By Jacqueline Otto
I recently blogged about Christian libertarians. In closing I said:
Is it contradictory to be a Christian and a libertarian? … I do not know. But it is certainly a question worth asking.
In fact, it is a question I have been considering with great fervor and sincerity.
My political affiliation on Facebook is “freedom,” and according to my Two Cents bio, I hope “to always be known as a lover of liberty.” Since I am a Christian, does that make me a Christian libertarian? Some would say yes, but I do not like to use the term because “libertarian” has such varied meanings in today’s political culture.
To some “libertarian” is synonymous with “pothead.” Admit it—some of you think “pothead!” whenever someone declares himself a libertarian. To others, a libertarian is an anarchist and some sort of social deviant. And as mentioned in my previous post, libertarians are usually assumed to be atheistic objectivists in the vein of Ayn Rand.
There is no singular hierarchy of the libertarian movement. There are classical liberals, who boast their knowledge of Smith, Hayek, Bastiat, and the lot. There are the Gary Johnson libertarians, the Bob Barr libertarians, and, yes, the Ron Paul libertarians, all of whom adhere to the teachings of their respective gurus. Actually, there are two kinds of Ron Paul libertarians—the Paulites (the nice supporters) and the Paulistas (the militant supporters who like to protest everything). And one cannot neglect the genuine pothead libertarians or the keep-your-hands-off-my-guns libertarians, otherwise known as single-issue libertarians.
When talking about his own libertarian philosophy, John Stossel observed:
I used to be a Kennedy-style “liberal.” Then I wised up. Now I’m a libertarian. But what does that mean? When I asked people on the street, half had no clue.
Needless to say, I avoid using the term “libertarian” because even I am not entirely sure what it means. Nor does anyone else! There are so many ways to define it, that describing oneself as libertarian provides little information about what one actually believes.
I prefer to be more specific. Since I cannot tell you what it means to be a libertarian, I cannot tell you if it is possible to be a Christian libertarian. I can however convey to you the significance of liberty to a follower of Jesus Christ.
For clarity, the words liberty and freedom in the New Testament are both English translations of the same Greek word, ἐλευθερία (eleutheria, pronounced: el-yoo-ther-ee’-ah). The Strong’s Dictionary reference number is 1657. While these terms have distinct connotations in modern English, wherever you see one word used in the New Testament, be sure to note that it is the same concept. Also, all verses below are from the New International Version (NIV), which almost exclusively translates eleutheria as “freedom” or “free,” depending on the part of speech. Please feel free to look up other translations.
There is no way to ignore the significance of liberty in the message of Jesus Christ.
“Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:31-32
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5:1
Any social obligation that is also put forth in the New Testament is voluntary. There are no calls for governments or even church leaders to force servitude, only encouragement to voluntarily serve others.
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” 1 Corinthians 9:19
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13
Even salvation is voluntary! I do not wish to wander into the debate of predestination, but simply to present the scripture.
“Though you have not seen [Jesus], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9
I am by no means a theologian, and do not presume to know the mind of God. I am only a lay person trying to do my best to understand the direction scripture provides for my life. But in my limited examination of the gospel and the epistles of the New Testament, the call to liberty and voluntary service to society are inescapable.
Fundamentally, Christianity is about our freedom, or rather our ability to choose to have a relationship with God, our choice to believe in Him. Given that importance of that underlying principle, I have chosen to live my life in that manner as well. To my understanding, freedom in our everyday, utterly practical lives means the free exchange of goods and ideas, the freedom to speak one’s mind, the freedom to travel, the freedom to pursue happiness, the freedom to reap what one sows, and the freedom to come to one’s own terms with God.
So going back to our initial question—does that make me a Christian libertarian?
I think it just makes me a Christian.