This guest post is by Jeremy Mack of The Evangelical Libertarian. Though I do not necessarily agree with everything in the post, it is especially timely given the current political climate of the United States and it should be well-taken.…
If you missed Jeff Wright’s recent guest post, go read it now. Jeff has written a must-read essay on the spiritual effects of political engagement. He engages the danger in thoughtlessly using the word “we” in political conversations and identifies the often damaging “us versus them” mentality in the world of politics. He naturally connects what it means to be Christian and libertarian.
I want to follow-up his essay with a few of my own thoughts regarding spiritual formation. In recent years I have been influenced by Christian contemplatives who have connected with God on a formative level through the spiritual disciplines (e.g. prayer, fasting, meditation). One of the recurring themes within contemplative Christianity is what Richard Rohr calls growing into non-dual thinking. That is, treating life’s complexities in more than binary ways. Asking the question, “Is this good or bad?” is only helpful in the early stages of spiritual formation. The question itself is trapped in legalism. Non-dual thinking means evaluating a solution to a problem by considering how our psyche, our soul, our hearts are affected by such a solution. One way to put it is, “What is this doing to me/us?” To be sure, the good/bad question is not useless, but it is ill-equipped to respond lastingly to deeply rooted problems. Deeper reflection is required for lifelong spiritual formation, both for individuals and for societies.
The relationship between conservatives and libertarians is sometimes a confrontational one. A reader recently forwarded to me a response to one of my articles critical of conservatism. To paraphrase, simplify, and summarize: “How dare Mr. Vance compare conservative Republicans…
One of the greatest attributes of libertarianism is its focus on the notions of power and control, especially in the hands of the state. Libertarians do not entirely oppose institutions that can justly govern specified areas of responsibility. But when a governing institution takes on a life of its own and dominates those under its purview, we libertarians rally quickly to condemn it. We are known for rejecting top-down, centralized governments because those who hold the reigns nearly always use their status to their own advantage. The concentration of power in the hands of a few is dangerous business. Greed is even more of a problem for those at the top of government than it is for those at the top of private firms, because in politics greed can masquerade as good intentions.
Michael Hardin, a theologian friend of mine, wrote an article outlining the dangers of power due to a misunderstanding of the kind of power God favors. “‘Power’ is one of those slippery words that gets tossed to an fro without examination,” he writes. Hardin, as an expert in Rene Girard’s mimetic theory, is well-equipped to write about how the New Testament deals with power dynamics. Hardin addresses how Charismatic Christianity understands the notion of power, his remarks will seem familiar to libertarians and will parallel our observations about the State.
This guest post is by Jeff Wright.
Political engagement shapes us. It forms us. Politics affect, not just our thoughts, but the inclinations of our heart. Political engagement is a type of spiritual formation.
I mean “politics” in the common sense as when someone says, “I hate politics.” “I enjoy watching my political shows on Sunday mornings.” “My grandfather and I always talk politics when we get together.” Politics, generally speaking, is that which deals with government, public policy, and things that affect the community as a whole.
Since most of us are not elected officials, politics is a spectator sport. It’s something we hear about in the news, listen to talk-show hosts discuss, or pay attention to when it’s time to vote for a president every four years. Political engagement is typically a passive affair. We pay attention to the more important issues of the day, form some sort of opinion on the matter, and hope that our side prevails.