Archive for Bible
Yesterday I wrote about the ISFLC panel on 5 reasons Christianity and libertarianism are compatible. Here are 5 more reasons you can be confident that libertarianism is the most consistent expression of Christian political thought.
1. Christianity affirms the libertarian emphasis on private property. The libertarian theory of private property rights is perhaps its most distinguishing feature. Although you cannot find a single narrative that explains such a theory in full, you can find example after example of how private property and self-ownership are central to the kind of world God intended. Even the classic objection of “holding things in common” in the book of Acts assumes private ownership and a voluntary contribution of that property.
2. The God of the Bible consistently sides with those who are oppressed by government. The people of Israel were slaves, called “the least of all peoples”, and yet God specifically chose to rescue them and make them into a blessing for all men. A major narrative of all of Scripture is that it is good news for the least of these, and especially for those oppressed and downtrodden by those in power.
3. The Bible, from beginning to end, depicts the State as an enemy of God and vehicle of evil. The Tower of Babel narrative is our theological origin of the state, Jesus Christ is tempted with power that comes from it, and its final destiny is depicted in Revelation. Nowhere in the Bible is statism and institutionalized aggression given approval.
4. Christianity proclaims that all men are equally bound to the moral law. Everyone is accountable to it in the same way, and no one gets a special pass because they wear a uniform or have the privilege of being called “The Honorable” or “King” or “President” before stating their name. If anything, those with power are judged more strictly, and God does not take “I did evil so I could do good” for an answer.
5. Christianity recognizes that you cannot make people moral through the institutionalization of force. As Ron Paul has said, “The law cannot make a wicked person virtuous… God’s grace alone can accomplish such a thing.” The Christian way of life is not wielding power over others so they conform, but rather displaying even greater power through service that shows God’s love. We call that wielding power under and we believe this is the way God himself works with us.
In conclusion, consider these words from Jacques Ellul:
But why freedom? If we accept that God is love, and that it is human beings who are to respond to this love, the explanation is simple. Love cannot be forced, ordered, or made obligatory. It is necessarily free. If God liberates, it is because he expects and hopes that we will come to know him and love him. He cannot lead us to do so by terrorizing us.
So, can a Christian be a libertarian? Of course! Libertarianism is, in fact, the best political position a Christian can take. Christian libertarianism is not about voting just the right way or explaining every jot of public policy, but rather about fundamentally changing our view of power and the institutions that wield it.
What is the most compelling reason for you? What would help you to understand the intersection of Christianity and libertarianism even more? Let us know in the comments, and help LCC out by sharing this article wherever you can.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV 1984):
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the coming of Christ. He already had done so in chapter 7, speaking of the Christ-child as a sign, born of a virgin. Instead of a sign in chapter 9, however, we see the child coming as a gift of grace.
Some people seem to interpret the next phrase as a kind of theocratic proclamation. On the one hand, such a view is not altogether wrong. Christ is indeed Lord of all, and even now we ought to echo that classic mantra, “No King but King Jesus.” However, the “government [being] on his shoulders” is not some sort of “Jesus takes control of the state” like Atlas bearing the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Rather, the insignia of kingly office at the time of Isaiah was placed on the shoulders, and, thus, declares the kingly nature of the coming Christ-child.
Still, what kind of king is he? What we understand from Jesus saying that his kingdom is “not of this world” should cause us to reinterpret this passage as prophesying the coming of the Kingdom of God itself – God’s active work in the world that he calls us to join. The rest of verses 6 and 7 show the character of that kingdom-work.
The four names he shall be called ought to frame our thinking, since naming in the Bible is intended to be character-driven. All of the names describe Jesus, of course, but I would speculate that the first three could also be interpreted as allusions to the Trinity. “Counselor” names the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,26), “Everlasting Father” obviously names the Father, and “Mighty God” intends to reference Jesus. Perhaps “Mighty God” is significant for two reasons. First, it demands accession to Jesus being fully divine yet fully man. Second, it declares the entirety of his work as mighty. Why is it mighty? True power is not found in power over others, but power under. Jesus’ power is displayed through his unconditional love and service. This makes him powerful. “Prince of Peace” further describes his work of reconciliation of God and man, and of course reminds us that our joining his work brings us peace and requires us to be of peace as well.
