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Can Christians Be Libertarians?

This guest article is reprinted by permission from Kris Wampler, who writes for the Charlotte Libertarian Examiner.

If a stranger told you he’s an evangelical Christian who believes homosexuality is a sin and that the Holy Bible is the inerrant word of God, which political label would you ascribe to him? Odds are good you’d assume he’s a conservative, because, well, those seem like the calling cards of a right-winger.

On the other hand, if he told you he believes government should get out of marriage (or at least allow gay marriage), decriminalize drugs, and stay out of the morality business, you’d probably assume he was a liberal. Because, well, those seem like the calling cards of a left-winger.

And if the stranger told you he subscribes to both statements above, you might just assume he was severely confused. But is there not a third way?

It’s all too common these days to link political and religious convictions, as if a particular theological worldview necessarily denotes a particular political ideology. If one is a conservative Christian, how could one also be a social liberal? And why in the world would an evangelical advocate the legalization of pot?

I am a conservative Southern Baptist (yes, one of those Baptists). For years, I believed in using government to bring about certain social policies. The change came for me not because I compromised or watered down my religious beliefs, but because I began to appreciate both the Christian doctrine of free will and the destructive nature of government.

Free will is often overlooked by Christians, but is absolutely integral to our faith. Nothing in the Bible justifies the use of force to convert or punish non-Christians. Forget all you know about the Inquisitions and Crusades. Christ said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20 NIV). Note that Jesus did not say He would knock the door down if you don’t open it. The lesson here is that nothing in the Bible supports the notion that force should be used to spread the Gospel.

Besides, if a man is compelled to confess faith in the Lord, then he is acting only out of fear rather than genuine conviction. He may speak one way with his mouth, but feel completely different in his heart. This sort of “faith” is meaningless, and the Christian who accomplished it via force has wasted his time.

Free will also has significant implications for policy questions. On all matters, social and economic, it is simply wrong to use government to compel individuals to behave a particular way. The only obvious exception is if the person’s behavior would violate another’s negative rights. Punishing individuals for acting or not acting a certain way disrespects the innate value of the individual.

The battle between liberals and conservatives only obscures the matter while hampering liberty. The left and right are thought of as polar opposites, when in reality they are ideological cousins. The only difference between the two, for the most part, is the area of society in which they desire to use force. Liberals usually seek to regulate the boardroom, and conservatives often want to control the bedroom. Few realize the inconsistency of letting people love whomever they want while telling them how to spend their money (and vice versa).

Clifford Thies, professor of economics and finance at Shenandoah University, once wrote: “Because we are commanded to love one another, we cannot be morally neutral. But because we respect the limits on our authority, and we trust in God’s plan of salvation, we do not violently intervene into the lives of others.”

He makes a good point. And while the purpose of government should be to protect individual rights, the purpose of church and community is to improve individual lives. Real political freedom is recognizing that everyone owns their own life and destiny, and should be free to do as they please – provided they afford others the same respect.

For this Christian libertarian, that’s a long overdue message.

Make sure to check out the Charlotte Libertarian Examiner and the Christian Libertarian Facebook Group! Please encourage Kris with your comments: how do you view the relationship between libertarianism and Christianity?