Okay. That’s not actually true. It was just a dramatic way to get your attention. You’re here, so I suppose it worked. That being said, I strongly believe there is a case to be made that libertarianism is not only compatible with Christianity, it is preferable to the authoritarian alternative offered by the two major political parties of the United States. Yesterday, David Mills, former editor of First Things, published an article with Aleteia, suggesting that libertarianism, and in particular, Gary Johnson’s variety of libertarianism, is incompatible with Christianity. Mills writes,
Finding themselves unable to vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, some conservative Catholics looked hopefully at the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and were distressed to find him (on their principles) unacceptable too. What were they expecting, I thought as I read some anguished Facebook posts? He’s a libertarian.
To give credit where credit is due, Mills does correctly criticize Gary Johnson’s less than ideal position on religious liberty. Johnson has made a bit of a mess among the libertarian faithful and curious onlookers alike by suggesting that religious liberty is a “can of worms that could be justified to permit all forms of discrimination.” While, I understand where Johnson is coming from, I too wish he would spend more time clarifying his position on the matter and supporting the first amendment of the Constitution. That being said, it is from this framework that Mills goes on to argue that libertarianism simply cannot work within the Christian framework. He argues,
Libertarianism’s five modern patriarchs — Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, Murray Rothbard, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand — were all un- or irreligious. Hayek thought highly of religion, but only because it was socially useful. Its American political patriarch, Barry Goldwater, spoke hostilely against religious involvement in politics, and was strongly pro-choice. It is not a Catholic-friendly movement.
You can read his article in its entirety here. As a Christian pastor/church leader and a dedicated libertarian activist, I clearly take issue with Mills’ argument. While I do understand and acknowledge that some of the movement’s most prominent leaders (historical and contemporary) are critical of the Christian faith (and faith in general), I not only maintain that Christianity is compatible with libertarianism, I find it to be the most appropriate political philosophy available to the faithful on this side of eternity.
The opposite of libertarianism is authoritarianism of some shape or form. We need to fully understand this fact in order to work with the suggested notion that libertarianism is incompatible with Christianity. Though the language and ideology didn’t exist as it does in the western context, the truth is that Jesus, and the historical Christian movement, was quite libertarian. Libertarians operate from a philosophy of non-aggression. We call it the NAP for short (non-aggression principle). The NAP is far more in line with the teachings of Jesus than anything the authoritarians decree from their places of power and authority. Turn the other cheek, voluntary associations (churches), love thy enemy, forgive those who offend you, be at peace with everyone in so much as you can control it, there’s no longer any Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free, etc. are all libertarian-friendly positions. Contrarily, the authoritarianism demonstrated by the GOP and Democrat Parties is a political ideology that stands in stark opposition to the teachings of Jesus and the early church fathers.
For instance, the GOP, especially the vein controlled by the evangelical right, seeks to express its authority on society by forcing it to fit its moralistic norms. They claim an authoritarian right to deny individual rights based solely upon violations of traditional conservative Christian morals such as marriage, gender identity matters, sexual orientation matters, private consumption, private contracts between consenting adults (i.e. prostitution), to name a few. While followers of Jesus may seek out and prefer a different kind of morality, Jesus himself never forced his morality upon others, nor did he ever threaten anyone with disciplinary action or state torture based upon their unwillingness to adopt his morality.
The Democrats, on the other hand, just love to lay claim to other people’s stuff, in particular their money. The Democrats claim an authoritarian right to deny individuals the private ownership of and control of their resources, regardless of how much or how little they might have (just try to avoid paying for health insurance these days and you’ll see what I mean). The Democrats, Christian or secular, are all too eager to utilize the force of the state against anyone they believe not “paying their fair share.” While followers of Jesus may desire and view charity as a core tenet of the faith, the charity Jesus desires is voluntary, with a willing, joyful spirit. Not once do we read of Jesus advocating for the use of force to extract a mite from a widow’s pocket.
This all goes without even mentioning the fact that both the Democrats and the Republicans are both complicit of the countless atrocities commtted against innocent human beings in the never ending mission to “bomb the Middle East into freedom.” There’s absolutely nothing about the authoritarian foreign policy of either major party that is reflective of the spirit of Jesus. I say this as a former military chaplain who has witnessed some of these atrocities first hand.
While Mills claims that libertarianism is incompatible with Christianity, I’m convinced of the exact opposite. The reality is that authoritarianism, as demonstrated by both the Democrat and Republican parties, is incompatible with Christianity. Jesus lived, and largely defined, the non-aggression principle. Thus, followers of Jesus find their true home in libertarianism.
Speaking more specifically of Gary Johnson, every libertarian I know, including myself, depart from Johnson when it comes to his views on religious liberty. He knows it and acknowledges it. Mills also criticizes Johnson and the Libertarian Party that nominated him for their stated support of abortion. Contrary to the party’s stated position on the matter, there are quite a number of pro-life libertarians. This was demonstrated by the fact that the mantra “there is no liberty without life,” was a significant message heard at the Libertarian National Convention this past year. Ironically enough, while his personal views on abortion are murky at best, Gary Johnson’s focus on the tenth amendment and drive to return the abortion conversation back to the states has a far greater chance of saving countless lives than the impossible war the GOP is pretending to wage in DC. Even with a GOP control in the house, senate, and Oval Office, not a dent has been made regarding the unborn’s right to life. But, as we’ve seen with the pro-life movement when it comes to capital punishment, real progress is being made across the country, on a state by state level. Ron Paul, for one, has spoken at length on this matter.
Additionally, attempting to define a movement of people by a single individual who categorically oppose the slightest notion that any particular individual defines them is an exercise in futility. Libertarians are socially tolerant and fiscally conservative. That’s about as categorical the movement will permit. Any attempt to say, “See! This libertarian thinks babies are expendable thus all libertarians think babies are expendable and libertarianism is incompatible with Christianity” is foolhardy. While Johnson is far from a perfect libertarian, he’s far more attractive from a philosophical, experiential, and temperamental perspective to the nominees of both major parties. He isn’t going around mocking disabled reporters. He’s not involved in scandal after scandal. He’s not attacking the parents of a military veteran killed in action. He’s not under investigation by the FBI. He’s not responsible for the deaths of numerous state employees and diplomats. He’s not hiding and ducking from the media at every chance they get to question him. He’s not complicit in fixing his party’s nomination process. All things considered, Johnson looks to be the most qualified, most honest, and most capable candidate on the ballot. Heck, even if I outright disagreed with everything Johnson represents, I’d still vote for him as he has the best chance of making a dent in the American political duopoly controlled by the now undeniably morally and credibility defunct GOP/Democrat parties.
As the majority of Americans stream away from the two major parties, it’s only a matter of time before a third party rises as major player in the national political arena. Today, the largest and most successful third party is the Libertarian Party. It’s enjoying historic growth and it’s ranks are being filled by Christians and non-Christians like. As a pastor, as a business owner, as a father, and as a patriot, I am proudly supporting Gary Johnson for President this year. I encourage those disgusted by the maniac the GOP has nominated or the, oh so obviously corrupt, Democratic nominee to join me. Christian or not, join me in this historic campaign to rattle the two party duopoly and revolutionize the national political process for years to come.