In the past 2 weeks my goal was to break down as simply as possible why many in Christians in general vote for either of the two major parties in elections. But what about third parties? The Libertarian party has grown more popular in recent elections. Why do so many Christians choose to vote for this third party? Christians who are staunchly Republican or Democratic may wonder why anyone would dare vote for a party that has yet to put a President in office.
[Click here for my treatment of Christian Republicans
here for my treatment of Christian Democrats
and here for Christian non-voters]
WHY SO MANY CHRISTIANS VOTE LIBERTARIAN (OR INDEPENDENT)
Although many Christians who participate in political elections swing for Republican or Democratic parties, many also advocate and vote for third party candidates. The most prominent one is Libertarian. In short, Libertarians believe in small government, leaning economically past conservatives and socially past progressives. One of the most important values of Christians who are libertarian is being consistent in how we define liberty as laid out in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, trusting less in man-made government to legislate and regulate any Christian values beyond liberty.
Party History and America’s Founders
Founded in the 1970s over issues of military conscription, entanglement in Vietnam, and the gold standard, the Libertarian party stances have always remained fairly the same, emphasizing limited government and private freedom in both fiscal and social areas. Running with the slogan “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” most candidates have run on a platform that the government should tax as little as possible and provide only the services necessary to run the small government the founders envisioned.
Members of the party must sign a pledge that they will adhere to the Non-Aggression Principle, agreeing not to use force to achieve their political goals, but rather endorse the party’s respect for personal liberty. Party leaders tend to vote for measures that preserve individual liberty to make their own sacrifices, and prevent government measures that take any sovereignty from individuals and private groups.
Opinion is somewhat divided among all Libertarians as to how little the government should govern, or whether there should be a government at all. But all Libertarians have in common a strong belief that the government should protect as much personal freedom as possible. For Christians who are Libertarian, the distinction is drawn between legalizing something and condoning it. They do not seek to legalize sin so that they wish to practice it without penalty, but because they believe the government’s role is restricted only to sins that directly harm people (murder, kidnapping, stealing, fraud, etc.).
How They View The Issues: Let us generalize and summarize a conservative Christian stance on major issues. It is important to understand that not every Christian Libertarian aligns with all of these stances on all these issues, or for the same reasons. I will represent these as from a generic Christian Libertarian viewpoint.
Church and State—Church and State are to remain separate for the good of the Church. The Bible does not give us authority to use the powers of men to try and carry out the agenda of the Church and the home. God allows man to govern for the sole purpose of protecting our rights and carrying out just laws, punishing offenders when they harm or limit others. Our kingdom is not of this world, so we shouldn’t expect government to “do Christianity” for us. But since the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of religion, protecting our right to worship and evangelize is consistent and good.
The Market—God has blessed us with hands and minds to provide industry and wealth. An open and free market provides better business than one heavily regulated by a tyrannical government. Let citizens control the economy of businesses by participating in it and exercising free speech, rather than running to the government to limit trade. The government should only provide laws that provide a framework for criminalizing fraud. Companies should decide themselves whether to acknowledge unions. God wants us to have “honest weights and measures,” and using the gold standard over paper money will enforce a more measurable money system.
Weapon ownership—Whether or not Christians should own weapons, the Second Amendment permits owning weapons privately, and any measure of government infringing on that violates the spirit of the law and hands more power to the government.
Welfare—The Bible teaches we must help the poor, and that people need to be taken care of. Examples in scripture show us that individuals and churches are to carry out this holy task. Charities and para-church organizations have done wonders to help the needy. Government using our tax money to make decisions about giving money to people claiming to be poor is at best clumsy and at worst unethical. Welfare programs cannot distinguish between those who need more and those who need less, cause lazy and ungrateful people to look to man and not God for blessings. Private institutions can creatively help the poor when not restricted by the government, and should be given freedom to decide how and when to help people claiming to be in need.
