Tuesday, September 5, 2017

My Political Foundations

It is impossible to escape the reality of politics is these United States. Politics is one of the many pastimes that Americans enjoy. Because politics are such an important part of our culture it seems like everyone has an opinion about how things should be done.

The frustrating part in this reality is that the majority of people have never thought about the reasons why they believe what they believe. It is simply enough for them to know that they are not for this candidate, so that must make them a liberal or that they like this idea, so that must make them a conservative.

I have spent much of my adult life thinking about politics, what I believe, and whether or not it aligns with my faith in Jesus Christ. I went from being an ultraconservative to a libertarian. I have found libertarianism to be more intellectually satisfying and more consistent with Christian teaching than the conservatism that I grew up with. Today I want to share with you the foundational beliefs that make up my political philosophy.

1. The nonaggression principle. 


This the core tenant of libertarianism: don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff. While that is an oversimplification of principle, it does capture the main point of it. It is essential, and completely aligns with the teachings of Jesus, that we don’t seek to cause harm to other people. This means we respect their boundaries, that we tolerate their lifestyle, and that the only proper use of force is in the protection of life and property. This principle applies not only to individuals but to the government as well. What is off limits to people should also be off limits organizations.


2. Freedom is found in Jesus and not a form of government. 


One of my favorite passages of Scripture is 1 Peter 2:16; Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. (ESV) This verse is found in the middle of a section where Peter urged his readers to submit to the government, including the emperor. These people weren’t free because of the government, but because of the choices they were able to make as they followed Jesus. He set them free from sin and death, and continued to lead them into greater and greater freedom.

Look around us and we will see that many people in the United States are not free. They are enslaved by debt, by addiction, by bad relationships, and a number of other reasons. More often than not their enslavement is caused by a series of choices that they have made. True freedom is not dependent on the government, but on following Jesus.

A tangent to this idea is the reality that all freedom is a gift from God. Our founders understood this and that is why they wrote; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration of Independence tells us that our liberties are a gift from God and not from government. The purpose of government is to protect the liberties of people.


3. The politics of this world utilize two tools: propaganda (spin) and violence (force). 


I am indebted to Dr. Mark Moore for this principle. The idea that propaganda is one of the tools of politics is essential to remember. The reason is that many of us can get caught up in the spin of politics and we never stop to ask what is really true. President Bush was involved in propaganda when he urged us to go to war in Iraq. President Obama was involved in propaganda when he tried to convince us of the need to pass health care reform. When there is an agenda on the line you can be certain that half-truths and bold face lies are being thrown around.

We have to be very careful not to take things at face value. I am especially leery when I hear some one say: “this is the truth” (like I am just to trust them to be unbiased and to present the real facts of the issue.).

The second part of this principle is that politics deals with violence. The government basically has a monopoly on the use of force. The government and its agents can use force on you, but don’t ever try to use force on it, because you will pay a steep price if you do.

The fact that the government carries the sword is not a necessarily a bad thing. Please remember, it is one of their God-given duties to enforce laws. The rub is that the only way the government has to enforce laws is through force. Therefore the government of these United States have military units and different law enforcement agencies to make sure people comply to its wishes. Since that is the case it is very prudent to limit government from being able to use that force and the only way to do that is to keep government small.

4. Focus on principles and not agendas. 


This idea builds off the reality that the government uses propaganda to get its agenda accomplished. The problem is that most of us don’t have the means or the time to really dig into the truth of the matter. Who has time to read 1,500 page bill or track down ever stat used in a speech? It would consume our lives if that is what we had to do to participate in the political process, and excuse me if I don’t trust politicians and talk show hosts to tell me the truth.

When I talk about principles I am talking about political principles rather than moral principles. I don’t do this because of some misguided understanding of the idea of separation of church and state, but because some times we can allow our moral principles to cloud the issue. For example, I know that many well-intentioned Christians support health care reform because of the Christian principle that we need to help people in need, and so they are okay with the Government stepping in and taking over a part of life that the Constitution doesn’t give it the power to take over.

By focusing on political principles such as limited government, the nonaggression principle, and sound money we are able to have the clarity needed to navigate through the murkiness of political spin. It is also my belief that when the government is in its proper place the moral issues of our day will take care of themselves.

5. Free markets and sound money are crucial to liberty. 


As we look back at history, and even at the world today, what we notice is that capitalism brings more people out of poverty than anything else tried by man. When you unleash the power of the individual to make choices about how to earn money and how to use that money you empower him to be productive.

When governments impose rules and regulations on people they raise a barrier of entry into the market place that keep the poor out. When governments place heavy tax burdens on people it makes it difficult to save since they need an increasing percentage of their income for taxes. It also robs them of the motivation to work harder since they know they will keep little of the extra that they make.

