Tuesday, February 2, 2016
LIBERTARIAN PARTY: PRO-CHOICE ON EVERYTHING proclaims the banner in the picture at the top of Bruce Ashford’s column on "The (Religious) Problem with Libertarianism. The site on which it appears is “a project of the ethics and religious liberty commission” of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Ashford is a professor at an SBC seminary, so we’re talking major-league respectable here. His point is, of course, that that banner says all that needs to be said about libertarianism: the average evangelical equates “pro choice” with “anti-life,” so libertarianism is therefore anti life. His confusion, innocent or otherwise, is such that he never uses the word libertinism in the column, so it is obvious that does not know the difference between libertarianism and libertinism.
Embedded in the fine print is the note that it is only “some libertarians” who believe that “taking the life of unborn babies is wrong,” but by that point the damage has been done. In earlier sentences, Ashford strongly implies that libertarianism is the belief in “removing every possible restriction,” that “What I want must reign supreme,” and that it “deifies freedom, giving it a sort of autonomy that God alone should have.”
This follows another well-respected evangelical leader’s declaration in a public forum, “I am a libertarian at heart.” As I had only ever heard him call himself conservative, I was tempted to be pleasantly surprised until he went on to say, “I want what I want when I want it.”
Seriously? You know at least two libertarians who are in positions of responsibility in their respective churches, you attended a seminary founded by a libertarian, and this is what you think we believe?
(I have heard that Ashford has confessed to doing little research before writing his column, but I don’t expect ever to see anything resembling a public retraction or even correction or clarification. Nor would I expect any kind of public retraction or correction from the latter leader.)
Let’s get this straight (again), beginning with perhaps the best aspect of Ashford’s article, his quote from the conservative Karl Hess, who defines libertarianism as
the view that each man is the absolute owner of his life, to use and dispose of as he sees fit; that all social actions should be voluntary; and respect for every other man’s similar and equal ownership of life and, by extension, property and fruits of that life, is the ethical basis of a humane and open society. In this view, the only function of law or government is to provide the sort of self-defense against violence that an individual, if he were powerful enough, would provide for himself. (The Concise Conservative Encyclopedia)
To which I say, “And the problem is … ?”
Well, OK, Christians will have trouble with the first relative clause because we know that we and all we own ultimately belong to God. But since not every conservative would qualify for membership in an evangelical church and so evangelical conservatives have to make adjustments to their conservatism if they are to conform it to their faith (assuming that they are not actually conforming their faith to fit their conservatism), I have no problem saying that a libertarian evangelical is within his rights to swap out the idea of self-ownership, which is clearly not biblical, and swap in the idea of stewardship, which clearly is.
Further, if we are not to judge our fellow servants because that is God’s prerogative (“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” [Rom 14:4]), it follows that I am to treat those things over which God has made you steward as though they were your property. I am not to expropriate them even if I think I have some morally better use for them, whether I’m Donald Trump taking them to “make America great again” or Bernie Sanders taking them to be “compassionate.”
If words mean anything at all, the pledge of the same Libertarian Party that is “pro-choice on everything” – “I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals” – is the exact opposite of “removing every possible restriction,” and “What I want must reign supreme.”
Evangelical libertarians have the same job of educating secularist libertarians that the unborn are human that libertarian evangelicals have of educating statist evangelicals that libertarianism is not libertinism.
Perhaps we can begin with the second-best part of Ashford’s article, a quote from Abraham Kuyper, the father of Progressive evangelicalism and no friend of libertarianism: “Can it be denied that the centralizing State grows more and more into a gigantic monster over against which every citizen is finally powerless?”
Those evangelicals never consider that maybe they are the libertines, taxing libertarian home educators to support godless public schools that have succeeded in wooing the young away from the church, taxing libertarians who save for their own retirement to support those who don’t, taxing peace-loving libertarians to fight useless wars abroad and at home that not only do not accomplish their stated military goals but kill, maim, and dispossess the innocent by the thousands and millions, shrugging off the carnage and denying responsibility because, after all, they didn’t make the laws.
Freedom to do as one sees fit to one’s neighbor without taking responsibility. If that isn’t libertinism, what is?