Reproduction— Most all Libertarians agree that abortion laws should be a state issue, not a federal one. To Christian Libertarians, this perspective will save more infant lives, regardless of their view on abortion. Christian Libertarians tend to agree that states should make abortion illegal because it permanently ends all the freedoms of child, even if it temporarily infringes on the freedom of liberty and pursuit of happiness of the mother.
Sexuality—Sexual activity in private is just that: private. Moral or immoral, the U.S. government is only responsible for regulating public exposure to sexual conduct. This does not count pornography and prostitution, so long as such involves adults in agreement who make their own sexual choices. Adults should have the right to engage in any binding contract, including marriage. Churches and families can decide which of any of these activities to approve or not approve.
Public Education—The Church and the home are the places where children must be educated with Christian values. The Constitution does not lay out a plan for the government to educate children. More freedom to private institutions and families to educate children is needed. Ideally, only private institutions in a free market can give a fair and high quality to children across the states. Parents should have as much freedom as possible as to how their children will be educated, and how their money will be used to carry it out.
Crime—Regardless of what actions are moral or immoral, actions should only be crimes if they violate the rights of others through force or fraud. The accused should have more rights until they are found guilty.
Drugs—All drugs can be abused, and can potentially harm society. But adults should be given the freedom to choose what they will put in their own bodies. The drug war is classist and racist, and draws attention away from worse crimes.
Illegal Immigration—The government should make it easier for sojourners to enter America. However, if someone enters illegally, they should be constrained, especially if they pose a real, provable threat to security. It is consistent with freedom to place few limits on immigration and trade between nations.
Warfare—Christians are not fighting for an earthly kingdom. The U.S. government should not exercise power overseas. Open trade between countries will foster positive relationships and pathways for Christians to evangelize better than bombing countries into submission. Christian missions, and not tax money, should be used to give aid to people in other countries.
Race and Class—Racism is wrong. The government should not try to enforce anti-racism through clumsly laws that seek retribution for past misdeeds or try to even the playing field by giving favor to minorities simply for being minorities. Rather, government intrusion, like the drug wars and unfair immigration laws, are institutionally racist. If a business doesn’t want to serve blacks, for example, the government should let them, and let society decide whether or not to patronize a racist business establishment. But if a crime is committed against a minority, it should be tried as a crime, regardless of motive.
The Environment—God made the earth, and we should care for it. Damaging the environment is wrong. Regulated creation care is only greed and corruption in disguise. Landowners, industries and conservation groups should use free speech and trade to invest a common interest in a healthy environment. The government should not be tasked with trying to regulate this. A free market, free press, and freedom of assembly will encourage technology, social pressure, and individual cooperation that help clean up the environment.
Why do they NOT vote for Democrats or Republicans?
At best, Christian Libertarians view both Democrats and Republicans as too inconsistent, too reliant on the state. Republicans rely on government to enforce social morality, and Democrats rely on government to control economic welfare. In both cases, the Constitution is being violated and the wisdom of scripture is being forsaken. This is also why some may go as far as to view Democrats and Republicans as fascist.
What do they fear?
Godless tyranny, intolerance of liberty, terrorism, persecution, corruption, society crumbling, God being put in a box.
What do they love?
At the heart of Christian Libertarianism is, I think, the belief that God wants us to serve him and not man, and that man-made government is something God only allows to exist because he uses it to maintain law and order in a world of chaos. God gave us free will, and consequences should flow naturally from them. Because of this, a government that preserves the freedom to make personal choices will preserve the rights of Christians to be Christian, and church that seeks to use government to try and make other people Christian will only fail at doing so. Trusting in the Church to spread the word, preach morality and justice, and educate its own people about God demonstrates our faith in God regardless of what man does. The question of a godly government is only a question of how godly its people are, and how fair they are even to those who have different beliefs and values. We must honor our vows and promises, and likewise so should our nation. If the U.S. declares that it will protect our liberty, we want to be consistent with that, and let the Spirit move to accomplish God’s will.
