27 thoughts on “Can A Christian Be A Libertarian?”

  1. As long as you don’t seek to impose your religion on others I see no reason why not. But it seems some Christians have a hard time keeping it out of the public sphere. They’ve just allianced with libertarians because they want federal imposition out of the way so they can enfore their religious doctrine on the local level.

    1. SC,
      and you have it on good authority that’s the plan? To enforce their Cristian doctrine on local levels? And from whom did you get said intel?

      I’m always amazed at people ‘in the know’, so to speak.

  2. Well, the “Christians” that were hijacked by the “Progressive” movement might have some difficulty making the switch… 🙂

  3. To elaborate, I think that natural rights/classical liberal approaches to libertarian (think Fredric Bastiat for example) are very much compatible with Christianity. As Bastiat finished his pamphlet “The Law”:

    “God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies. He has provided a social form as well as a human form. And these social organs of persons are so constituted that they will develop themselves harmoniously in the clean air of liberty. Away, then, with quacks and organizers! A way with their rings, chains, hooks, and pincers! Away with their artificial systems! Away with the whims of governmental administrators, their socialized projects, their centralization, their tariffs, their government schools, their state religions, their free credit, their bank monopolies, their regulations, their restrictions, their equalization by taxation, and their pious moralizations!

    And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgment of faith in God and His works. ”

    While some flavors of libertarianism may be incompatible/hypergolic with some flavors of Christianity, I think there’s ample evidence that it’s quite possible to be libertarian and Christian.


  4. Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell hashed this out nearly three decades ago and called it Paleo-libertarianism. Elements of paleo-libertarianism are preached by Congressman Ron Paul who some so-called libertarians believe is a danger to the future of libertarianism.

    1. Because women want a big, strong man around the house to protect and provide for them. But a big, strong government that protects and provides for them (tough on crime + redistribution) is a great substitute choice, because the government doesn’t ask them to lose weight or keep their hair long.

  5. Trent W,
    I’ve had that, uh, ‘argument’ with fellow Christian who are my friends. I don’t get why more of us are NOT libertarian. And I mean small gub’ment, little gub’ment intrusion, less control by bureaucrats, less taxation, as my definition for libertarian goals.

    I think many of them are, by thought and voting history libertarian, but find using the term ‘libertarian’ to free a term for defining themselves. I’ve had several people tell me they are not libertarians, because libertarians want NO controls and NO rules and NO laws. No good Christian would want that!

    A total lack of law and order is anarchy it seems to me, not libertarianism.

    Beyond the libertarian Christian connection conversation, I don’t get how Christians can be liberals! That one far out stymies me than does this one.

  6. Well, this seems to be bringing a few of us out of the woodwork.

    I certainly enjoy making my fellow believers’ heads metaphorically explode when they hear that I don’t support a law (narcotics Prohibition) or program (Social Security) or agency (the FCC) or constitutional amendment (HLA) that they think has some obvious moral element vital to American society. I also enjoy, though fractionally less, making some of my fellow libertarians’ heads metaphorically explode when they find out I’m a believer. This once occurred at a fundraiser where an attendee held forth on the notion that libertarians in the US were being held back by Christians. After discovering that the three candidates for office sitting at his table were all believers, he absented himself from future events. But it’s more fun tweaking the legalists and welfare-staters within the Body, so to speak.

    As a historical matter, though, Christians have lived under, and often instituted, nearly every kind of political arrangement imaginable. All political advice in the New Testament adds up to “stay out of trouble,” for excellent late-Second-Temple contextual reasons. The Anglo-Saxon liberal tradition is very old, but not quite that old. Two quotes will suffice.

    “I have always found it to be so in my journeying, that the man most acceptable to the country’s inhabitants is the one to whom God gives the government of the people to uphold for the time that he lives here.” – Widsith, the Exeter Book, ~990 AD

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1776

  7. In my view most of the people who go around claiming to be libertarians are only fair weather libertarians – they argue for libertarian principles – but only for when it suits them; this is quite apart from the fad libertarianism was a few years ago, when it seemed every other conservative and his dog were calling themselves libertarian – simply because it was trendy.

