Wallis asks “W.W.J.D.?” about Libertarianism.
Before we begin what is always a contentious issue (combining both religion and politics), let’s get a few things out of the way. Yes, I do read the Huffington Post, sometimes. Yes, I am a Christian. Yes, I do believe every Christian should bring their Christianity into every segment of their life. No, I don’t know who Jim Wallis is. Yes, I think Mr. Wallis is doing a disservice to Christianity with his article.
With all of that being said, let’s get started.
Mr. Wallis posted an opinion piece on the Huffington Post website a few days ago. The topic was whether libertarianism is consistent with Christianity. When I first examined the piece, I said to myself, “self, libertarianism is obviously not consistent with Christianity. But then again, neither are any of the other political philosophies.” At this point, I wasn’t going to write this post, but then I realized that Mr. Wallis wasn’t just arguing against libertarianism being considered “Christian,” but was advocating that liberalism was a decidedly more Christian perspective. When I read something this stupid, I feel compelled to respond.
Mr. Wallis examines five “points” of libertarian thought, and tries to analyze them in a sort of “What Would Jesus Do?” fashion. Two thoughts immediately came to mind. First, I haven’t heard anybody actually advocate that libertarianism was consistent with Christianity, so what’s the point of his post? Second, I have never been a fan of the W.W.J.D. fad, because I consider it to be unnecessarily manufactured religion. Also, since we are all imperfect beings, no one can actually answer the question with any amount of certainty.
I’m not going to examine Mr. Wallis’ five points in the manner that he presents them, i.e. is libertarianism consistent with Christianity. Instead, I’m going to address a liberal assertion he makes in each of his points, and compare it to Christian principles.
1. Loving your neighbor is a better Christian response than telling your neighbor to leave you alone. Both compassion and social justice are fundamental Christian commitments, and while the Christian community is responsible for living out both, government is also held accountable to the requirements of justice and mercy.
An important point to be made about government: it is not, and I would argue cannot, be “Christian.” Why? First of all, the United States government is secular. Second, it is a man-made construct whose goal is to keep people from stepping on each other; not dispense “social justice,” whatever that liberal phrase means.
Now, Wallis’ point about loving one’s neighbor being “better” than telling one’s neighbor to leave them alone may be a more Christian position. It’s true that, as Christians, we are called to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” We are not called, however, to “love our neighbor” at gun point. Government cannot compel me to love my neighbor. Instead, government simply keeps me from killing my neighbor, or vice versa. One should certainly not be filing their taxes with the warm and fuzzy feeling that they “helped their neighbor (although Joe Biden might).”
2. In Romans 13, the apostle Paul (not the Kentucky Senate candidate) describes the role and vocation of government; in addition to the church, government also plays a role in God’s plan and purposes. Preserving the social order, punishing evil and rewarding good, and protecting the common good are all prescribed; we are even instructed to pay taxes for those purposes!
Wallis is correct when he says God commands Christians to respect the authority of political leaders because their authority was given them by God. Wallis’ assertion that we pay taxes to protect the common good, however, is a fiction, at least as set forth in Romans 13. Paul did state, at Romans 13:6, that we are to pay taxes to the governing authority. However, the only purpose taxes serve, at least as set forth in Romans 13, is to pay politician salaries, as they “give their full time to governing.” There is no mention of public welfare. Also, the article he links to doesn’t even mention the Bible.
As an aside, Wallis uses this opportunity to incorrectly associate libertarians with a belief they don’t actually hold. It’s the same belief I hear associated with conservatives in general, from time to time.
To disparage government per se — to see government as the central problem in society — is simply not a biblical position.
When did small government advocates suddenly become anarchists? Neither libertarians, nor those slightly less conservative, “disparage government per se.” Instead, they/we disparage an unnecessarily large and intrusive government, which consists not of leaders whose interests are the people, but of leaders whose only interests are establishing and maintaining their power over the people.
3. Libertarians seem to believe in the myth of the sinless market and that the self-interest of business owners or corporations will serve the interests of society; and if they don’t, it’s not government’s role to correct it.
This is an example of why I don’t like “W.W.J.D.?” I have no idea what Jesus would think about the free market. I’m guessing he wouldn’t like it, since its motivating factor is greed, but what do I know? Sensing the same difficulty, Wallis quickly dumps the religious analysis, and moves on to analyze the free market vs. “practical issues that the public sector has to solve.” As a practical issue, there is no question the free market is a significant improvement over a more socialized economy. One need only look at history to figure that out. Some government regulation is obviously necessary, but how much? Obviously a balance must be struck, but I fail to see a “this much regulation is more biblically-based than that much” answer.
4. “Leave me alone to make my own choices and spend my own money” is a political philosophy that puts those who need help at a real disadvantage. And those who need help are central to any Christian evaluation of political philosophy.
This is my most-despised liberal argument made to Christians because it seeks to take advantage of our beliefs. The “aren’t you called to help the poor” nonsense. This line of reasoning actually works on a lot of Christians, and the “social justice” argument has caught hold in some denominations. The argument is incorrect though, because it misses a huge point. Christians are called to help the poor, or those in need generally, freely. In other words, we do it voluntarily, for the express purpose of helping someone. I said this earlier, but it bears repeating. Paying your taxes does not constitute charitable giving. Why? Because it’s forced. I’ve always found it ironic to hear liberals, or Europeans, criticize this country for its lack of compassion, when this country is the most charitable nation in the world.
It is incorrect to argue that “those who need help are central to any Christian evaluation of political philosophy.” As indicated earlier, the central issue to a “Christian evaluation of political philosophy” is whether the leaders are acting with justice and mercy; not whether the elderly receive medicare.
5. Finally, I am just going to say it. There is something wrong with a political movement like the Tea Party which is almost all white.’
In my humble opinion, Wallis ruins any sort of credibility that he may have had prior to this point. It’s the liberal meme of “the Tea Partiers hate Obama because he’s black, and so they’re all racists, and they marry their cousins, etc.” Wallis takes it a step further though, by arguing that, because they’re all racists, their political positions must be non-biblical. There are so many half-assed assumptions and simple untruths in this point that it’s difficult to even focus a response. I guess I’ll leave it simply at this: racism is non-biblical, and not all of the Tea Partiers, or libertarians, or conservatives, are racist. Plus, “racism” isn’t a political party or ideology, so I’m not sure why it reared its ugly head here.
Conclusion: None of the political parties are biblically based. They are, instead, human constructs formed for the practical purpose of running a government. Nothing more, nothing less. I would caution Wallis on one thing, however. The minute you start throwing stones about biblically based political ideologies, be prepared to absorb them yourself. Life starting at any time other than the moment of conception is not biblically based. A woman’s right to choose an abortion is not biblically based. The right to cheat on your spouse is not biblically based. Finally, the right to gay marriage is not bibically based. Therefore, if our government is biblically based, all of the foregoing should be made illegal. I won’t hold my breath.