One of the the great evils in these United States is the Federal Reserve. Because of the inflation that the Federal Reserve promotes people are robbed of their savings. In order to have money for retirement what are people forced to do? They are forced to risk it in the stock market, because simply putting it in a savings account causes the money to decrease in value rather than increase.

Not only is our money stolen through inflation, but because of the manipulation of interest rates the Fed also causes bubbles in certain sectors which gives us a cycle of booms and busts that can have devastating effects on the lives of people. We saw how the housing bubble completely wiped out many people’s financial gains in 2008, and this reminds us that we can’t be financially secure when the value of our money is being manipulated.

6. Think locally and act locally. 


I am indebted to Brion McCalanahan  (specifically this podcast) for this principle.

This is an overlooked principle that is crucial to maintaining liberty.  Part of the problem that we face in these United States is that we have made everything a national issue and we have squeezed the states out of their rightful place.

In my mind this has had two effects. First, it has increased the power of the federal government. According the Constitution the federal government has limited and enumerated powers, but in order to solve problems the states allowed the federal government to over step its bounds, and now we just assume the federal government can do all these wonderful things for us.

The second effect is that it removed the last line of defense the people had against an out of control federal government. Originally the states could withhold money, withhold their senators, and even nullify laws if the people felt the federal government was getting out of hand, but that is no longer the case.

What this means is that if we really want to reign in the federal government, then we need to start ignoring what the federal government has to say and start fixing the problems we face in a way that make sense at the local level. In other words, we have to start get skin in the game in our communities and stop expecting Washington, or even at times, our state governments to come up with the solution. Liberty is never given from the top down, but it must be fought for from the bottom up.

7. The Government is evil. 


The Government is evil is because it is run by men and women who have wicked hearts. They are too easily seduced by money, power, sex, and fame. Since that is the case the question is raised, “Why should we trust them?”

I don’t think we should. One of the problems that have plagued this country is that we bought into this notion of American greatness and we became so patriotic that we no longer seriously question what our government does. We need to own up to the fact that the United States has done terrible things in this world.

We can no longer naively believe that what our government does, whether it is here or abroad, is good. From torturing prisoners to stealing our money through taxes and inflation the Federal Government continues to be evil. This is another reason why it is vital to have a limited government that is held in check by the Constitution. When the Government is left to run unconstrained it will reek havoc in the lives of people.

My hope is not in a great United States but in Christ Jesus and His Kingdom. First and foremost I am citizen of His Kingdom, and so no matter what happens to these United States my hope is secure.

Thank God for that reality.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Live as Free People

You and I have certain rights simply because we are people.

In the Christian tradition we believe that these rights are a gift from God. These inalienable rights declare that people are equal.

We are not equal in talent, intelligence, beauty, strength, wealth, privilege, or a number of other variables that set people apart from one another. We are equal in that we have the same right to life, self-determination, and responsibility as everyone else has.

The way this equality should be seen is in how people are treated under the law. It shouldn't matter who you are, equal protection should be given to everyone.

You and I are free people, but that doesn't mean that we are able to whatever we want to do. To protect the liberty given to us by God requires living in a certain manner.

Consider the following quote attributed to Samuel Adams:

He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man...The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.

What does a free life look like?

According to Samuel Adams the person who enjoys freedom is the person who lives a virtuous life. This is a crucial thought.

Often when we talk about freedom and liberty the focus is on what we are free to do.

"Is this activity legal?" we ask.

We declare, "It is my life I am free to make my own decisions!"

While it is true that freedom often allows you to make all types of choices, that doesn't mean that those choices are equally beneficial.

Enjoying the benefits of freedom is not the same preserving freedom.

I believe that the number one reason why people lose their liberty is because of poor choices. Yes, their freedom allows them to make those choices, but those choices end up stealing their freedom.

Should a person be free to use drugs?

Yes!

God has gifted them personal responsibility and free will.

Admitting that a person has the freedom to use drugs is not the same thing as proclaiming  drug use as a positive thing. The addiction and personality change that can accompany drug use, even with alcohol, is a terrible thing.

Addiction is a self created prison that many people cannot escape.

This reminds me of what the apostle Peter wrote.

In 1 Peter 2:16 we read; Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (ESV).

Peter taught us that we are to live as free people.  The best way for us to live as free people is to live as servants of God.

I know this idea is counter-intuitive, that true freedom is found in being a servant, but when we obey God, we are not being oppressed by some tyrant. Rather, we are being directed by the Creator of the Universe: the One who knows the best way for people to live.

Ultimately freedom is found by living out God’s design for our lives. The way we enjoy freedom is to be faithful to God's will for us.

Please understand this: No one can rob us of our freedom.

Even if someone takes over and destroys the Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights, we are still able to live free lives.

The reason for this is because it is NOT the government that makes us free.

Freedom is a gift from God. The choices we make, even under an oppressive government, enable us to enjoy God’s gift of freedom.

Have hope!

God, in His great wisdom and mercy, placed the control of our lives in our hands.

