Book review of Disciple of Liberty: Seven Priorities of a Christian Patriot by Jason Rink. The Liberty Voice: Ohio. 145 pages. Retail: $14.95.
In the world of literature on liberty, books fall into three distinct categories. First are the books for experts scholars, deeper works that address high level concepts, social or economic theory, and philosophical ideas. Next are the books for the informed reader, those that have a working knowledge of libertarian ideas and seek to improve one’s understanding of the philosophy of liberty. Finally, there are books for those just starting their journey in liberty, those who have little knowledge of economics or libertarian theory. Jason Rink’s Disciple of Liberty falls into the latter category, and it fills a particularly useful void in libertarian literature: an easily accessible explication of liberty to the Christian newcomer, from the Tea Party proponent to the disillusioned conservative or liberal.
Rink’s key point, made very early in the book, is that Christians do not need to wonder if it is appropriate or biblical to get involved in politics to defend liberty. On the contrary, it is good and right to become informed and take a stand for what is just, good, and right, we ought to get involved in some way. One cannot simply look at Romans 13 and say that “obeying the powers that be” is all we should do. For those “on the fence,” Rink says to get on board.
But Rink does not simply tell us “just do something, anything!” without a care for what we stand for. “Just get out and vote!” is not a compelling message at all. Rather, he takes the minarchist, constitutionalist position, and defends it wholeheartedly. Rink identifies seven priority areas to which Christians should pay special attention:
- Define the limits of authority – The government cannot, and should not, have unlimited power. Limits must be clear and precise.
- Demand fidelity to the Constitution – The limits of authority for the United States Federal Government are found in the Constitution, period. We should continually demand that representatives follow it.
- Defend liberty for all people – If we expect to have liberty, we need to defend liberty even for people with whom we disagree with their choices. This is a difficult, yet absolutely essential element part of our way of life. Rink quotes Thomas Paine:
“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”
- Despise debt – We know that individually we cannot spend more than we make; it is unsustainable and irresponsible. The same should be true of the government. No more can they be allowed to spend like a drunken sailor. And this isn’t even about welfare programs either, which account for a small fraction of total government spending. Rather, we must oppose spending on everything that is unconstitutional, from the FCC to the military-industrial complex.
- Demand honest money – The US Federal Reserve and it’s fiat monetary system is fraudulent, backed by nothing but empty promises. A return to the gold standard should be at the top of our priorities, for it is the ultimate check against runaway spending by the State.
- Desire peace with all nations – A Christian is called to love his enemies, not bomb them. We need to understand the history of our current wars in the Middle East and demand that the government cease interventionism.
- Disciple others in liberty – It is time to get involved in the fight for freedom, and we all can play an important role.
Disciple of Liberty has many commendable strengths. The book’s length, about 100 pages long plus reprints of the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, is very appropriate for a reader who is not ready to tackle a tome about libertarianism quite yet. It is fast paced and lively, yet gently brings the reader to see from a different point of view. The seven principles he outlines are really good, all are worth understanding in detail. Striking a balance between length and depth of material is quite a challenge. Overall, Jason Rink has put together an interesting and useful book that can help Christian newcomers to libertarian thinking grasp some fundamental ideas about liberty.
However, there are a few things in the book (or not in the book) that I don’t like. For one thing, the sources and bibliography are surprisingly short. A bit more along the lines of what to read next would have been nice. If I may be so bold, I’d recommend Rothbard’s For a New Liberty and Ron Paul’s Revolution: A Manifesto (which, I should note, was mentioned in the Bibliography).
Another minor point of contention I have with the book is its interpretation of Romans 13, but it is an admittedly debatable topic. Of course, Rink easily disproves the “you just have to obey the government” line that so many evangelicals take. He take’s Chuck Baldwin’s approach, which emphasizes that our contemporary “powers that be” are the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, whereas my own approach is quite a bit different. Detailed exegesis, though, is difficult to distill when you are trying to reign in the length of a book, so it is understandable. But following on this point, overall I have certain doubts about making Constitutionalism our prime directive. Personally, I see the Constitution as a bludgeon or mirror, something we can use to say the Federal Government is so terrible that it does not even follow its own rules and never has. We need to remind people that government is aggression, and that our “resistance” against aggression is to expose such truth without apology. Now, Jason does mention each of these things in the book, so this is just the hard-core anarcho-capitalist in me talking. In no way am I downplaying Jason’s work.
As a personal friend of Jason now, I can honestly say that I am very proud of what he’s done despite my reservations on a few points. This is a great book for liberals, conservatives, or Tea Party supporters, who are all in need of some perspective about what liberty should mean to us. I think that it would be great to give to your Christian parents, relatives, or friends who are fed up with the Federal Government and are looking for an alternative. I encourage you to use Disciple of Liberty to strengthen your own resolve and plant new seeds of liberty in Christian hearts.