      1. While libertarians stand up for individual rights and responsibility (great!), too often if other people standing for what they believe in have beliefs that differ from what self proclaimed Libertarians think is correct, those “libertarians” are happy to see force or bullying used to correct such wayward people – even when such beliefs or practices are not affecting, in any material way, such judgmental “libertarians” or anyone else.

        Given that, I can’t see a conflict between being a Christian, or a Muslim for that matter, and being a Libertarian.

        (Im an atheist, and on this:

        I scored:
        Economic Left/Right: 6.75
        Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.13 )

      2. Another way of putting it:
        As a libertarian, do I think others should have the freedom to impose on themselves whatever autocratic yoke they choose, or do I think I’m so superior that I believe it morally justified that they have the “freedom” I’d choose imposed upon them?

  8. “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give unto God what is God’s.” That seems to sum up the division of civil and religious authority that’s permitted within Christianity. I reconcile my Christian beliefs and fairly libertarian politics by viewing the government as an inept, bloated and corrupt Caesar. Individuals have been given free will by God and must make the choice to follow the teachings of Jesus, regardless of whether an act is permitted under the civil law. So long as Caesar abstains from forcing Christians to commit acts contrary to God’s law and Jesus’s teachings, the division of civil and religious authority works.

    I’m far more disturbed by the “liberation theologists” and Christian Socialists who believe that “Caesar” should act like Jesus and redistribute wealth in the name of charity. “Thou shalt not steal” applies to the government too, when it takes the wealth of its citizens. I’d like to think that individuals can be charitable without being compelled by their government, and spend their charity far more wisely than the government spends our tax dollars.

    1. I think Jon’s use of ‘hypergolic’ is a typo…I interpreted that as intending to say ‘hyperbolic’

    2. Weird…the post above was subordinate to impossiblescissors rather than Trent’s post earlier in the thread.

      at any rate, i agree with impossiblescissors’ above and would add “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself” as part of the civic responsibilities of Christians. Too many Christians and churches have abdicated their social responsibilities to their neighbors and communities, thereby enabling Caesar to step in with his own solution

    3. weird…my comment above was intended as a response to Trent’s post above

      at any rate, i agree with impossiblescissors and would add “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself” to the civic responsibilities of Christians. too many believers and churches have abdicated their duty of compassion to their neighbors and communities, thereby enabling Caesar to step in with his own solution.

  9. I would say, yes, one can certainly be a Christian and a libertarian, and I mean “Christian” in the orthodox sense, not the flaky sense of the theological liberals (where Jesus only rises from the grave “in my heart”) nor hide-in-a-bunker-and-wait-for-the-rapture sects influenced by anabaptistic thought who are wary or disdainful of political and societal engagement.

    As a passionate member of a confessional Reformed church (i.e. Calvinistic, along w/ our presbyterian brethren), although we are small in number (~500,000 NAPARC church congregants in N. America), our theology does distinguish between God’s rule of the church and His rule over secular and civil society (which operates on the rule of natural law, what we would term a subset of general revelation).

    In the interest of full disclosure, however, I would say that some libertarian purists would count me as being outside the camp. To be precise, I probably inhabit a halfway house somewhere in between Reason magazine and National Review. I’m for closed borders and for the outlawing of abortion. I’m for the War on Terror but against the subsequent adventures in nation-building. I’m for an absolutely flat tax. I’m for the government getting out of the marriage business altogether. I’m for the legalization of pot. I’m for the privatization of roads and highways. I’m for burning all public schools to the ground, hauling away the rubble, and salting the earth behind the dump trucks that haul the rubble away. As an aficionado of fine cigars and Scotch, I believe there should be zero laws restricting this (why can’t I distill in my own backyard?). I’m against all blue laws excepting those that directly affect minors.