The choices that we make determine the level of freedom we enjoy. God left it up to us to decide whether or not we will live with freedom. This freedom is not about doing whatever we would like to do. Freedom is ultimately about choosing to live the life God planned for us to live (see Ephesians 2:10).

The ability to be free is discovered in the choices we make. Choose to follow Jesus and enjoy real freedom.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Violence is not the Answer

Ever since the tragedy of Charlottesville there has been something that has bothered me.

My great concern is not the presence of Neo-Nazis, but the acceptance of aggressive violence as the means to silence other people.

Most of you know that I am a libertarian. Contrary to what most people believe, libertarians are not “fiscally conservative and socially liberal”. As far as my personal preferences go I am fiscally conservative and socially conservative, because I believe that is the best way to live.

Libertarianism isn’t about finding a middle ground between Democrats and Republicans, but about the proper use of violence. As the great libertarian thinker Walter Block states; "Libertarianism is solely a political philosophy. It asks one and only one question: Under what conditions is the use of violence justified? And it gives one and only one answer: Violence can be used only in response, or in reaction to, a prior violation of private property rights." In other words violence can only be justifiably used in self-defense. This ethic applies to both the State and individuals.

Not only am I a libertarian, but more importantly, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught that his followers are to love and pray for their enemies. He forgave those who crucified him. He overcomes, not through violence, but through self-sacrifice. This is the example I am called to model. To follow Jesus means I can’t respond with violence to people I disagree with, even when what they are advocating will harm society in the long run.

For me the idea of non-aggression is not some nice idea, but fundamental to who I am. It is a key part to both my political philosophy and my religious belief. God's kingdom is not enlarged nor is liberty expanded through violent aggression.

Know this: if you advocate punching Nazis or Communists or White Supremacists simply because of their beliefs you are living in opposition to the way of Jesus and you are an enemy to liberty. Violence is not the answer and that is why I am equally opposed to Neo-Nazis and Antifa, who both advocate its use to promote their political philosophy.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Stay Free

Liberty is one of those ideas that sounds good in theory, but is difficult to practice. Many people will say they want liberty, but few will actually use it.

It takes hard work to be good stewards of our God-given rights. It requires each of us to be responsible for our actions and to make the choices that will affect the direction of our lives. This is why people tend to turn to law for guidance.

In Galatians 5:1 the apostle Paul wrote; “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (NLT)

Paul was addressing the tendency of Christians to turn to the law for guidance in how they are to live. In Christian theology one of the weaknesses of the law is that it cannot save people from sin, because once a law is broken it cannot be unbroken.

While the law cannot save, it can provide guidance. In fact, one of the benefits of the law is that it makes the world black and white. It shows people what to do and what to avoid. The law can even be expanded to bring clarification on how to keep the law.

This is one of the issues Jesus had with the Jewish religious leaders in the first century. They had expanded on God’s law to explain what it meant to work on the Sabbath, what it meant to tithe, and even how to wash your hands. The law laid everything out, so all a person had to do was follow it.

I believe the same tendency exists for political freedom. The founding generation laid the ground work for a country of limited government and personal liberty. Yet, even from the very beginning, there were people advocating for the federal government to do something: to pass a law, to intervene in state activity, or to get involved in foreign affairs. What this shows us is that it is hard work to maintain your personal liberty. The only way for that to happen is for you to truly desire to be free.

One of the issues that we face when it comes to our political freedom is that we often have little say in what happens. Voting offers us minimal protection of our liberties. Too many people believe that the majority has the mandate and therefore can set the agenda. The Constitution, which should provide the parameters for what the Federal Government can and can’t do, is ignored in favor of the “will of the people.”

What are we to do?

I believe we can do three things:


  1. We can pray. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2 the apostle Paul wrote; “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (NLT) Why are we to pray for those in authority? We pray for them so we are able to live peaceful and godly lives. More than asking God to make them do our agenda, I think we are to pray that they will have wisdom to do what is right and that they will leave us alone.
  2. We can use what liberty we can. Even though the United States has become a highly regulated and taxed society, there are still opportunities for us to take advantage of liberty. This is seen in entrepreneurs as they start new business and engage in free markets. This is seen in speaking and writing about liberty. This is seen in living out your faith and sharing Jesus with those around you.
  3. We can educate people about liberty. One of the main problems we face is the fact that most people are ignorant about what true freedom is. As long as they have the ability to choose their career, to buy the newest gadget, to travel, and to spend their time in leisure activities they are happy. The majority of people don’t understand the amount of regulation that exists that effects their lives everyday.
Stay free!

Those words apply to Christians as we seek to follow Jesus and be guided by the Spirit as well as Americans as we seek to live in liberty apart from the ever growing State. It is not easy, and in the case of our political freedom, it might prove to be an impossible task, but it is a task that we must engage in doing.

Don’t take the easy way of the law, but do the hard work of living in liberty and exercising your God-given rights. Be free!