Libertarian blogger Cathy Reisenwitz recently posted an article on her blog, Sex & the State, where she attempts to reconcile her libertarian lifestyle with her Baptist-upbringing. Vulnerable, provocative, and salted with sass, her story shocked and intrigued me in equal measure. She says, “Jesus is still my homeboy. But like all of my relationships, ours a weird one.” And boy did she get that right.
Reisenwitz calls herself a Christian and a libertarian-hippie-stoner-poly-freak (poly=polyamorous). She proudly supports “free love” and other socially libertine views that would give my Texas-born, conservative, Evangelical mother an aneurysm.
She probably just didn’t catch the new study that finds devout Catholics have the best sex.
But I digress.
As a Christian who considers myself somewhere on the libertarian spectrum, I disagree with her attempt to meld her libertarian worldview with her faith. The free market is the cornerstone of her worldview and Christianity takes a backseat. She believes Jesus died for her sins, but sadly she says,
[N]ow I tell everyone I meet about markets instead of our Creator. Because I get markets. I’m not ambivalent about markets. No one told me growing up that markets would send me to hell for not believing in them.
It seems that markets have become her God and she’s stuffed her homeboy in a little libertarian box.
But aside from disagreeing on her faith application, I really sympathize with Reisenwitz. A lot. I grew up Evangelical too, and I get it. Four-chord-only worship music and embarrassingly terrible films like Left Behind dominated our Christian youth. The answer to every “why?” was “because the Bible says so.”
We siloed the church from secular culture and shielded ourselves from science and philosophy. Charles Malik says,
The greatest danger confronting American evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism.
Reisenwitz recounts a story reflecting this breed of anti-intellectualism, and it hardly surprises me:
One Wednesday night youth group at Sherwood Baptist our music minister decided to take on some of our theological questions. My friend Lauren […] asked some questions for which he had no answers. Instead of pointing her to better resources, or admitting he didn’t know, he told her she needed to have faith. And then when she called bullshit, in the way of too-smart teenagers everywhere, he got visibly angry.
The emphasis of faith over reason in the Evangelical Church has failed young intellectual Christians like Reisenwitz. She continues,
[The] attitude of being threatened by and discouraging questioning and critical thinking is I think one source of the great schism of libertarianism and Christianity.
The Christian-libertarian-hippie-stoner-poly-freak has a point.
Christians aren’t just hungry for critical thinking, we’re starving. We’re starving for reason. We’re starving for theology. We’re starving for an intellectual conversation about Christ that goes beyond the book of John. According to J.P. Moreland,
The contemporary Christian mind is starved, and as a result we have small, impoverished souls.
As a result, we are seeing many young Evangelicals trading their fold-out chairs and warehouses for wooden pews and stained glass. They’re joining more traditional denominations that embrace science, philosophy, and liturgy. Many are even crossing the Tiber to Catholicism, myself recently included. They’re looking for something more transcendent and timeless than fuzzy feel-good faith they were raised on.
My mom used to tell me the only words out of my mouth between the ages of three and four was, “but why?” I’ve always hungered for reason. It’s a God-given desire. We all need reason as a foundation for our faith. But more importantly–a point Reisenwitz misses–is that faith and reason actually need each other. Blessed Pope John Paul II famously says in his encyclical Fides et Ratio,
Faith and Reason are like two wings of the human spirit by which is soars to the truth.
I believe many libertarian principles are in line with Christian principles. The human dignity found in the freedom to choose is central to both Christianity and the free market. But we must always view the world through a theological lens first, not a political or economic one, simply because Christ explains everything and markets only explain markets.
Just as Evangelicals need to rediscover reason, libertarians need to rediscover faith. A good libertarian would humbly admit we don’t have all the knowledge to centrally plan a market. Similarly, a good Christian would also admit to a knowledge problem: human reason–like everything else–is flawed. That’s why we all need revelation and faith. Faith perfects reason. Maybe if the liberty movement realized this, it wouldn’t be such a “Godless place” as Reisenwitz observes.
On a related note, the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics is hosting a panel on Ayn Rand and Christianity at the International Students for Liberty Conference next year. This could get wild.
- Can a Christian be completely Libertarian? (brokenforhisglory.wordpress.com)