Letter to my Libertarian Friend

I have a good friend from college who’s now a veterinarian in Northeastern Ohio.  He helps contribute to the website: XEKE.COM – I’m sure they’d appreciate your visit, especially those Libertarians who stop by here frequently 😉 I respect Ryan a great deal and I know he does me . . . we just look at the world differently, and banter back and forth on occasion.  He’s smart and respectful . . . just a little off when it comes to politics 😉  Ha!  Hopefully, this will provoke some helpful reflections from many.

I haven’t spent a good deal there, but as I looked over it today, I was compelled to put some thoughts together to share with him.  Mainly, I find it beneficial for my own thinking as I continually work through my own perspectives and test my own thoughts.  In addition, provided they purport to proclaim the name of Christ through their perspective, I thought I would add a pastoral voice.  After bantering through it a great deal, below is the final product I passed on to him earlier today.  I thought through a bunch of things, so I figured I’d post it here as some of you may appreciate looking at some of the issues I raise.

Hey . . . so I am apparently trying hard not to get any work done today and I, through a strange series of clicks that can only happen through our strangely connected world . . . ended up on your libertarian political website and felt (as you can imagine 🙂 compelled to respond.  The sheer divergence of our perspectives on the matters you address is incredible.  I always enjoy our quips back and forth as I test and trial to my philosophical constructs over against many others whose differ.

With a website like yours, it is especially challenging to engage in dialogue because the real dialogue has to take place at a very philosophical level – that’s clearly where we diverge.  So, choosing an issue or current event to go back and forth like talking leaves instead of the root.