    However, I would note that some libertarians won’t consider me pure enough unless I believe that it should be legal to drive 300 mph on the freeway as long as I don’t hurt anyone else. So, I’ll leave that judgement up to the reader…

    1. I hasten to add that any tensions that exist for Christians in regard to libertarianism VASTLY pale in comparison to the outright contradictions that exist between Christianity and the stupid, vile evil that is Marxism, socialism, fascism, communism, in whatever shade or whatever form.

  10. This is one step harder than the question: “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” The answer, in that case, would depend on the nature of angels, which no one could claim to know.

    In the modern version, not only is the nature of an angel unknown (what’s a “true Christian”?), but we can’t even claim to know what the head of a pin (i.e. a libertarian) looks like.

  11. The non-aggression principle (which is the basis of libertarianism) is indeed the same as the Christian golden rule. Thus, in theory, Christianity and libertarianism ought to be compatible. In think in reality they are. Most run of the mill Christian people are just normal people who want to get on with their lives, like everyone else. However, there are a subset of Christians who seek to make Christianity into a political ideology. These people, often referred to as the Christian right, are what I call political Christians. Their ideology can best be described as Christianism (analogous to Islamism, which is currently infesting the middle-east). I think Christianity is compatible with libertarianism, but Christianism is not.

  12. Two Cents blogger Nathan Hitchens has said that there is “profound hypocrisy” in a Christian supporting any part of Ayn Rand’s philosophy.

    Call me a hypocrite because many parts of objectivism align with my belief in individual liberty and responsibility although I do disagree with some of her conclusions.

    No government ‘ism’ can align perfectly with scripture which has a central theme… God’s kingdom. The same one found in the model ‘our father’ prayer which Christians pray to come (some time in the future after some specific events.) It will be established for a limited time (one thousand years) for a specific purpose (education.) All other governments, regardless of form, will be done away with as they are lead like a bull to the slaughter.

    Governments are formed for self protection but immediately turn into something that forces individual freedom out. Even during the millenium kingdom people will gather themselves into governments antithetical to the creator’s sovereignty… a creator, unlike any other government, that does support individual responsibility and free will in a manner that makes libertarians look quaint and foolish.

    Eventually there will be no need for any type of government which not even a libertarian can imagine. God doesn’t need to manage anybody once they accept reality. People will finally treat others with respect (no bigger fantasy exists, but that’s mine.)

  13. I don’t understand why there are so many of the Judaeo-Christian persuasion who AREN’T libertarian. The Religious Left seems to have found a tacit loophole the “Thou Shalt Not Covet They Neighbor’s Goods” commandment, but probably no one who isn’t a lockstep State-cultist could. And Christianity seems to have an implicit anti-aggressive-force ethic.

  14. I’ve never found there to be any conflict between by Christianity and my libertarian beliefs.

    As I see it, there are differences in point of view between Lefty-Christians, Righty-Christians, and libertarian Christians.

    Lefty Christians seem to think that voting to tax Peter to provide welfare to Paul fulfills their obligation to care for the poor. See, they don’t need to give their own money – because the 1% have all the money anyway, so just tax them and use it for “good works”. Now we can go to sleep at night comfortable in the belief that we are good Christians, becasue voting Democrat is “doing our part” for the elderly, poor and sick.

    Righty Christians seem to think that forcing people to live by Christian values is somehow just as good as actually converting them to Christianity. Why get them to agree, as a matter of conscience, that marriage is a life-long committment between one man and one woman, when we can just legislatively force that position on everyone?

    Me? I’m of the opinion that charity is when I give my own money and time, and that compliance with God’s law is each person’s individual duty.

    The one position I’m 100% with the Christian Right however is abortion. It is entirely (and solely) the duty of government to say what is and is not a criminal act, and what is permitted for one person to do to another. It is a failure of government’s most basic duty in this respect (criminal law, and protection of the law-abiding) to allow that one class of people (females) can authorize the murder of another class of people (unborn children) for reasons of mere convenience. The Catholic Church (I won’t speak for other Churches) is clear on the point that self defense of one’s own life (or the life of an innocent third party) is the only excuse (besides being a soldier in a just war) for taking a life.

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