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Jul
09

The Cult of Statism

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This guest post is by Rev. Donald Ehrke. He is a Libertarian, a former GOP campaign manager, and ordained minister living in Alexandria, Virginia. Many thanks to Donald for his excellent work! For guest post opportunities, please use the LCC Contact Page.

“You have heard that is was said… But I tell you…” (Matthew 5: 21-22).  When reading the New Testament, it is helpful to recall that Jesus was a transformational teacher – people were astounded by what he said and did.  The Sermon on the Mount is itself a collection of challenges to assumed beliefs – “You have heard…But I tell you…”  An encounter with the Pharisees further demonstrates Jesus’ willingness to confront assumptions.  Seeing Jesus eat with Matthew and his friends the Pharisees asked His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Overhearing the question, Jesus responded, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9: 11-12). To the modern reader, Jesus’ response is noteworthy but not remarkable.  His answer demonstrates God’s desire to call the lost to salvation; the self-assured and self-righteous have (they believe) little need for mercy.  This insight offers the foundation of Law and Gospel preaching.  Jesus’ words, however, may not be astonishing to today’s Christian because we have grown accustomed to the analogy of Jesus as the “Great Physician.”

In their day, however, the Pharisees would have interpreted Jesus’ words according to Old Testament Law; their education would have alerted them to the meaning of His response. As Old Testament experts the Pharisees would recall Deuteronomy 32: 39, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.”  While in Capernaum, Jesus had cured people, He had forgiven sins, and now He claimed to be the physician who healed.  The Pharisees would have recognized that Jesus was claiming the authority of God.

Christians, naturally, accept God’s authority.  We recognize that He – as Creator – has the right to produce or extinguish life; God may grant or withhold healing according to His will.  Trusting in His divine will, we both offer God our prayers and accept His response.  Jesus remains the Great Physician.

Mankind, nevertheless, often seeks to usurp God’s authority.  The first sin, in fact, was premised on the pledge that eating the forbidden fruit one would make one “like God” (Genesis 3: 5). Mankind’s desire to be God was acted upon again when Cain killed Abel – man demonstrated that he, like God, could end life.  In truth, the Old Testament has many examples of mankind trying to be a god – the Tower of Babel, Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image, the construction of the Golden Calf – are only a few instances of man’s proud attempts to usurp God’s authority.

Today, cults may best represent mankind’s attempt to be a god.  Rather than preaching of freedom from sin and salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, cults teach control.  Cults must control believers to seize godlike authority.  Cult members have exclusive, intimate relationships with one another because, they are told, these are the only people one can trust.  In this manner, members become isolated and dependent upon the cult.  Cult members are commanded to rely on the cult’s leader, even when he or she isn’t personally obeying cult rules.  More, charismatic leaders develop a “cult of personality” and twist God’s word to encourage it.  Leaders brainwash cult members into supposing that the cult is unique and that it possesses a special, elite mission.  The individuality of cult members is crushed, their wealth stolen, and their thoughts controlled all to the glory of the group and its leadership.  Loyalty is not requested, it is demanded.

Christians should be cognizant of any human attempt to steal God’s authority.  We must challenge – as Christ did – those who twist God’s word in order to promote themselves.  We have been warned that these “anti-Christs” would appear in the church (2 Thessalonians 2: 4, 1 John 2: 18) and we should assume that many have emerged.

Likewise, the secular world owns its version of the cult and its presence deserves our attention and challenge.  Statists share the goal of cultists – control.  Statists and cultists create dependency.  Statists and cultists promote “group think” and demonize non-conformists.  Statists and cultists glorify their leaders.  Statists and cultists preach exceptionalism.  Statists and cultists employ intimidation to extract obedience.  The tactics employed by statists and cultists so closely resemble one another that they are often indistinguishable.

Statists also seek to usurp the authority of God by mirroring His attributes.  God is omniscient; the statist supports state surveillance – they must know what we’re reading, writing, or speaking.  God is omnipresent; the statist wants to enter our home to tell us what light bulb to use and into our schools to tell us what to serve for lunch.  God is beneficent; the statist wants all good things to come from the state (healthcare, welfare, jobs, etc.).  God is omnipotent; the statist desires unlimited central authority.  God is sovereign; the statist wishes to commit aggression against his fellow man.  The statist wishes that the state, not God, was our refuge.

Occasionally people will ask whether a Christian can be libertarian.  They may question whether a Christian can place his or her Bible on their library bookshelf next to “Atlas Shrugged” (see The Soul of Atlas for more on that).   Fellow Christians attempt to discern whether free markets and free thinking are inherently incompatible with Christian theology.  

An alternate question is to ask whether a Christian could be anything but libertarian.  This response will be received as conceited and close-minded, so one would not normally apply it.  Nevertheless, freedom and Christianity are undeniably connected.  We are uniquely positioned to understand how limits to Christian freedom and God’s authority to liberate us from sin are threatened by cultist thinking.  Christians know what an “anti-Christ” looks like – we can detect counterfeit saviors.

Our unique position also affords us the opportunity to better detect statist philosophy and activity.  While many citizens unwittingly support statist schemes under the guise of “progressivism” or “conservatism” the libertarian Christian recognizes counterfeit liberty when he or she sees it.

