When most libertarians hear the word “Christian,” many automatically associate it with “Jesus freaks,” or as being sanctimonious, moral majoritarians seeking to use the law to force Christian ethics on all of humanity.
Indeed, the bulk of liberty lovers are probably under the impression that there are no libertarian Christians. They can’t conceive of Christians holding any anti-government sentiments like the ones expressed in the Bible (1 Samuel), when God warns Israel what will happen when He gives them the king they demand.
While the negative image of Christians often held by libertarians might apply to some Christians, they are generally not true of all. Christian libertarians exist, and I believe we have not only a truer understanding of the faith, but also a stronger commitment to its core values than most of its followers.
Libertarianism and Christianity
Libertarianism and Christianity are significantly more harmonious than any other combination of the faith and political philosophy, because Christianity is founded on the principles of voluntaryism, and libertarianism best accomplishes its goals.
Conservative Christians seem to always be in favor of legislating morality. Most Christians will usually give one of two explanations for this. One of these fallacious explanations is that if one wants something legalized or to remain that way, then one must personally approve of it. This justification is of course ridiculous. If we carried out this idea consistently, then Christians would have to be in favor of legislating the whole Bible into law. Indeed, if we did so and all sin was made illegal, then everyone would be in jail!
The second and most frightening explanation that a Christian will give is that they do not like to see some particular action and just want to make it illegal. This has been said many times about homosexuality, among other things. This coercive nature of many Christians has caused libertarians to have very negative opinions of them.
However, there are no New Testament examples of force being used to gain converts or to control the actions of non-Christians. So, the problem is not with the Christian faith itself, but with the way many Christians have chosen to carry it out.
Understanding free will and faith
Many people of faith tend to forget that while on this earth, God did not make obedience to Him mandatory. He gave humanity free will to choose whether to do good or evil. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had a choice as to whether or not they would obey God. Obviously, there were consequences for the choice they made, just as there are consequences for our actions today, but the choice was there.
Did Jesus ever order his disciples to grab people and forcibly dunk them in the waters of baptism? Absolutely not. God does not force anyone to serve Him coercively. So, if humans try to legislate Christian morals upon others, are they not presuming to do more than God? Are they not trying to take away the choice that was given to humanity by God?
The two pillars of Christianity
Indeed, there are two fundamental pillars of Christianity. The first of these is to imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16), and the second is to share the gospel of Jesus with others (Matthew 28:18-20). Using force to either bring people to the Christian faith or to make the world “look” more Christian is in violation of the faith’s principles and completely ineffective. If Christians were actually imitating Christ, they would not be using force.
So what is the real Christian solution to accomplishing the two important pillars of Christianity? The solution works very well within the libertarian philosophy in both its voluntary and academic nature. There are numerous examples of Jesus interacting with various groups of people. Every time Jesus was questioned either by his disciples or different sects of the Jews, he always gave a reasoned and persuasive answer. If Christians are to imitate Christ, should this not also be their approach?
Trying to force Christian morals onto others not only is in violation of the image of Christ, but it is also detrimental to the second pillar of spreading the gospel. It gives non-Christians very strong, negative opinions and closed minds towards the faith. Many atheists are not just apathetic when it comes to Christians, but have a forceful detestation for it. This hatred for Christianity makes sense after a lifetime of Christian morals being forced on others through law. In a free libertarian society, this hatred might not exist.
Why libertarian values are fundamental to evangelism
Christians should draw from the Bible to accomplish the evangelism of the faith. In Colossians 4:6, it says, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man,” and in Corinthians 9:19 it says, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more…” These verses seem to encourage persuasion and reason, the voluntary techniques fundamental to libertarianism.
Libertarians are fully justified in harboring some resentment towards many individual Christians, as they should toward any person that attempts to take away their rights and freedoms. This resentment, however, should not extend to the Christian faith itself. Christianity is a voluntary commitment that a person makes, and nowhere in the Bible are Christians encouraged to legislate their morals.
They are, however, encouraged to convert as many people as possible, and this seems easiest to accomplish in a free and libertarian society. All libertarians, even atheists, should make note of the harmony of liberty and Christianity so that they come to have some level of respect for libertarians who follow the faith and will pause before making snide comments about believers.
Could Christians help spread libertarianism?
Lastly, there are a lot of Christians out there, and if they can be convinced that libertarianism works best with their faith, then the ideas of liberty may discover a vast untapped pool of potential converts.
To learn more about the role of free will in libertarianism, be sure to check out our free will and moral responsibility cluster page by clicking on the button below.
This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.