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Was Christ a Libertarian? September 22, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics, religion.
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This past weekend so-called “values voters” had their annual summit, featuring speeches and workshops with conservative political and religious leaders.

The Christian right has always arrogated to themselves the title of “values voters” implying that everyone else votes by flipping a coin. (And the press plays along by repeating this canard)

So it is worth considering what the values of these folks are that make them special.

Most of them are evangelical Christians, so they believe in God. But it is a vengeful, unforgiving, cruel god of the Old Testament offering conditional love based only on acceptance of his authority and bent on the destruction of anyone who lacks faith.

They defend the institution of marriage. But the norms of this institution devalue romance, require male dominance, and preclude the participation of loving, same-sex couples. Thus, their “marriage” institution is one that few people would find attractive today and would undermine marriage if it were institutionalized.

They claim to adhere to a culture of life that forbids abortion and contraception. But their indifference toward the suffering of real lives, unyielding support for war, and enthusiasm for Armageddon belie a different agenda that treats lives outside their community as worthless.

They claim to value the stability of social life and community and thus condemn social change, public education, immigration, etc. But they fail to acknowledge that the greatest threat to the stability of our communities is rampant, unregulated capitalism which abandons communities and creates a market for any destructive desire humans manage to conjure.

They claim to value self-reliant individuals. And they do believe that the consequences of bad luck ought to rain on individuals with no protection from the “welfare state”. But they abhor individual self-expression and enforce a rigid, conformist ideology wedded to the authority of the Bible.

They value faith and the religious life but with none of the humility that supports faith and bereft of the understanding that the religious life can be corrupted by Mammon.

Traditional American values of liberty and equality seem to play no role outside of advocating the freedom to express their views and complaining about suppression of Christian speech.

In each case the value they endorse is a peculiar, idiosyncratic, and repellent understanding of an important value concept. It is striking the degree to which the above values are incompatible with modern life, a fact that most evangelicals freely admit.

That in itself is not problematic—we live in a pluralistic society where idiosyncratic beliefs that are out of step with the mainstream flourish.

The problem is they are offering these values as solutions to contemporary problems. Yet, it is hard to see the connection between the above values and practical proposals to solve problems such as unemployment, financial market reform, health care reform, global warming, immigration, nuclear proliferation, or terrorism.

In fact, as was evident at the Value Voters Summit, their political positions are simply garden variety Republican Party talking points, essentially anti-government screed and opposition to anything the Democrats propose. Here is a sample of their workshops:

“Thugocracy: Fighting the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy”

“Defunding Planned Parenthood”

“Speechless: Silencing the Christians”

“Obamacare: Rationing Your Life Away”

“Global Warming Hysteria: The New Face of the ‘Pro-Death’ Agenda”

What is the connection between Christianity and being opposed to government? Was Christ a libertarian?

A poll of evangelical activists from last year is revealing. A comparative Religious Activists Survey found that more than two-thirds (67%) of conservative Christian activists agree that “if enough people were brought to Christ, social ills would take care of themselves.” This view was shared by only 13% of progressive Christian activists.

Apparently, many “values voters” are anti-government (and  opposed to progressive social and economic change)  because they think we should just leave matters up to God. Government interferes with the hand of God.

This is a dangerous belief; it is nihilistic at its core.

Modern societies are held together by the willingness of their citizens to forge  agreements that enable cooperation to solve problems. And problems can be solved only if we commit ourselves to grasping the nature of a problem, devising solutions that respond to it, and coordinating action to bring about change that solves the problem.

This activity requires a commitment to the truth. We can’t solve problems if we don’t understand how the world works, and we can come to agreements about how to proceed only if we allow a commitment to truth to govern our competing agendas.

The Christian right lacks such a commitment to truth. We do not have the luxury of fantasies. When we abandon logic and evidence, in the belief that God will save us, we abandon any hope of agreement, cooperation, or problem solving. When we give up on the belief that our actions must conform to reality, we have given up on the only capacity that kept us from being eaten by saber-toothed tigers on the East African savannas—our intelligence.

The refusal to accept evidence of global warming, evidence of the limits of unregulated markets, evidence of the limits of U.S. military power, evidence that some people are crushed by economic forces beyond their control, or evidence that some U.S. policies are unjust is of a piece with the refusal to accept evolutionary theory or Obama’s genuine citizenship. “Values voters” renounce the value of truth—and they thereby renounce all human value.

It is self-deceptive nonsense to think questions about God’s existence can be answered in the political sphere; and to hold our political process hostage to a religious point of view is to give up on ever coming to agreement about anything.

The “party of no” is not just an opposition party; it is bent on the destruction of human value.

One of the funniest scenes to ever grace a film was in The Big Lebowski when Donny asked Walter “Are these men Nazis?” Walter replied, “No, Donny, these men are nihilists. There’s nothing to be afraid of”.

Unfortunately, Walter was wrong. We should be very afraid.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com