Christians who vote Libertarian distance themselves from Republicans in that they do not believe Christ called upon man’s governments to enforce moral piety. Christians who vote Libertarian distance themselves from Democrats in that they do not believe Christ called upon man’s government to carry out his mission to the poor. In this way they tend to see their own views as more consistent than those of either party. They stress that to legalize a behavior is not the same as to condone it, but merely to grant the freedom to make the choice. They stress that to cut social services is not the same as to forsake the poor, but merely to grant churches the freedom to choose how to carry out their ministry.
If you area a Christian who is staunchly Libertarian, I invite you to share your reflection. How much of this represented you?
If you are a Christian who is staunchly Democratic, Republican, another party, or a non-voter, do you better understand why so many Christians vote Republican?
In the next post, we do the same thing with Christians who choose not to vote in political elections.
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This is GREAT, Caleb! I really do truly relate to so much of this!!! I did have a conservative upbringing, and long thought I related more to the Republicans’ view. Being disgruntled with the direction they have been taking for a few years now (not just THIS current election!), but knowing I did not relate to a Democratic view either, I looked more to third-party candidates and hoped I could find someone else to vote for. This is the best synopsis I’ve read on Libertarians’ views, especially with the spin for Christian Libertarians, and I now feel very confident I’m in the right party. My only problem is that I’m not positive if the current presidential candidate is falling in line with all of this. At least, some people who know I’m leaning Libertarian have sent me articles that they’re concerned about. But that’s another discussion!! I am happy to support the Libertarian party this year in hopes of making a dent, and propelling change for the future. I know most people are skeptical there’s even a slight chance, but I’m willing to do it rather than vote for either of the major parties. It’s not like I can decide which of them to vote for anyway – if someone tells me I’m giving a vote to the other party if I vote for Gary Johnson – well, they don’t know which party I otherwise would have voted for; I guess they’re just assuming it’s the same one they’re voting for, but that’s not necessarily the case!
Sorry, I got a little specific to this year’s election. 🙂 Only to say that I was starting to have doubts, but you’ve helped me solidify my decision!
Although I wanted to remain neutral in the posts, I will say that if I do vote this year it will be for Gary Johnson also. I’ve grown tired of hearing the same old argument against third parties as a spoiler vote. This year seems to be the one election in a long time where the most people are considering voting 3rd party. Even if it does not end up being enough to swing votes to Johnson’s election, a significant impact would call attention to how many people are tired of these 2 parties, especially if whichever candidate we choose ends up disappointing both sides, so that in the following election a 3rd party candidate is more successful. In other words, the best way to end the option of a 3rd party vote is to shut it down every year. Well, look where that got us.
But I know Justin is going to have some fun things to say about Libertarians and taxation. This will be entertaining.
Oh why, does Justin ENJOY the complicated IRS tax returns? 🙂
Haha… you got me, I love doing taxes… bleh.
In general I am okay with paying taxes and the government playing a role in welfare and other social programs. I wish churches played a bigger role in the arena of social programs and welfare but until we start to pick up that check I don’t see a better option. I do think we are in a place where government is far too inefficient and I would certainly not be opposed to major reforms in many government run programs. I’d probably even agree that some programs could stand to be cut or combined. In the end I struggle with what I interpret to be the Libertarian stance that government is bad. I am happy with the services, programs, utilities and other conveniences that most people take for granted that my taxes pay for.
Since you two have put your convictions out there for this election I’m either not voting, or writing in my mother, which is essentially the same thing. If I tried really hard I could probably trick myself into justifying a vote for Hillary just to keep Trump out but I enjoy sleeping well at night.
dear Mr. Guard… we miss you come back to NHS plz
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Thank you for a very good, and accurate, synopsis of libertarian thought. The description of how this may line up with christian thought was welcome as most of the perceived problems between the two are problems related to the church rather than to faith.