I do have to do something today 🙂  so I’ll try to work through some thoughts on my own.  Maybe you can post them on your Reponses section – ha!
There’s a couple of thoughts just in general I’ll make – just kind of observations from looking at four of five articles on your website.  I’ll tell you first of all the vibe that’s most troubling.  It’s probably a personality thing more than anything, but I am constantly bothered by what I come away perceiving as a, “Everyone is morons and if they would just reason it (ie. if they were as smart as me) these problems would go away.”  I can imagine your response at this point would be, “I never said that,” and of course you didn’t, but it’s the vibe I get from watching most political conversations take place.  Glenn Beck is super good at it.  “I mean, I’m just telling you the facts and they must be blind because here it is in black and white . . .” and those on the Left and Right kind of both move according to that drumbeat.  If it was that easy – if all we had to do was look at the facts, these divisions wouldn’t exist, at least they wouldn’t be so sharp.  But that’s the thing, it isn’t just the facts.  I saw at one point you make the reference that you just were going to deal with the facts and ignore the emotions of one of your responder’s comments, as if the “truth” is more important and objective than the emotional response.  Perhaps it is, but it’s awfully presumptuous to believe that you are more privy to those facts and that truth than those who differ with you or could it be that their understanding of the truth has been forever compromised by a situation or experience.  We can rest assured that your response is free of any kind of emotional presupposition?  Often in your responses in regards to racism, in particular, you seem to say, “Just set aside any kind of prejudice or racism that you’ve experienced and just be reasonable.”  But who can do that?  Who can free themselves of their experiences and provide an objective perspective?  No one.  Those experiences are just as informative and important as any “objective” truth, fact, or statistic.  We are an incredible complexity made up of our experiences, educational background, and upbringing.  “Just stick to the facts.  Just stick to the truth.”  There’s always more than the facts.  There’s always more than the truth.  Conservatives like to drone on about the liberal bias of the media.  Fair enough, but let’s not presuppose, as many seem to do, that they’re offering (or can point us in the direction of) the REAL truth . . . the REAL facts (the rest of the story.)  How about saying it’s another perspective?  Maybe a better perspective?  Instead, it can easily wind up being (and I feel this is the way it often is in conservative outlets – maybe liberal too, but there are just way more conservative) well . . . hey, you’ve just been misled.  We love our little Youtube soundbytes and clips.  Whether it’s that clip you posted the other day about some congress woman being referred to as “Ma’am” or the crazy lady who’s made dumb comments about masturbation and witchcraft (SNL spoof was great by the way) – we can throw out all kinds of tidbits that support or challenge us.  The result is that no one can quote an article they’ve seen here or there, or a program they’ve watched because it’s full of blatantly misleading information  . . .  I’m not proposing a cure here, I just believe we (especially as Christians) have to admit our bias going in and move with humility.  How often can you associate that word in political discussions?  I don’t care what point we’re making or what side were arguing, if we can promote a spirit of humility and love through all that we do, we’d probably be doing pretty well.  What is the real value . . .in the end . . .of being right?  Perhaps God can do more in us when we are wrong.  Maybe God wants us to be wrong – to have our perspective shot to hell.
I, as you probably would imagine, am a pretty serious critic of Rand’s libertarian ideals and their enmeshment with the Bible.  With that said, I do not propose to be all that well informed as to the particulars of her philosophy, so you can disregard my critique as uninformed because it is that, however, I am becoming better educated through the recent surge of the tea party and similar Conservatives disillusioned with the established Republican party.  Also I have a slight familiarity with Alan Greenspan’s affinity to her politics and economics.  Interestingly, upon watching a documentary on PBS awhile back (again, here you can write if off as a product of the liberal media and cut me off at the legs, but I’m going forward as though it was reputable), the editors of Frontline proposed that the financial meltdown of 2008 was largely an identity crisis for Greenspan as it represented a challenge to unfurled individualism and capitalism and seemed to work to their ultimate fulfillment . . . and he was forced to go completely against his political and economic outlook in affirming the need for systemic intervention.  That’s about as deep in the water I can go on that matter for now . . .
I would be probably best labeled as a Christian anarchist who finds in the “kingdom of God” (an overt political image) an alternative society living in the here and now for Christians.  In short, my perspective is that you (and those espousing your ideology) have been co-opted by a political ideology that has polluted the Gospel.  Many Christians in your position (it has been my first hand experience) see more in common with a political ally who is not a Christian than a political foe who bears the name of Christ – illustrated in some of your questioning of Jeremiah Wright and (though I didn’t see it, I’m guessing) Ted Strickland – both ordained pastors.  Getting into all this who is a legitimate Christian and who isn’t is not the most productive conversation, but we’ve got to walk cautiously as we demonize other’s perspectives accordingly to their political labels.  While your website is certainly not even close to being the worst, you do raise questions about the validity of ministers based on a message you believe is “false.”  As an aside, much of what Wright teaches parallels the message of the minor prophets and their prophesying against Israel.  Those books aren’t often studied in white-suburban churches . . . they hit a little closer to home.  They are hard-hitting, in-your-face and have a very similar message to much of Wright’s words.  Overall, I’m not saying he’s off his rocker . . . I’m not saying he is . . . I’m saying he’s a Christian whose allegiance is first of all to the kingdom of heaven and should be judged by that first and not by politically-insensitive words.
Perhaps my best critique of your politic is this . . . Rand’s individualistic-driven libertarianism highlights a Western individualism run amok of the Gospel.  It’s Teddy Roosevelt’s “rugged individualism” disguised as some kind of quasi-Christianity.  It completely sets aside the communal nature of the Eastern context of Scripture.  It elevates individual moral decisions over systemic accountability.  (Ie. Jeremiah Wright is judged by his “racist” statements – thus he’s not a Christian, regardless of any kind of systemic impact that he may have on the kingdom.  “All fall short . . .” you know that spiel . . . one of my biggest critques of conservative politics is that it emphasizes personal moral convictions while often ignoring – or at least diminishing the place of larger systems issues of sin in society.)

I wanted to find one matter from your writing that helps illustrate my overarching concern for the perspective you are promoting (in the name of Christ).  Could you please justify the following statement based on a Christ-inspired, kingdom-centered perspective?

