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…
Christians throughout the centuries have always communicated the good news of the Kingdom of God in the vernacular of their surrounding culture. They have engaged those around them by making use of their culture’s shared experiences so that the gospel is heard in a way they will understand. To be effective means to infiltrate and influence society so that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Those who communicate the gospel effectively are agents of change in the world. One of the challenges for Christians is to avoid letting a culture’s influence dilute the message of the Kingdom of God so as to become ineffective or irrelevant.
The constantly evolving nature of cultures and the inescapable reality of a global pluralist society have become major challenges to the Church in the West, and to Protestantism in particular. The past century has witnessed an unprecedented rate in the change of cultural motifs and the increasing accessibility to these diverse cultures from the foreigner. In centuries past only the wealthy could explore the far regions of the world. Today even the poor can spend a few hours on the Internet to glimpse a foreign cultural experience.
To meet the challenges of a changing global community, a new generation of Christians are diverging from the standard political, social, and theological views they inherited. Although this movement involves the global Christian Church, my experience has been largely within the evangelical community, a relatively recent phenomenon within Christianity’s twenty-century lifespan. Cultural shifts are always a mixed bag, but it is prudent to notice the promise such shifts provide as well as the challenges.
When progressives emphasize social justice by using collectivist phrases like “common good” and “caring for our neighbor,” the typical reaction of libertarians is to focus on their wrongheaded policies and methodology. But libertarians who call themselves followers of Jesus can greatly benefit by understanding an important aspect of the gospel. If the good news of Jesus Christ is sufficient for personal transformation, it is sufficient for social transformation as well. But progressives fail to produce workable and ethical social reform, whereas libertarians offer ideas that are not only compatible with social justice efforts, they offer an ethical social framework within which to produce it.
You do not have to smoke marijuana, inject heroin, or understand The Wire to realize that the War on Drugs is unconstitutional and immoral. Indeed, the drug war is anathema to individual liberty, and the thinking Christian should reject it on every level.
Occasionally, there are even thinking Christians in office like Ron Paul, or my friend in the Texas House Representative David Simpson (keynote speaker at the first Christians for Liberty Conference last August). Yesterday, Rep. Simpson introduced legislation (HB 2165) that will completely decriminalize marijuana and make it the equivalent of “tomatoes, jalapenos, or coffee” in the eyes of the law.
There came out of the woodwork after George W. Bush’s immoral, unjust, and unnecessary invasion, occupation, and destruction of Iraq certain groups of Christians—many of whom wear cross and flag lapel pins or American flag lapel pins in the shape of a cross.
I have identified them as 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, nuclear Christians, and God and country Christian bumpkins.
With the advent of the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History in 2012 and the movie American Sniper in 2014 — both about Chris Kyle, “deadliest sniper in American history” — there has arisen another class of Christians that many in the previous groups have joined as well: sniper theologians.