Sunday, July 15, 2018

What is 'Christian Libertarianism'?

What's Behind Christians' Interest in Libertarianism? -  Jamin Hübner, The Christian Post:

April 12, 2018 - "The 2017 U.S. Presidential election catalyzed a fresh, theological identity crisis for many Christians in America.... Several prominent leaders in conservative evangelicalism ... called upon the entire church to support the Trump administration.... But other Christians, especially younger millennials who haven't taken part in last generation's 'culture wars,' dissent from both this alignment and the urgency of political action in general.... All of these dynamics continue and give birth to different vistas of inquiry. One such vista that has emerged from these tumultuous dynamics (among other discontents that have been brewing) is 'Christian Libertarianism.'

"Libertarianism, according to some studies, is the fasted growing political movement of the twenty-first century. Its entrance into mainstream thought is visible in numerous spheres. In academia, for example, one can observe the release of such projects as The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism (SAGE), The Routledge Handbook to Libertarianism (2017), and other literary milestones....

"However, what really interests many is that libertarianism is gaining considerable traction in 'post-evangelical' and Catholic Christian circles — at least enough to merit public outcry. Albert Mohler, the President of one of the largest seminaries in the world, has publicly criticized Christians for entertaining libertarianism as a viable political philosophy. Pope Francis did the same in ...2017 during a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Christian libertarianism's abandonment of traditional social categories, political parties, and trust in political authority as a whole is viewed by some as a threat to both Western civilization and social stability....

"So, what is Christian libertarianism? At the heart of it is a pre-modern, pre-Constantinian reading of the New Testament. The contemporary narratives about Jesus being a pro-gay socialist (on the left) or the great consumerist, pro-gun American (on the right) just don't seem to fit the Gospel accounts at all. The contemporary account about Christianity mindlessly approving whatever the government does (based on a misreading of Romans 13) is also a distorted picture. What fits the first-century picture best is that Jesus has a problem with political authority in general. It simply isn't right for one human being to rule over another. (This was a result of sin in Gen 3:16). This is precisely what politics is — it is a license to initiate force against your neighbor. This ruling happens regardless of the political structure, whether it is through a chieftain, pharaoh, emperor, king, republic, democracy, parliament, or congress.... And this ruling/ruled relationship stays in place regardless if it is done in the name of 'the public good,' 'national security,' 'America first,' or anything else. The problem with all of this should be obvious: neighbors (even "enemies") are to be loved, not exploited by politicians.

"Christian libertarians also note that that Christ-event was the culmination of the entire history of Israel. And from the time of kingship to the Roman Empire, there is a constant critique of empire-building, nationalism, and power-grabs through politics. Gideon seemed like a good guy at first, but politics and the license to kill eventually corrupt him (Judges 6-8). David, despite being a man 'after God's own heart,' wasn't allowed to build the temple because he shed 'too much blood.' Solomon had a peaceful kingdom...until his bureaucracy grew out of control and split the kingdom (2 Chron 10-11). Of course, none of this should be a surprise: God had a problem with kingship to begin with (1 Sam 8).

"In contrast, the kingdom of God in Jesus didn't even involve violence in the name of some public good or great nation. It didn't involve coercion at all. Power itself is not something to pursue and selfishly wield, but rather give up and voluntarily distribute for the good of others (cf. Lk 22:25-26). In the end, Jesus died as an enemy of the state for 'perverting our nation and forbidding payment of taxes to Caesar' (Lk 23:2). What a testimony this is for today! The greatest empires in the world were threatened by someone who changed the status quo — not through armies and violence — but through peace and forgiveness. How could this be so threatening? Because no politician or dictator can do anything about it. All the world knows is laws and guns. So they did what they knew: made him illegal, and then killed him. (Ironically, the Romans even failed this.) The world was never the same again....

"So, the world should be alarmed: radical nonviolence is extremely disturbing. It disrupts the social order. It is political heresy to both liberals and conservatives. We're not allowed to just vote for some candidate and subcontract the gospel out to some up-and-coming 'Christian politician.' Instead, we actually have a responsibility as the church to restore the world with our own resources. A wild idea, indeed."

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