Does the term “Christian politics” contradict itself?
As a young man growing up, I was a left-leaning liberal and became even more so when I went to college; my experiences at the University of Pennsylvania solidified my views and pushed me from being a moderate leftist to a zealot saturated in blue.
Then, reality happened. I began working, making money, paying taxes and started to experience real life as a productive adult. That is when the shift happened. I briefly crossed over to the right but have now comfortably settled in the realm of libertarianism, the only political affiliation where its followers do not engage in groupthink and mindlessly follow the platitudes of talking media heads, determined for the masses to accept their bidding regardless of the lunacy of their statements.
My quest to find the “correct” political affiliation centered on my faith. As one tries to submit every arena of their life to fall in line with their core beliefs, the process is inescapable. The question I attempted to rationalize was: What is the “correct” political party for a Christian to follow? The seemingly easy answer was to join the right-wing Republicans, as their unwavering views on such controversial topics as abortion and gay marriage were ironclad. After all, God always intended for his children to draw lines in the sand based only on these two issues (Sarcasm intended).
In response to this question, libertarianism became a leading contender. The philosophy is based on the principle of non-aggression, meaning that people cannot be forced to do or not to do something by anyone or anything for any reason. In his work The Ethics of Liberty, Murray Rothbard quotes the Rev. Elisha Williams in defining natural law, another idea at the core of libertarianism, “As reason tells us, all are born naturally equal, i.e., with an equal right to their persons … and every man having a property in his own person, the labor of his body and the work of his hands are properly his own, to which no one has the right to but himself … Thus every man having a natural right to his own person and his own actions and labor, which we call property … no man can have a right to person or property of another. And if every man has a right to his person and property, he also has a right to defend them …” Well said.
Recognition that every person is born free (an unalienable right) and thus has preordained liberty, prohibits one from walking down the troublesome path of attempting to legislate morality or to impose order based upon what one group of people think is “right” and “wrong.” No action that is not chosen freely should ever be considered moral. Hence, enforced morality and the elevation of secular paradigms are the inevitable shortfalls of all political parties. The party establishes all the things that it stands for and expects its members to fall in line with the prescribed viewpoints, like programmed robots. Each party will invariably attempt to impose on the public the political status quo as it happens to prevail in a society, saturated in covert and implicit moral judgments.
We live in a world where each person has the option to choose the path of light and love, or to choose one of immorality and darkness. Each person has the option to choose, and as God allows us all to freely choose love, He gives us the respect, as his creations, to make the conscious decision. He will eventually judge those who turn away from Him, but that is his decision to make, not ours. It follows then, that any group cannot use their beliefs as a launching pad to impose its will on society “for their own good.” This is a highly dangerous path to take, and in the course of history has cost millions of lives. C.S. Lewis says it best: “Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive … those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make Hell of earth … to be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classified as infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we ‘ought to have known better,’ is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image.”
We also live in a country with a religious bias towards Christianity, where it is generally acceptable to use the faith’s beliefs in order to generate legislation. But let’s think about that for a second and switch the names and players around. What if a Buddhist extremist enacted a law that demanded non-violence in any circumstance, including a madman with a gun pointed at your family? What if an ultraconservative Jew enacted Levitical law and demanded the death of both parties engaged in adultery (Lev 20:10)? What about Hinduism dismantling the beef industry? One would not even need to discuss the reaction of the public if anyone attempted to impose Islamic law on American society. The downfalls of this strategy become apparent when the same principle is applied under a different banner.
Libertarianism allows everyone to live freely as long as you refrain from aggression (violence) and infringing upon another person’s property (including their person). Essentially, the interests of the individual reign supreme and each person is free from the tyranny of the majority. The State submits itself to the consent of the governed.
Herein lies the first problem: There is a very distinct difference between the right to do something and the method in which it is done; therefore someone may choose to engage in immoral activities so long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others. For instance, if you own a piece of land and decide to burn a cross on that land while wearing a pointed white hood, you would have the right to do that but most people would disagree with your methods (To further the point, and for the curious mind, The Ethics of Liberty also discusses the legitimacy of selling children on the open market, based on the parents’ right to their children). Does any rational person even need to argue the lunacy of these ideas?
The second problem: Although libertarianism gives the utmost respect, and therefore the greatest freedom, to the individual, those who are less fortunate would not have any form of a social safety net because to finance said programs would unjustly infringe upon the labor and productivity (income tax) of others. Thus, if you belong to this group, the philosophy dictates that one must dismiss the cries for “equality” in order to respect individuals’ right to their own income. Hence, there is the secular implication that there is no room for compulsory charity, compassion for those less fortunate, and giving of yourself for the sake of others (Of course voluntary acts would be at the discretion of the individual). These concepts are based in love, which forms the foundation of the Christian faith—love entails giving. After all, God so loved that he gave (John 3:16). This concept is not embedded in any secular political ideology, and libertarianism tends to “let the market sort things out” once everyone has been given a fair shot.
Then, one day it finally dawned upon me that the posed question is not meant to be answered because there is no answer. Although many people tend to blindly follow their political party without asking questions, one must eventually realize that politics is a secular creation, inherently flawed, divisive, and serves to elevate a person, or a group of people, at the expense of others. It is rooted in lies and deception and inevitably brings about corruption and moral decay. God and The Word can not, should not, and will not be prostituted to serve political ideology. Fundamentally, political ideology is the exact antithesis of Christianity, which serves to spread the truth to all, and strives to uplift each and every human being not at the expense of others, but in a way so that we may all recognize the supreme providence of our Creator.
Many readers may object with my viewpoints, on the basis that it is the role of any responsible Christian to follow the rules and regulations of the State or government. They point to Christ’s words in Matthew 22 when he said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” The objection may hold weight in some circumstances, but we must also recognize that the State, and those that submitted to it, have accomplished atrocious things throughout history—for instance the democratic election of Adolf Hitler and the legal support of slavery. Let us also not forget that it was the State (Romans) who crucified the greatest man to walk the face of the Earth, a man whose only crime was to declare the truth and bring light into a world of darkness. In a libertarian society, this would not have happened, as it was the violent intrusion onto the personal property of Christ, whom has been glorified in his innocence ever since.
Dr. C.H.E. Sadaphal