In thinking of Christianity and its requirements as a belief system, what immediately comes to mind as overall principles? Faith? Love? Purity? In addition to these simplified concepts, I would add one that perhaps supersedes the others: choice. Although Christianity is predicated, of course, on repentance from sin and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the fact that underlies all Christian dogma is choice; Christians make a personal choice to turn from sin, a personal choice to accept the salvation offered by Christ through his sacrifice on the cross, and a personal choice to modify their personal behavior to follow the laws of God. In fact, in Mark 8:34, Christ himself emphasizes precisely this choice, saying “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Sidestepping slightly into the realm of politics, what is the political ideology of choice? What political ideology emphasizes freedom and human liberty above all else? Libertarianism. Simply put, libertarianism is the ideology of liberty, the right-wing belief that the government should be minimized to its smallest possible size and scope, only large enough to protect its citizens’ natural rights of life, liberty, and property. This results in, more or less, libertarianism being a restatement and re-emphasis of the ideals of John Locke, the so-called Father of Liberalism and engineer of the political philosophy that inspired the American Founders. Choice, consent, and personal independence all serve as prime libertarian virtues.
One would think that perhaps this alignment of choice for libertarians and Christians would see the groups aligning; after all, large states throughout history, the antithesis of libertarianism, have never treated religious choice with the kindest of embraces, either mandating religious practices for the masses or outright oppressing the religious all together (read: Mao’s China or Nazi Germany). Despite this, many Christians, especially Evangelicals, support a type of enforced social conservatism. Social conservatism is part and parcel to Christianity and this isn’t anything to be ashamed of or deny; any honest Christian who bases their faith on scripture realizes that with the choice to follow Christ comes adherence to the laws of God against sin. However, for many Christians, this personal adherence to Biblical laws comes with an effort to spread compliance to others, something I find well-intentioned yet unwise and denigrating of the choice at the center of our faith.
For example, the issue of gay marriage frequently confounds Christians, specifically Evangelical Christians, in the realm of politics. According to the PEW Research Center, about 65% of (white) Evangelical Protestants in 2017 opposed the allowance of same-sex marriage. The Bible is very clear when it comes to the topic of homosexuality; I need not cite scripture for it to be realized that, according to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin, plain and simple, cut and dry. In addition, for the Christian engaging in this behavior, it’s very clear: repent and turn from your sinful ways. However, what is to be said for the homosexual non-Christian? Should those who don’t believe in the Bible’s authority and the God of it see their personal lives be mandated legally? Many of my fellow Christians would say so, desiring a return to the pre-2015 illegality of same-sex marriage; some would even argue for a return to the illegality of homosexual relations in general. I simply ask: why?
In the philosophy of libertarianism, there exists a principle called the NAP: the Non-Aggression Principle. Per the NAP, behavior of individuals that doesn’t harm another or violate their natural rights is ineligible for purview by the state; simply put, so-called “victimless crimes” (such as recreational drug use and, yes, same-sex marriage) aren’t actually crimes at all and shouldn’t be treated as such or regulated. This isn’t to say social conservatism is completely unenforceable per the NAP; for example, as abortion violates the natural right to life of the unborn, Christian opposition to it is perfectly reconcilable with the NAP. Per my earlier inquiry to my fellow Christians, however, I ask: how does a same-sex couple getting married adversely affect our own marriages or our own rights? Does it? In our secular republic, do we have a right to impose our own personal religious ethics and morals on the lives of others who do not ascribe to these ethics and morals? Libertarianism would say “no”. In fact, libertarianism would advocate for removing government from the marriage equation entirely, leaving the institution entirely under the purview of individuals and the Church. Wouldn’t this be an equitable solution for both Christians and the LGBT community?
Apart from the libertarian NAP, there remains the fact that choice is central to Christian faith. Under what rationale does compelling Christian morality through the iron fist of the state lead to non-Christians coming to know Christ? Does the rational Christian honestly believe that government limitation of the liberty of homosexuals (and others) to make personal choices will lead to genuine Christian faith in those people? Did Christ not say in Matthew 7:21 that “Not all who say to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of Heaven”? Faith without works is dead but aren’t works without faith equally dead? What good are we doing for the salvation of the lost if we compel good behavior but drive them away from Christ by violating their liberty? I say to my fellow Christians: compel sinners to turn from sin and accept Christ through our love and example, not by using the state as a weapon.
None of this is to endorse sin; Libertarian Christianity is not libertine Christianity. I still hold that what the Bible labels sin is sin. I am encouraging Christians not to betray their principles and change what they believe, but instead to let the Church be the Church and the state be the state. Many right-wing Christians rightfully stand up for religious freedom, free speech, and property rights; I simply wish we would also stand for the right of people to disagree with us and live their own lives.