A Christian Letter to a Libertarian
Mark, although I believe in liberty and freedom I am not a libertarian. I try my best to avoid any “ism”. If I was to give myself a label I would refer to myself as a Christian realist. I do not believe in big government, big religion, or for that matter big anything. It is not that big is inherently evil, it is that humans are inherently evil and will abuse the power that goes with big. If history proves anything it proves this. I believe it was Lord Acton who said “that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”
Libertarians and Christians can agree on a number of things but their basic difference is found in the definition of liberty and freedom. The libertarian wants to be free to do their own thing. Free from all restraints and for many that means God. The Christian believes they are set free from self indulgence to serve others and God. Christians also recognize that all men are slaves to something, in that slavery is a part of the human condition and can never be overcome completely with political ideology, which means that no amount of philosophy or libertarianism will change that condition.
One of the basic roots of libertarianism is radical individualism and as a Christian realist I must believe that in the end radical individualism is the enemy of liberty. The problem is to find a balance between individualism and collectivism. I personally believe that conservatism does a better job balancing these two than libertarianism. Therefore, conservatism aligns better with Christianity than libertarianism. However, Christianity must also in some areas depart from conservatism when it hardens into an un-flexible ideology.
The Christian realist has a realistic view of the power of law. They understand that the law is powerless to change people. However, unlike the libertarians they understand the necessity of law to impart social restraints, norms and boundaries which instruct humanity in civil living. Moreover, Christian realists see that the problem is not with Law, but rather with humanity. For the Christian realist mankind is fallen, being incapable of keeping the law and rejoicing in it. Even from an evolutional point of view most would say that mans progress have gone awry and that mankind is anything but a noble savage. The Bible would put it this way “All have sinned and have fallen short of being truly human”. Man in his fallen nature is in need of God’s help in order to hold it together. This help comes in the form of God’s grace given in forgiveness and power to be free from ineffective living that leads to unhappiness and ultimately in missing the goal of the divine life.
I would encourage you to take a serious look at the Christian faith. I would contend that it contains the best of all philosophies in regards to what constitutes the good life. It provides us with a balance between individualism and collectivism and between mercy and justice. Yes, it puts tremendous demands on a person but it is entered by a free choice and commitment to Jesus Christ.