Saturday, December 27, 2008

O Come All Ye Faithful

Why evangelical Christians should rally to the libertarian cause.

As we wind down our celebration of the birth of Christ and prepare for the new year, I hope that “conservative” Christians, who are wondering where to go after the Republican train wreck of late, will give the Libertarian Party (L.P.) a second look.

If you’ve heard anything about us, you’ve probably heard that we want to legalize pot, gay marriage and all sorts of other things that no doubt turn your gut. Before you let that scare you off, let me explain our take on some of these issues. (Keep in mind that I hold no official position with the party, so if I muck it up, don‘t blame them.)

The L.P. is generally about freedom. The L.P.’s national platform states it fairly well: “We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual. We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.” How does this effect issues supposedly important to evangelicals?

Let’s get right to the most contentious issue first: Abortion. I’m not going to lie to you, most Libertarians are probably pro-choice. Wait, come back! Not all of us. There are enough of us pro-life Libertarians for the National Committee to recognize that good Libertarians fall on both sides of the issue. The L.P.’s National Platform says: “Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.”

Yeah, I know that’s a cop-out, but there really is no middle ground here. Since Libertarians support individual rights (life, liberty, and property), there’s somewhat of a conundrum with this issue. Libertarians like me, who believe that life begins at conception, see abortion as the ultimate violation of an unborn person’s right to life. Libertarians who believe that life begins at birth see banning abortion as a violation of the mother’s liberty. To some degree, both sides are right. (Of course, I believe my side is MORE right!)

So where would a nation run by Libertarians leave us pro-lifers? We would be free to speak out against abortion in any manner that we chose (provided we didn’t harm or threaten to harm anyone else). With less money being taken from us in taxes we would be freer to contribute our money to pro-life groups, making them more effective. Since Libertarians support Constitutional restraints on the federal government and recognize that this is NOT a subject that the federal government has authority over, the people of each State would be allowed to decide whether or not abortion should be legal. That might be the best that pro-lifers can hope for, regardless of who’s in power.

Another benefit that a libertarian society would bring is that your church would be vastly more important in the community. Since Libertarians would get rid of government-run “welfare,” private charities and churches would become that much more vital. Religious charities have a long and proud history of helping people. They also generally do so much more efficiently and effectively than wasteful, values-neutral government programs. With lower taxes, more money would be flowing into church coffers and religious institutions could reclaim their historical role as society’s true safety net.

Another power that a libertarian society would give back to the people (and their collective representations, the churches) would be that of educating our children. Many evangelicals hate the fact that they have to send their kids to (or at least fund) government-run schools that teach their children that the basic tenants of their religion are a lot of bunk. Under a Libertarian government, parents would be free to send their kids to whatever school they chose, and they would be able to afford to so. Private and/or religious schools would become the norm, as would home-schooling.

The L.P. platform puts it thusly: “Education, like any other service, is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality and efficiency with more diversity of choice. Schools should be managed locally to achieve greater accountability and parental involvement. Recognizing that the education of children is inextricably linked to moral values, we would return authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government. In particular, parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children's education.” [Emphasis added.]

This is not just a pie in the sky idea. There are small, practical steps we can take in this direction already, such as education tax credits. Groups like Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education are already working on “expanding educational options to all Iowa families.”

All in all, Libertarian policies would reduce government coercion of everyone, including evangelical Christians. So while, yes, others would be freer to do things that you might find sinful, you would be freer to worship as you choose, choose how your money is spent and instruct your children on right and wrong. If the only way to get the government off your back is to get it off everyone’s back, that sounds like a good deal to me.

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