Jesus preached a transformational message that challenged Pharisaical authority.  He challenged – at great risk – the presumptions of mankind.  Libertarian Christians can be encouraged by His example.  Both our churches and communities can be transformed.  Perhaps we can begin by professing that God is God and that God set man free.

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LI-07-Hobby-LobbyIn September 2012, the privately held retail store Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit against the US federal government regarding new regulations in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requiring that employer insurance cover emergency contraceptives. They argue that they have a First Amendment right not to follow such a regulation.

While this is indeed case with respect to the US Constitution, the libertarian case against such mandates covers more fundamental ground than just religious expression. It is also more comprehensive because it addresses the core of the issue: government intervention in business and in personal lives.

You can read article after article about the whole issue, and I do not want to rehash everything because it would be a waste of your time. Still, what can a Christian libertarian say about this issue? To break through the confusion and state the case quickly and succinctly, this is the plumbline libertarian position on Hobby Lobby and these health care mandates:

  1. All interventionism in health care by the state is bad.* The ACA, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. should all be repealed and shut down permanently.
  2. All interventionism in business by the state is bad.* The government’s job, if it ought to have a job at all, is not “consumer protection” or “ensuring fair play” but rather protecting individual rights. The regulatory, bureaucratic state is a monstrous evil.
  3. Hobby Lobby is within its rights to put forward terms of employment however they wish. Employment by an employer is voluntary, and employees can choose voluntarily to accept the terms or not.
  4. Hobby Lobby ought to win their lawsuit against the US federal government. The government is the aggressor here, and should get out of the way.

* Note: A rights violation committed by a health care provider or other business is still a rights violation and is treated as such. Clearly, suggesting interventionism is bad does not mean that rights violations are ignored.

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Feb
13

The System Built on Greed

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Guest post by C. Jay Engel of the Reformed Libertarian.

The anti-free market proclamations from the left (and even sometimes the right) come in all shapes and sizes.  Among the more common of these proclamations is the one that I heard yesterday.  As far as I can remember, this is what was said by the individual (to her friend) next to me.  “Capitalism is problematic because it is an entire system based on greed.  If we want a healthy society, we should not seek to adopt such a system.  We need a system that is based on cooperation and love.”  That capitalism is a system built on greed is a claim that is often heard and the theme has been pushed at every level of society; from the politicians, the educators, the commentators, the media, and the average Joe.

It is immediately clear that there is a dichotomy here between cooperation and capitalism, a dichotomy that should immediately raise the red flags of the libertarian.  After all, aren’t we always saying that the economy is most ethical when it is completely voluntary?  And does not voluntary interaction and exchange form the basis for capitalism?  The problem sits in the misunderstanding of the very nature of (free market) capitalism.  This capitalism is not the same as the fascist system we have today.  The American system of corporatism, that has largely existed since the nineteenth century, should never be confused with the free market.

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Friday Challenge: Spot the theological problem

It’s Friday, let’s play a game! Today’s challenge is to spot the theological problem in this song:

Okay, I’ll give you the lyrics just to help out…

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
And we’ll all stay free

Praise the Lord and swing into position
Can’t afford to be a politician
Praise the Lord, we’re all between perdition
And the deep blue sea

Yes the sky pilot said it
Ya gotta give him credit
For a sonofagun of a gunner was he

Shouting Praise the Lord, we’re on a mighty mission
All aboard, we ain’t a-goin’ fishin’
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
And we’ll all stay free

Tell us what you think in the comments!

Categories : Media
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This guest post is by David Theroux, Founder and President of the Independent Institute. This two-part series (see part 1) was originally published on Patheos and is reprinted with David’s permission.

Phil Robertson himself is certainly no lightweight. The Los Angeles Times has called him “a man of legendary individuality, who once passed up an opportunity to sign with the NFL because it might interfere with his hunting.” One of seven children raised in a log cabin in northern Louisiana with no electricity, bathtub, or toilet, Robertson grew up in a poor family living off garden fruits and vegetables; deer, squirrels, fish, and other animals that they hunted and fished; and the pigs, chickens, and cattle that they raised. Nevertheless, in high school he became All-State in football, baseball, and track and received a football scholarship to Louisiana Tech University. At Tech, later football legend Terry Bradshaw was at the time benched as second-string to Robertson, who was star quarterback. And although Robertson chose to quit football in college for the freedom to hunt during duck season, he went on to receive a master’s degree in education, taught school, and became a commercial fisherman. In 1972, the young enterprising Robertson patented his first duck call and created the Duck Commander Company, which has been leveraged into today’s vast fortune and cultural phenomenon that includes Duck Dynasty. His autobiography Happy, Happy, Happy became a number one New York Times bestseller, and his new book for 2014, Phil-osophy, will share his philosophy of life, as he outlined in an interview before the release of his autobiography:

My message is to get human beings to love God, love their neighbor and for the life of me I just don’t see the downside of human beings not being so mean to one another and actually care for one another and not steal from one another and not murder each other for their tennis shoes. That’s the message I have. . . . America and the world, we have a love problem. I’m trying to get people aware of that. A loving person is not going to pick up a spear or a knife because when the Ten Commandments were written it was before guns, and God was saying, “Look, quit murdering each other.” Now I’m just trying to say, “Folks, let’s try to love one another no matter what the color of their skin.”

Indeed, Robertson and the family have repeatedly written, spoken, and preached against racism, and Phil’s adopted grandson Will is biracial. Read More→

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