In the coming of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God is “at hand” (Mark 1:15), and Isaiah says that his work, bringing peace, shall see no end. The fulfillment of the throne of David is not in a worldwide empire but in a cross that serves the entire world. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the focal point of the Kingdom work and message. Justice is thusly satisfied, and righteousness is thusly displayed, from that time on and forever.
God the Father, the Lord Almighty, is zealous for his Son and works to accomplish everything. The excitement in the words of this proclamation is palpable, and for me always brings to mind the glorious Messiah oratorio of George Frederic Handel. These two verses foreshadow our Savior’s work, and how different it shall be than any of the earthly kings and kingdoms that Isaiah experienced in his day. While those who desire earthly power shall pass away, Jesus’ incredible Kingdom is established “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.” (Hebrews 7:16) God has graciously called each one of us into this work, giving us dignity and making us mighty as well, when we live in submissive synergy to his call.
This post is written in honor of my grandmother, Frances Horn.
I have been called many things since I began writing in 2003 about the immoral, unjust invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the menacing warfare state, the U.S. evil empire of troops and bases that encircles the globe, the depravity of U.S. foreign policy, and the iniquitous institution of the military.
But whether the designation is traitor, coward, appeaser, anti-American, liberal, leftist, Democrat, un-American, isolationist, hippy, peacenik, Quaker, anti-war weenie, America-hater, brain-dead dope-smoking moron, or limp d**k sorry communist a**hole, it is usually supplemented by pacifist or the more intensive pacifist dog.
At least I am never called a Republican.
Of all the epithets that have been hurled my way, the least offensive is pacifist. After all, pacifists generally frown on rape, theft, assault, destruction of property, and murder—even when they are committed in a U.S. military uniform on foreign soil.
So, am I a pacifist? That all depends on what you mean by pacifist. If the essence of pacifism is opposition to war and the initiation of violence, then I proudly wear the label. However, if pacifism does not include the right of self-defense; that is, if it precludes using violence in defense of violence committed against one’s person or property, then count me out. Like a lot of things, it all hinges on how you define your terms.
I have stated my view of politics here. If you asked me what my overall philosophy or worldview was, I would not say that I was a pacifist. I would say in reply that I am a conservative Christian libertarian.
Contrary to warmongers who wrongly equate the slightest opposition to war with pacifism, libertarians are not necessarily pacifists. As Walter Block writes in the introduction to his book Defending the Undefendable:
Libertarianism does not imply pacifism; it does not forbid the use of violence in defense or even in retaliation against violence. Libertarian philosophy condemns only the initiation of violence—the use of violence against a nonviolent person or his property.
This doesn’t mean that retaliatory violence should be employed, only that its use shouldn’t be condemned. Among the minority of libertarians who would shun the use of retaliatory violence altogether, some would refrain because of some personal motivation. Others, however, would say that it is not only immoral to aggress against the person or property of another but that it is likewise immoral to use violence in defense of violence committed against one’s person or property; that is, they reject even self-defense. These libertarians, I believe, are inconsistent, as Murray Rothbard wrote of Robert LeFevre:
Absolute pacifists who also assert their belief in property rights—such as Mr. Robert LeFevre—are caught in an inescapable inner contradiction: for if a man owns property and yet is denied the right to defend it against attack, then it is clear that a very important aspect of that ownership is being denied to him. To say that someone has the absolute right to a certain property but lacks the right to defend it against attack or invasion is also to say that he does not have total right to that property.
Nevertheless, although LeFevre is inconsistent, “he is far more consistent than socialist-pacifists in his opposition to force, and ranks as a kind of right-wing Tolstoyan.”
Christians are not necessarily pacifists either. This may sound strange to those whose knowledge of Christians is limited to Christian armchair warriors, Christian Coalition moralists, evangelical warvangelicals, Catholic just war theorists, reich-wing Christian nationalists, theocon Values Voters, imperial Christians, Red-State Christian fascists, bloodthirsty Christian conservatives, God and country Christian bumpkins, and other Religious Rightists that have no problem draping the cross of Christ with the American flag. But as I say whenever I speak about Christianity and war:
If there is any group of people that should be opposed to war, torture, militarism, the warfare state, state worship, suppression of civil liberties, an imperial presidency, blind nationalism, government propaganda, and an aggressive foreign policy it is Christians, and especially conservative, evangelical, and fundamentalist Christians who claim to strictly follow the dictates of Scripture and worship the Prince of Peace.
