Important note: if material of an overtly religious nature and that actively examines Judeo-Christian theology and its role in guiding us ideologically is not of interest to you, this is a good point to stop reading and go about other leisure pursuits. I am a firm believer in the notions that America is a Christian nation, to remain in keeping with Christian doctrine means defending and preserving the rights of others to hold differing religious and spiritual beliefs, and that America is great because America is good. If any of these principles do not hold well with you, you will simply be laughed-at for keying-in on the various professions of faith contained in this essay as opposed to the connections between Christianity and libertarianism I assert exist.
It has been argued on many occasions through the generations that to preserve our country’s Christian heritage and identity we must use the force of government power to remove those components of society which exist in opposition to Christian moral values. Some arguments have not contained such an overtly worded premise while others have been uttered with even stronger language toward those ends.
I disagree with this concept entirely and have come to better understand why we need to steer clear of such legislative or constitutional endeavors in recent years.
In exploring what the true meaning of liberty is in America, what has dawned on me through this period of reflection has become a crucial facet to my conclusions: the importance of God’s second-greatest gift to us.
Obviously, our Lord’s greatest gift to his people on Earth has been His only Son, Jesus Christ: His birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection. His second-greatest gift is the one which has made us uniquely human among all His creations: our free will.
And, it is our free will that serves as the focal point of this discussion. It leads us to one of our most important spiritual questions we must answer as Christians.
What is it about faith in Christ that leads us to salvation?
My answer is that in addition to accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we must also prove that faith through the opportunity to rise above sin.
Which individual is more likely to be a true follower of Christ? Is it the person who lived a life of virtue only as a result of an overreaching central authority, due to their options in life having been legislated away to protect them from temptation?
Or, is it the person who – given the opportunity to hear the Word of God and know Jesus’ teachings – opened their heart to the Son of God of their own volition and sought the rocky, gravel road as their path toward following Him; the person who has every opportunity to give-in to temptation but willfully rejects the false promises which accompany it in pursuit of Christ’s Favor at their eventual time of judgment?
At this point, we need to remember two more undeniable and vitally important truths: first, that our God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, is ultimately a forgiving God; also, that belief in – and acceptance of – Christ as our Lord and Savior is the most important Way into God’s kingdom.
As one who seeks greater understanding of Evangelical Christianity, I enter into this pursuit with an unwavering belief in the loving forgiveness of God.
A vital truth Evangelical Republicans disregard
There is one component of a free people such as Americans which the right wing among love to celebrate when it comes to history – our rebelliousness.
Peculiarly though, such high regard for America’s rebellious nature fizzles in silently rapid fashion when it comes to modern society. And so, many conservatives press forward on social issues in politics, legislation, and governance while deliberately ignoring one key reality.
Rebellion is mankind’s natural social state.
We see this throughout American history and we are witnessing it today.
Look at the ongoing fight against the implementation of the so-called Affordable Health Care Act (whose nickname lately has morphed into “Obamneycare”). Through the peaceful exercise of our First Amendment rights, Americans have been engaged in a rebellion of rhetoric against a socialist legislative maneuver that was enacted despite the fact it was clear the majority of voters in the country did not want it.
We also see it in youth whose parents attempt to take the authoritarian approach further than necessary.
That second example best illustrates my point as it relates to this discussion. With rebellion being humanity’s natural social state, to some degree it is because the Evangelical element among Conservative Republicans have sought so fervently to thrust the Gospel of Jesus Christ into our laws that there has been such a rise in atheism as well as a wider disinterest in Christian values and principles among those who identify themselves as Christians.
It is the inevitable pushback against what amounts to right-wing big government: the thrust to deny us through the law our right to exercise our free will.
It happens with each Republican congressional majority and Republican-controlled White House. And, there is bound to be another round of it when the grand pendulum of voter sentiment finishes swinging back to the GOP’s way.
The conservative contradiction
Of late, much has been made about messages entailing so-called collective salvation. This idea is based on the notion that the individual cannot be saved if the community is not first saved.
This is a concept being gradually promoted by the Establishment Left to further distance us from the truth that salvation is on an individual basis. However, the Left’s approach to this is being made via economic-centered legislation and executive decree.
Conservative commentators have taken some note of this rhetoric and have been rightfully critical of it.
But, there is one problem.
The American Right’s social agenda is operating under the same premises as the Left’s economic agenda: that we cannot be trusted to make decisions and choices for the best interests of society – or rather we cannot be trusted to make the correct decisions and choices.
Among the Republican Party’s Evangelical base, there is a mindset that our laws must be written so as to “protect family values.” This perception of the role of government in our society’s system of values ignores one vital truth:
The laws of God and the laws of man were never meant to be one and the same.
In order to achieve the ends that Evangelical Conservatives insist are what are best for us, it would require Congress to author laws either so broadly written and wide-ranging they bestow to federal authorities frightening leeway to interpret which of our actions would be too immoral under the law or produce a behemoth of legislation that must tackle and specify so many possible personal activities that no one could possibly know whether or not what they’re doing is illegal – that is until one of those statutes was selectively applied to them after the fact.
