Today, April 4th 2010, is Easter Sunday, when Christians all over the world celebrate the Resurrection from death of the Lord Jesus Christ, the God-Man sometimes known by the title “the Son of God”. Christians claim, on the basis of written accounts handed down from eye-witnesses, that three days after enduring death by crucifixion, Jesus of Nazareth came back from the dead. Those accounts add that the risen Jesus was seen, heard and even touched by up to 500 of his followers at a time over a forty day period before ascending into heaven.
The Resurrection is an event which Christians have celebrated for about forty generations past, but to we who believe it’s more than an event – it’s the Event which changes human history forever. According to the Christian Church, the Resurrection shows that God in Christ has conquered even death, and that the Jesus who willingly offers everlasting life to his followers is able to do what he’s promised. In Libertarian terms, the Easter story is about the triumph of Life and Truth over an unholy alliance of Imperial Politics and State-sanctioned Religion.
The Easter week-end marks the climax of one of the most distinctive aspects of the Judeo-Christian revelation. The story of world religion normally revolves around human beings trying to reach up to God. The Judeo-Christian story, by contrast, is about God reaching down to us. It’s based on two contrasting but related assumptions: that on the one hand human beings can’t bribe, cajole, or haggle their own way into the good books of an all-sufficient God; but that on the other the God who loves us enough to make and sustain us won’t just leave us to live and die without the chance to relate to God.
You might be wondering what much of this has to do with the Libertarian Alliance. The Alliance includes many atheists and agnostics who would accept little or none of what I’ve just written about the Lord Jesus Christ. It has no unified position on much of anything except the right of everyone to speak and live by the truth as best they understand it – without the modern, centralised, over-regulating, greedy, grasping State to stand in their way. Where might Christianity fit into a Libertarian world, except perhaps as one life-style option among many? The truth is that Christians and Libertarians have much more to offer one another here in Britain than mere tolerance of one another.
For instance, the Christian Institute has recently pointed out that the current understanding of “equality” in British political discourse means that many Christians have “a growing feeling that ‘equality and diversity’ is code for marginalising Christian beliefs” (Marginalising Christians: Instances of Christians being sidelined in modern Britain, page 7). Christians, it seems, should be “free” to practice their faith privately but not publicly. They should be “free” to answer questions (although even this freedom is under attack), but not to initiate conversations. They should be “free” to live under the law of the land, but not to initiate (or even retain) laws which embody and reflect their beliefs and priorities.
If such limitations were successfully applied to an ethnic group rather than a religious one, the results would often be marginalisation and, eventually, extinction. As noted above, British Christians are increasingly concluding that this is exactly what some British and European political leaders and social commentators have in mind for them and their faith. And while this cadre of anti-Christians is currently small, it is vocal, well-connected and highly motivated. If its members succeed in their legislative and cultural objectives, I suggest that the results will be horrifying for Christians and Libertarians alike.
With the demise of Christianity, our primary cultural basis for distinguishing between the individual and the State would disappear too. Instead, the State would become the Western world’s arbiter of moral values, the assessor of the value of each individual human life, and finally (by a remorseless logic) the giver and taker of life on a scale unknown in the West (certainly not since 1945 at any rate). In short, the State would become a fully fledged pretender to godhood. During the 20th century, the loss of the boundaries between God and the State cost Eastern Europeans and Asiatics over 100 million civilian lives between them in what was probably the most expensive educational project in recorded history. You can read more about it in Professor RJ Rummel’s book Death by Government. How many millions of lives might the West be willing to throw away in the 21st century in order to learn the same lessons?
Would democratic humanists offer much resistance to such a State? I suggest their opposition would amount to very little. In the first place, if this life is all you’ve got, will you really risk it during the rise of an increasingly violent dictatorship to prevent an unknown number of complete strangers being killed? Some might, but most wouldn’t. Why lose so much forever in exchange for what one will never see? Some brave parents might make the ultimate sacrifice for their children – but what if the State subsequently took those orphans into “care”?
Secondly, the democratic humanist critique of dictatorship often rests on the twin pillars of utilitarianism and respect for legal procedure. This kind of critique is fuelled by current affairs. It suffers badly once State control of news and education can shape a nation’s understanding of what is socially “good” and can also spare a government’s blushes. What’s more, modern totalitarian States have often killed, exiled or co-opted prominent intellectuals and lawyers into ensuring that legal minutiae are complied with wherever possible. This second point in particular may help British Libertarians understand why their critique of the modern nation-state is only just starting to attract the mass media attention it needs and deserves.
By contrast to the democratic humanist approach, the Christian faith, rightly understood, proclaimed and applied, has the power to act as the moral conscience of the Libertarian movement in Britain and of the wider nation – as indeed it did to the Gladstonian liberals of the nineteenth century. In so doing, it would offer the Libertarian movement the moral ammunition it needs to see off the old criticism that Libertarians are really conservatives who want to smoke pot without getting arrested. It would also give Libertarians an acceptable basis for discussing the importance of family, community, culture and society. “laissez faire” isn’t rhyming slang among Libertarians for “I don’t care”, and I’ve yet to meet a Libertarian who thinks it should be.