Since aggression, violence, and bloodshed are contrary to the nature of biblical Christianity, it is reasonable to surmise that biblical Christians might be pacifists, depending on how you define the term. Nevertheless, I don’t see “absolute pacifism” prescribed for Christians in the New Testament. Using Block’s statement on libertarianism and pacifism as a model, I would say:
Christianity does not imply pacifism; it does not forbid the use of violence in defense or even in retaliation against violence. Christian philosophy condemns only the initiation of violence—the use of violence against a nonviolent person or his property.
I do see self-defense prescribed for Christians in the New Testament. Three verses in particular come to mind:
Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.
Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? (John 18:10-11)
But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. (Matthew 24:43)
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. (1 Timothy 5:8)
Jesus told Peter to put his sword back in its sheath; he did not tell him to get rid of it.
In Christ’s illustration concerning the goodman of the house, the man takes defensive action to protect his house.
If a man denies the faith by not providing for his own house, then he is certainly worse than an infidel if he just stands there and lets someone kill him since he can’t very well provide for his family if he is dead. And if a man denies the faith by not providing for his own house, then he is certainly even more worse than an infidel if he stands by and lets his family be raped and murdered and his house robbed.
Whether one is a Christian or not, subscribing to the libertarian non-aggression principle clearly makes one an aggression pacifist. As stated by Block:
Libertarianism is a political philosophy. It [is] concerned solely with the proper use of force. Its core premise is that it should be illegal to threaten or initiate violence against a person or his property without his permission; force is justified only in defense or retaliation.
But consistently adhering to the non-aggression principle also makes one a war pacifist. This doesn’t rule out defending one’s country against a legitimate attack or invasion, but it does rule out the use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons because they are inherently immoral. It rules out “good wars.” It rules out U.S. foreign policy for at least the last hundred years. And it also rules out almost everything the U.S. military has ever done.
There is one respect, though, in which I believe Christians should be absolute pacifists. Christians should be, for lack of a better term, theological pacifists; that is, they should suffer for righteousness’ sake without retaliating, as the Apostle Peter says:
For this is thank worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (1 Peter 2:19-21)
And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: (1 Peter 3:13-18)
To be persecuted for Christ’s sake is a badge of honor of far more eternal value than receiving the Medal of Honor for fighting in some unnecessary and unjust foreign war.
So yes, in some respects I am a pacifist. It all depends on how you define your terms.
And God spake all these words, saying,
I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. (Exodus 20:1-17).
Someone asked me what I thought about the Ten Commandments being posted inside or in front of courthouses. My short answer is: what’s the point?, who cares?, and this is much ado about nothing. My long answer is what follows.
Every year or so some atheist sues a school district regarding the constitutionality of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. This most recently occurred in Boston, as I blogged about here:
Supreme Judicial Court will begin hearing arguments this week in case brought by an atheist to strike the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. Go ahead and take it out; it is a lie anyway, as I pointed out here. Better yet, scrap the whole Pledge. Nothing sickens me more than to see a pastor in church lead the congregation in the Pledge. I have seen it in several churches and about threw up in my mouth it was so sickening.
This always manages to get conservatives, and especially conservative Christians, all worked up about absolutely nothing, as I point out in my post and the article of mine that I link to.
Another thing that gets conservatives, and especially conservative Christians, all worked up about absolutely nothing is the denial of permission by the government to post the Ten Commandments in some public place like a courthouse.
Let me first say—for the benefit of those who are new to my writings—that I am an evangelical Christian and deplore the decline of virtue, decency, morality, and religion in the United States that has occurred in my lifetime.
Second, as a Christian, I have no argument with the Ten Commandments or any other part of the Bible.
Third, I think that most of the federal court decisions regarding religion are not only wrong, they showcase the profound ignorance of the Constitution that characterizes most of the federal judiciary. Here are three examples that concern the Ten Commandments.
In Stone v. Graham (1980), the Supreme Court ruled that posting the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms is unconstitutional because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because posting the Ten Commandments “has no secular legislative purpose” and “the preeminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature.” This is rubbish. Posting the Ten Commandments has nothing to do with “an establishment of religion” and is entirely a state matter.