All in all, what conservatives fail to recognize is that working to use man’s law to steer us all toward following God’s law is merely right-wing collective salvation.
And, if our society is to become one engineered for collective salvation then what need is there for us to seek God’s forgiveness on our own – to seek salvation through the Word of God?
Much like left wing economic safety nets and entitlements kill the motivation to be self-sufficient in our day-to-day lives, right wing morality safety nets will have the unintended consequence of killing the motivation to seek salvation on our own. Why worry about what the Word of God tells us when we have a ready-made authority here on Earth to take care of our moral spiritual needs?
The best path to Christ is the one which is freely chosen – a Free Will Evangelical path.
Where liberty and morality collide: resolving libertarianism and the sacrament of matrimony
While the temptation is compelling (pardon the ironic pun) when writing this essay to devote time to analyze each and every plank regarding individual liberties in the Libertarian platform, for the sake of some measure of concision it makes the most sense to focus on the single most controversial issue which has leapt to the forefront recently.
One of the key arguments against libertarianism in America involves the issue of marriage. The purest of libertarian platforms is that government has no place in overseeing, regulating, or having any kind of hand in the institution of marriage: this is because it is of the most personal nature between two individuals and its origins in society trace directly back to the churches (or other religious places of congregation).
As a result, it can be argued that the requirement to obtain a state-issued marriage license is unconstitutional on the grounds of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Since the “wall of separation between Church and State” as described by Thomas Jefferson meant the true original intent of the First Amendment’s verbiage was to protect the Church and its functions from encroachment by government, the continued practice by the states today to mandate acquisition of a license in order for two individuals to be “legally” married rightfully is beyond their reasonable, constitutional authority.
This leads us to the simple truth that what government defines as a “marriage” in all actuality is a civil union as it entails the signing of a legally binding contract between the two spouses. What makes such a union a Marriage is the understanding they have willingly come together as one life and one unified soul in the presence of God.
Returning to the question of morality, many who oppose the notion of the right of nuptials being opened to couples of the same gender insist this development will put our society on a path toward polygamy and other such marital arrangements.
There lies in this assertion a glaring problem of argumentation, not of spirituality. Any logical argument must follow the pattern that if “A” is connected to “B” and “B” is connected to “C,” then it is true that “A” must lead eventually to “C.”
But, those who insist that same-sex civil unions will lead to polygamy are missing the vital “B” component in their arguments. They’re making the case that “A” (gay marriage) will take us toward “C” (polygamy or worse) – but they’re omitting the all-important “B” connector in their reasoning: what happens after the initial allowance of same-sex unions that precipitates polygamous arrangements?
Still, some libertarian ideological purists would insist if three people willingly agree to an interconnecting marital arrangement that should be their right as well as their private business – and theirs alone.
To set the minds of my fellow Evangelical Christians at ease, I would contend psychological findings through the years have proven such relationship dynamics are doomed to fail in the vast majority of instances when and where they are pursued and will not see proliferation as a result of that alone – even if a legal or constitutional argument for polygamy could be successfully made.
And in all practicality, if we assume multi-spousal marriages remain prohibited, can anyone explain how a situation where a husband and wife simply invite a non-marital third partner into their relationship becomes less immoral or less potentially damaging to the sacrament of matrimony than if they were to engage in a three-way civil union?
Above and beyond the points raised above, right-wing Evangelicals have been deliberately ignoring the most important libertarian point which relates to their system of values and beliefs: that it is your right not only to disagree with the choices made by others but also to express it!
Even more importantly, you enjoy the right and freedom to raise your children to embrace the values and beliefs you (and I) hold so dearly and encourage them to advocate those values to others. That right and authority as parents must never be abridged under any circumstances if we are to remain a truly free society.
You have the right (especially if you are an ordained clergy) to assume the duty and responsibility to preach before those who will lend you their ear what steps necessitate the path toward personal salvation through Christ. We are all free to engage in either the ordained ministry or personal ministry (should entry into the seminary be beyond your means) for the sake of saving others’ souls.
But, they (we) must be allowed to choose to have their (our) souls saved.
By insisting that government assume any semblance of that role in society, are you not advocating that the State serve as a surrogate parent or minister? Is that a role we could ever reasonably or reliably trust any level of government to assume without the potential for grave unintended consequences?
Do you believe humanity is so corruptible and we are all so unable to grasp the need for redemption that we must be insulated from ourselves and our free will through the force of government?
One of our greatest Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, spoke of the preservation of individual economic freedom when he issued this well-known warning: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is powerful enough to take away everything you have.”
This same, undeniable principle also applies to our nation’s moral fabric. Does it not stand to reason that a government which enjoys the power to mandate we all live by a particular system of values is powerful enough to shift gears on us, turn that set of values on its ear, and thrust upon us a moral approach which operates in contradiction to Christianity?
As I’ve written before about this topic, those who would be in a position to set, influence, and shape social values policy – and have been holding many key offices and positions in the Executive Branch – fit that very mold.
Take a long, honest look at those who presently sit atop our institutions of power and ask yourself, “Are they people I trust with my salvation?”