The popular stereotype is that libertarians are just Republicans who want to smoke pot and live libertine lifestyles. It’s true that some of my libertarian friends love their recreational drugs and wild lives. But it’s just as true that many committed Christians are libertarians or anarchists. I’m one of them.
A person’s religious faith is about his spiritual life, not necessarily his political or civic beliefs. For those of us who follow Jesus and believe in individual liberty, there’s no contradiction between the two. In fact, if you actually study Jesus’ words — instead of taking what you hear from social conservatives as Gospel, no pun intended — you won’t find a hint that He ever told His followers to coerce people in any way. He told His followers to give to the poor and needy, but there’s never one instance where Jesus is recorded as having told His followers to take things from other people to give to the poor.
Jesus taught His followers to live in certain ways, but He never taught His followers to force other people to live as they lived in obedience to Him. The people who came along in later years and used the power of government to force people to live certain ways — and those who would like to do the same today — have no biblical basis for their actions. It’s nothing short of blasphemy to force other people to live as you prefer they would — or take money from them to spend as you believe it should be spent — and pretend that it’s because Jesus told you to do it. There’s no scriptural support for that.
Those among my friends and acquaintances who are both libertarians and Christians are some of the smartest, most compassionate and most loving people I’ve ever known. Among those who immediately come to mind are a college professor/researcher with a PhD, an engineer whose biggest loves are theology and Austrian economics, a successful attorney, and a brilliantly competent woman I used to know who I still admire more than anyone else. These aren’t intellectual or philosophical lightweights. They’re people you’d like and trust.
Personally, my own lifestyle is very, very conservative by most people’s standards. I don’t smoke or drink or use other recreational drugs. I don’t even use profanity. I try to love other people, but I’m very flawed and do a lousy job of it much of the time. But despite my own lifestyle, it’s not my right to use force to get you to adhere to my beliefs or my lifestyle. It’s up to you how to live your life. Even if the majority were to agree with me that the things you might do in your own life are unwise choices or even (in some cases) things I would call sin, it’s not my place to use the force of law to compel you to follow what I believe.
My libertarian friends have all sorts of spiritual practices (or non-practices). Some are militant atheists. Some are agnostics. Some are mildly or seriously religious in various other faiths, whether they’re Jews or Hindus or pagans or something else. We have a wide variety of beliefs. But here in the United States, Christians are the biggest group that’s ripe for conversion to the ideas of liberty. That’s going to mean that people are going to have to understand that they need to focus on what they do agree on, not spend all their time arguing with those who hold beliefs they don’t. (I’m planning to write later about the wrong attitudes that Christians have about libertarians and the wrong attitudes that libertarians have about Christians.)
If you’d like to learn more about libertarians who are also Christians, there are a number of online resources. A friend of mine has written for a site called LibertarianChristians.com. The Acton Institute is dedicated to the intersection of liberty and religious values. And you’ll find other articles by people explaining how their faith and civic beliefs go together at LewRockwell.com, NolanChart.com and Students for Liberty. For one take (among many) on Christians who are also anarchists, see ChristianAnarchy.com. There’s plenty more out there.
Libertarians are a diverse bunch. Christians are, too. It’s a mistake to automatically stereotype people in either group.