In federal court is a case brought last year by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) against the Connellsville Area School District in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, because of a monument containing the Ten Commandments that has been in front of Connellsville Junior High School since it was donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1957. Atheists are alleging that the monument violates the First Amendment. This is more rubbish. Posting the Ten Commandments has nothing to do with “an establishment of religion” and is entirely a state matter.
And specifically regarding the Ten Commandments in a courthouse, there is the case of Roy Moore, the (former and now again) chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore was removed as chief justice in 2003 because he refused a federal judge’s order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments that he had installed in the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery. A federal court ruled, in the case of Glassroth v. Moore (2002), that the display of the Ten Commandments monument violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. A federal Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in 2003. Again, more rubbish. Posting the Ten Commandments has nothing to do with “an establishment of religion” and is entirely a state matter.
So, if I am a Christian, have no problem with the Ten Commandments, and think the federal District, Appeals, and Supreme Courts are staffed by ignorant buffoons, then why don’t I care about whether the Ten Commandments can be posted in public places?
As I said above: what’s the point?, who cares?, and this is much ado about nothing.
First of all, most of the conservatives who raise such a stink about the Ten Commandments not allowed to be posted in courthouses don’t care a whit about following the Ten Commandments. The last time I checked the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” was still part of the Ten Commandments. Yet, these people are some of the most bloodthirsty warmongers on the planet, and especially the Christian conservatives. They are the warvangelical, red-state fascist, reich-wing nationalist, God and country Christian bumpkins who so idolize the U.S. military. To them “Thou shalt not kill” only applies to an American deliberately murdering an American. Murdering foreigners in their countries is perfectly fine, and especially if they are Muslims. Evidently, a U.S. military uniform covers a multitude of sins.
Second, suppose that the federal government posted the Ten Commandments in every federal courthouse and mandated that all states and counties post the Ten Commandments in their courthouses. That is exactly what most of the above people want, isn’t it? Would posting the Ten Commandments be a sign to the world that America is a godly nation? Would posting the Ten Commandments be a signal to God that America is a Christian nation? Would posting the Ten Commandments mean that America as a nation was honoring God? Would posting the Ten Commandments mean that America as a nation was giving God the glory due his name? Would posting the Ten Commandments mean signify that America was a land of virtue, decency, morality, and religion? Would posting the Ten Commandments mean that justice was actually taking place in U.S. courtrooms? I suspect that the posting of the Ten Commandments in every courthouse would simply deceive dumb, ignorant, easily manipulated, easily deceived God and country Christians into thinking that these things were true.
Third, the U.S. government is an evil monstrosity. Would posting the Ten Commandments make the U.S. government any less evil? Why besmirch God’s Holy Commandments by posting them in some government building? That is the last place they should ever be posted. It’s as bad as putting a chaplain in the global menace that is the U.S. military. Who cares if one of the most despicable governments in the history of the world does or doesn’t post the Ten Commandments in public places, put “In God We Trust” on its money, say “under God” in its Pledge, or hang a crucifix or cross in public buildings?
Fourth, the decline in America of virtue, decency, morality, and religion has nothing to do with the Ten Commandments not being posted in some public place. It is a spiritual problem that is independent of anything the government does or does not so.
Here are fifteen things that would be infinitely more valuable for the federal government to do than to post the Ten Commandments in federal courthouses:
- End the war in Afghanistan and withdraw every single soldier.
- Close all foreign military bases.
- End the drug war.
- Abolish the NSA.
- Repeal CAFE standards.
- Abolish the TSA and return airport security to airports and airlines.
- Lift the Cuban embargo.
- Abolish the Department of Education.
- Sell AMTRAK to the highest bidder.
- Repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
- Eliminate the September 11th security fee on airline tickets.
- End public financing of elections.
- Repeal the Patriot Act.
- Abolish the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.
- End the Army sponsorship of Tony Schumacher’s top fuel dragster.
These are just fifteen things off the top of my head; I could come up with 500 more if I took the time.
Should the Ten Commandments be posted? That all depends. Post them if you choose in your church, synagogue, private school, or home. Just make sure you have permission or it is on your own property. But don’t insist that the Ten Commandments be posted on someone else’s property or petition that they be posted on public property. And above all, don’t get so upset about something that means absolutely nothing.
Originally posted on LewRockwell.com on October 18, 2013.