“Illegal aliens do not, and should not, receive the same civil rights that true Americans receive. The idea that a pregnant illegal alien can illegally enter our country, give birth to her “anchor baby,” and all of a sudden her child is a citizen is a joke and a fraud. True, we do have THE best medicine in the world. True, our health care system is THE best health care system in the world. True, socialized medicine has failed every where in the world it has been forced upon its people. That being said, a woman who illegally enters our country has no rights, her child has no rights, and tax payers dollars should never go toward health care, education, welfare, etc. to an illegal alien.”
I don’t now which of you wrote this statement (it’s kind of old, but I think the illegal immigrant discussion is a good one to help talk us through some of the ways our kingdom perspective has been co-opted).  By the way . . . the use of inflammatory words (or at least, extreme words) like “a joke” and “a fraud” show that your arguments are not free of emotion either.  But to my point, I find this series of statements disheartening, unfortunate, and, I believe, contrary to the mind of Christ.  To say that anyone has “no rights” is to co-opt the message of Christ for a much more narrow civic message (America).  How does this perspective jive with Paul’s words that in Christ there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female”?  I have a suspicion your perspective is that Paul is aiming this perspective at those within the church – whom he no doubt is.  However, it is the life of Christ enacted in the early church.  To be honest . . . I have no side in the argument that “a woman who illegally enters our country . . . tax payer dollars should never go toward health care, education, welfare, etc.”  The Christian has no role in the government – that’s my prevailng thought.  However, I believe it is more in the mind of Christ that my tax dollars go to providing food for this woman than to building another nuclear weapon.  Would you agree?  I think you’d have to do some kind of hermeneutical gymnastics to find a text that would be more supportive of government defense than welfare.  Of course, I completely deny the idea that there is something redemptive in violence – that shows my bias.  There’s some OT texts I struggle with . . . but there’s some NT texts I hope you are struggling with.  As Christians our concern is that the less fortunate and down-trodden are taken care of – I don’t care how it happens.  In the OT, the rich were told to give up what they had so that the poor would be taken care of (leaving gleanings from their fields, the Jubilee year, etc.)  Don’t get caught up in this idea that the Bible eschews socialism at every turn – it’s easier to make a biblical case for socialism than capitalism (consider at an elementary level, which sounds more in line with Christ? a system where the poor and disenfranchised are taken care of by leveling wealth or a system that is based on individualism and competition . . . hard to justify either of these latter on the grounds of biblical texts . . . the argument that the former requires “stealing” from the wealthy . . . well, I don’t know . . . I just know that is the way the entire OT system was laid out . . . and it was never called “stealing.”
OK, I got off topic here for a minute . . . let me make my main point.  I believe the main philosophical underpinning dividing us is that you make a clear distinction between the morals and structure of the civic authorities that I do not.  In order to espouse your position, you have to.  A lot of this comes down to how we interpret Romans 12 and 13.  Chapter 13 is everyone’s favorite passage about submitting to the govt. and right after that we’re told they are given the authority of the sword.  However, right before this in chp. 12 Paul tells Christians not to repay evil for evil but allow God’s wrath to fall.  A clear contradiction – either Christians should be involved in violence or not.  To say they can be under the guise of the state, you have to create that dichotomy – there are things the state can do and has been empowered to do and somehow in the end the means will be justified.  I cannot follow this line of logic.  I believe that the message of Christ completely flipped that mindset upside down.  He said the means must always justify the end.  This means we stand in the face of horrific events like WWII and raise our hands unable to take up swords against what we perceive to be a major evil and surrender our lives trusting that God will move.  God will make it right.  Upon our death, we are left to point the accusing finger at Him for we have refused to continue to contribute to the un-ending cycle of violence.  It largely comes down to our view of the unfolding of history as well.  I believe God is in control of history and that I have nothing to worry about: not the Democrats (or Republicans) or Socialists taking over Washington, not Iran’s nuclear program, not the crisis in Darfur, not global warming . . . I believe the church is called to minister in all these areas . . . the church is the most significant power in our world . . . and it is therefore so disappointing when we give that respect and title over to any government (which many appear to do in their incredibly high view of the U. S. Constitution).

So . . . there’s a long rant that got me out of an hour’s worth of work . . .now I really have to get something done.  I feel compelled to work through some of these issues at times, not necessarily to convince you or anyone else that my opinion is right, but to help me think and pray through my own position.  Much of what I’ve written here challenges you and your perspective fundamentally and I would imagine it will be hard for us to find a middle ground, for the lack of a better image, or even points of contact.  I would encourage you to read some Mennonite and neo-anabaptist theology.  I appreciate your political involvement and concern, I would just encourage you to throw the net out further . . . read from a broader pool, especially when it comes to theology.  There’s an emerging school of theology from the liberation theology camp . . .they’ve been tampering through their emergence in Latin American countries and attempts are being made at shaking out some of its excesses, and I believe, by the time you and I are old, this will be a major perspective among all Western churches.  It’s often called post-colonial theology.  I know we mostly like to read the stuff that agrees with our perspective and ushers us on forward . . . but there is great value for me as I sit and listen to Glenn Beck’s nonsense every few weeks 😉  I make an effort to expose myself only to as much of this that is helpful and upbuilding . . . much of it is not . . . look over much of the writing you’ve done in this camp and ask yourself, where am I most productive?  Where am I building the biggest bridges for Christ?  Don’t get caught up in the addictive realm of politics  . . .

Hope this is helpful . . . at some point or another . . . it has been for me .  . . hope you and the fam are well!  Thanks again for our frequent FB exchanges!
And . . . to something we can agree upon . . . GO BUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   😉
By the way  .  .  . since I’ve taken so long to type this out, I’ll copy this and put in on my blog for my post this week.  I look forward to the conversation.


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