But how can an assortment of classical liberals, cultural conservatives, voluntaryists, and anarcho-capitalists help the Church? What do Libertarians have to offer Christians, apart from the promise of leaving them in peace? To put it bluntly, if Libertarians could only offer Christians good-humoured toleration, it would be a great improvement on the current situation of the British Church. Even the most humanistic Libertarians I’ve met genuinely believe that the Church should be free to promote and live out its message in Britain to the greatest extent its moral, spiritual and material resources will permit. In Libertarian thinking, equality means equality for Christians too. Christian, if you really think this is what the current Establishment and its supporting chorus of so-called “New Atheists” are offering you, kindly reconsider. In fact, I suggest that Christians and Libertarians can and should actively co-operate in a number of areas.
Consider for instance the Libertarian slogan “For Life, Liberty and Property”, which potentially contains much that Christians should find appealing (see, for instance, John 10:7-10, Luke 4:18-21; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18). There can be no doubt that consistent application of this slogan would offer us all far greater freedom of conscience than we presently enjoy. Why, for instance, are Christians and everyone else in Britain forced through the tax system to pay for most of the 7 million plus babies aborted in the United Kingdom since 1967? How can forcible subsidies of the taking of millions of innocent lives be justified in a country that supposedly upholds our freedom of conscience as well as that of women who choose to have an abortion? I can assure any Christians who want to pursue this matter further that they’ll find a hearing and a number of sympathisers in the Libertarian Alliance.
For their part, Libertarians can help Christians put meat on the bones of lines such as “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Christian teaching has not only to be proclaimed and explained. It must also be applied, which begs an obvious question: how? Let me give but one example where Libertarians have put in a great deal of thought over the past few decades. Western governments are becoming ever more desperate to suppress reports of their national debts by blaming the media, “speculators” and anyone else they can find. The politics of State-run redistribution, financed by ever-larger government deficits and overseen by corporately-sponsored political parties, is about to collapse in on itself (as is the custom of oversized black holes).
The results will be devastating for many ordinary households. As in times past, adversity will bring many to the doors of their local church looking for answers. When that happens, Christian leaders will have a choice. Will they emphasize that we are given God’s grace to live here and now too? Will they prepare now to explain later that the centralised, politically driven issue of fiat money (mere pieces of paper) through central banks is an abomination to God? A government-run fiat currency violates God’s commands to use just weights and measures (Deuteronomy 25:13-15), and involves secretly moving the landmarks (Deuteronomy 19:14) of savers by diluting the purchasing power of what they own in favour of the politically connected mega-banks and multinational corporations who get the new money first. The end result is that Big Banking and Big Business get to bid for today’s resources at today’s prices with tomorrow’s money supply. Little wonder that the rich get richer and the poor fall further and further behind when the state controls the money supply!
Will Church leaders also call for the State-controlled, relativistic National Curriculum to be scrapped? The Bible places the primary responsibility for education on parents, supported by the leaders of God’s people (Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Joshua 8:34-35; Nehemiah 8:1-10). I’m amazed how many Christians keep imagining all will be well if they can just give a Christian gloss to the God-hating, Christ-killing, micro-managing, grasping, one-size-fits-all State – and if that sounds like an overstatement, try looking at governments as God and Satan see them (Daniel 7; Luke 4:5-8). The compelling, conformist violence of the law (especially in the field of so-called “social engineering”) and the exercise of free choice informed by the royal law of love (James 2:8) are fundamentally different in nature. True, God gave the Law of Moses – but that was to teach people the reality of their sinfulness and their need for Christ (Galatians 3:21-29).
Will Church leaders have the knowledge and courage to inform the Christian call to repentance with specifics about how foreign policies, government “aid” programs, so-called “free trade” agreements and “conservationism” have been used to retard the industrialisation of the countries formerly known as the Third World? Closer to home, will they call time on the politics of State-run redistribution as a massive exercise in electoral bribery from the voters’ own pockets? Or will those leaders just say that God wants the suffering crowds to know the presence of Jesus and ask them to keep coming back to learn more about a better hereafter? Such a message, while not false in its content, would clearly be an inadequate portrayal of the Christian life to a materially and spiritually impoverished people in desperate need of both eternal Truth and practical responses amidst financial ruin.
Whether you’re a Church leader, an “ordinary” Christian, or just someone looking for a principled, reasoned and radical alternative to the database state, please accept this invitation to contact the Libertarian Alliance. Meantime, regardless of your own beliefs, I hope you’ll accept best wishes for a very Happy Easter from the Libertarian Alliance and I.