence.

Lest you think I spoke too quickly about the American churches at large – and I mean this in the general sense rather than every church everywhere in America – how many Christians noticed when the Department of State released its report saying that there are no more churches in Afghanistan? How many who did notice thought that this just might be related to American interventionism in Afghanistan for the past 10 years? Christians are typically fine with praying for their military members (I get that), but rarely, if ever, do you hear prayers on the behalf of the innocent people whom their military members directly affect. Where are their priorities?

One year after the Civil War was over, Church of Christ luminary David Lipscomb said: “Why is it that we see men willing to sacrifice property, the comforts of home, the sweets of the domestic and family relationship, undergo privations and sorrows, suffer hunger, and cold, and nakedness, and want for long and weary years, and freely give up life itself at the bidding of earthly rulers and for the sake of corrupt and perishing human kingdoms, while so few are willing to undergo the slightest inconvenience or suffer the least self-denial for the heavenly and eternal kingdom?” Yes, why is it?

Furthermore, it’s odd to me that a follower of limited government would advocate for a state-endorsed religion as a way of nation building, supplanting the previous logical fallacy.

How Loesch discerned from my writings that I support some sort of state-endorsed religious means of nation-building I will never know. Libertarians don’t endorse nation-building by governments at all. If anything, we are interested in spreading our values via peaceful interaction, never through force. Quite a “Christian” thought, I might add.

This author quotes Paul more than the Bible, which tells me everything I need to know about this piece. Ron Paul is not God.

This is potentially the worst accusation in Loesch’s post. Honestly, I do not feel as though I even have to answer it, because the quality of the statement is so poor and the accusation so ridiculous that it should be obvious how wrong it is. I will, however, make one note. When the Washington Post asked me to write an article for them, they requested 600 to 800 words on why some Christians embrace libertarianism and how Ron Paul fits into that. I cannot cover all topics nor can I quote everything I might want. I gave it a good shot, and even so my article ended up being just over 850 words. Loesch, you need to stop reading into my article too much, and trying to make me say things I have never said.

What is truly unfortunate is that by making the universal straw man that “modern American churches seem to think,” i.e. all churches, the author betrays a (conscious or subconscious) prejudice against churches based on his own presupposition.

Whoops, Loesch continues her uncharitable and fallacious reading! She completely misses the mark here, and if she had done her homework she would have probably realized that I love the church and, as I mentioned, even work part-time for one. In fact, I have frequently chided Christians who think that they can just get along without the fellowship of other Christians or who criticize all organized religion. Also, I love how she can read into my subconscious. That’s just outstanding.

Horn misses a huge part of Christ’s work, exemplified in Matthew 10:34:

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Generally, you need to do something called “exegesis” to understand the meaning of a passage like this. You cannot just proof-text Matthew 10:34 to refute the peace-loving nature of Jesus and that pesky “blessed are the peacemakers” passage. Or perhaps you should also call your mother, father, and siblings regularly just to say you have turned against them? (See the next verse, Matthew 10:35.) Moreover, how does one extend this idea that Jesus knew conflict was coming spiritually between people into something akin to “peace between nations is a bad thing”?

I get that Horn wants to promote his stylized version of Biblical interpretation, but he should realize that Ron Paul’s words carry no weight compared to Christ’s, and he perhaps should study the Word of God more than Paul’s words, especially those newsletters.

Again, this statement is so off-center it is barely worthy of response. Besides the blatant insult regarding the newsletters, again she accuses me of elevating Ron Paul to god-status. Loesch, did you not realize I have a theology graduate degree from a reputable, theologically-conservative seminary? Of course not, because you didn’t do your homework. I don’t do “stylized interpretation,” Dana, I do scholarship. If you want to argue with me like scholars do then go right ahead if you can, but leave the needlessly incendiary comments at home.

There’s also this third graph:

Thus, Christian libertarians think that government power should be limited, sound money and truly free markets should return, aggressive war must cease and civil liberties must be preserved.

Scratch “libertarian” from this, it’s something every Christian I know believes, but how does Horn think our rights are secured? By lying prostrate before our enemies when they attack?

“Occasionally the tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants.”
― Thomas Jefferson

Does that make our Founding Fathers that misused and abused term: “neocons?”

I highly doubt that every Christian Loesch knows truly believes in these principles. I doubt even Loesch agrees with the principle of sound money based on her earlier remarks. Besides, I would guess that the conservatives she knows thinks “limited” government means whatever Republicans want to do, like initiate unconstitutional wars, bailout entire industries, control education of children, and sponsor massive government healthcare programs. I would highly suspect she also knows plenty of Christian warmongers, who think all the aggressive wars of recent years are justifiable, and plenty of Christians who think personal lives ought to be regulated by the government in multitudinous ways. Unlike “conservatives,” libertarians actually care about limiting all government power, not just the power of Democrats.

Then, once again, she completely misrepresents what I said in my article. Never did I argue against using self-defense, but suddenly Loesch apparently thinks I am a complete pacifist (or something similar) who will not defend the rights of others. How ridiculous! If she is perhaps more innocently just indicating I did not say enough, well, there are editorial limits to what you can do with 800 words.

I disagree with the hyphenated way that Horn presents his religious discipline: Christian is Christian. There is no “libertarian Christian,” such division is expressly protested throughout the Gospel, especially in Paul’s address to the Ephesians which addresses division in the body of Christ. There is no need to self-segregate and doing so shows a lack of knowledge in the face of Christ who Himself and through his disciples preached unity.

We now arrive at what seems to be central point of the article. It relates to the title of the post as well, which is: “A Bad Way to Argue for Libertarian-Christianity.” Apparently, what seems to offend Loesch the most is that I would dare argue at all that Christianity and libertarianism are compatible. Doing so, she says, is hyphenating the faith. First off, this is a complete misreading of my article. Never did I say I was arguing for some “libertarian-form-of-Christianity.” Never have I done this on LibertarianChristians.com. On the contrary, any reader of this site can see through the long history of writing that I have always argued for being Christian first, such as this short blog post.

My goal is to get Christians to reconsider their political philosophy, because as far as I can see the modern American church (general sense) tends to elevate statism above principle. Learning better principles tends to lead Christians to embrace a more libertarian political philosophy; it’s a perfectly natural result. It is not, as C.S. Lewis warned us, injecting a “Christianity and…” problem into our theology, it is a consistent way of viewing natural law and behaving accordingly.

Statism is not only a miserable failure, but also fraught with moral hazard and prone to commit atrocities beyond imagination. Instead, let us heed the words of Frederic Bastiat: “And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgment of faith in God and His works.”

To conclude, I return to the beginning of Loesch’s article:

Can a Christian be a libertarian? A column with some questionable logic that prevents the piece from being truly thought-provoking. A few things: …

Does anyone else find it funny that the only complete sentence in the first paragraph is the title of my original article? More importantly, how is it that Loesch accuses my article of “questionable logic” when her own work is fraught with mischaracterizations, insults, and straw-man arguments? If this is representative of the quality of her BigJournalism site, then count me out.

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Dr. Norman Horn

Norman founded LibertarianChristians.com and the Libertarian Christian Institute, and currently serves as its President and Editor-in-Chief. He holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from the Austin Graduate School of Theology. He currently is a Postdoctoral researcher in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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