Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Self-Ownership, Libertariansim and Christianity

In a discussion with a friend today, I began to think that the issue of self-ownership, which is a principle of liberty, and libertariansim is at odds with conservative Christian thinking. But self-ownership underwrites the principle of individuality, which is of primary importance if we want to defend private property!

Self-ownership is at odds to Christian thinking because "we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus"...."we are no longer our own", 'we are bondservants", etc. etc. God "owns" the indivdiual in Church terms, at least the consecrated ones (Present your bodies as a living sacrifice"). This is athema to the principle of self-governance, and self-ownership and choice. But it is not in opposition to those who believe that humans are to steward the earth and be responsible for it.

The Founders and the Enlightenment believed that we should own private property That people should be rewarded for their labors. No longer was there to be a ruling class that owned all the property, but men could create their own wealth by choosing how they would steward their gifts and talents. The individual mattered when it came to their personal decision about how to live their life and provide for their family.

 The individual mattered when it came to issues of justice. Justice is defined within contexts, but is the basis of law. Law is to limit and to define boundaries around appropriate behavior in given contexts. When people respect the law, then there are no victims of crime. Crime is disregarding the law, or boundaries around entities that are supposed to remain separated.  The individual being the smallest segment of society, so said Thomas Jefferson. In our country we value the 'personal' or the private, because we value the individual and diversity of opinion. We are freethinkers in America, at least at the Founding.

Today, America has become defined by evangelicalism, which is a broad based "heart" experience of "personal relationship" with the Transcendent. The problem is that the foundation of such a movement was fundamentalism, which was resistant to the Academy, and learning itself outside the context of Scripture. Scripture was "God's infallible and inspired Word" which was to guide and guard all of life. What began in our Founders eyes as an experiment of justice and liberty, became defined by a Text that didn't allow for free thinking. Science was viewed as a threat to such a book, because of evolution, and the dismissal of the creation account.

Now, we see our political climate wrought with wars and rumors of wars over whether the definition of the text should be socialized, i.e. humanitarian endeavors, or spiritualized, i.e. guiding life and the political process. It is disheartening to say the least that Americans cannot enjoy the liberties we have in our diversity. But, when things are seen as "God's rightful rule", then, it can become a little uncomfortable!

Libertarianism is a political philosophy that might threaten the fundamentalists because it allows or risks, which might be in opposition to what is considered "God's Command" (The Divine Command Theory). Liberty for such people makes for anxiety because they are so zealous to see "God's Kingdom" come to pass, or bringing in the Kingdom.

Though libertarianism could become libertinism, it doesn't have to, as such a philosophy allows for respect and dignity to diverse views in the public square. Such respect should be the environment of civility and an ability to reason for what American's policy should be about and for....and that calls for self-governance most of all, because of respecting the "other" while disagreeing.

I have hope for America that her people will be grateful for liberty and practice it in their interaction with others, believing (for those that believe) that God can see and know the heart of man and it is only his right to make the judgements ultimately, and for those who feel overly responsible to remember that it was a diverse group of men that created our "Republic", so we don't all have to see things in the same way.

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