Gil Harp and Michael Coulter have a thought provoking op-ed out this morning via the Center for Vision and Values titled, “Searching For A Libertarian Jesus.”
In reaction to various unnamed Christian supporters of a minimalist state, Harp and Coulter search for a libertarian Jesus without success. To listen to Christian proponents of the tea party, for instance, one might think governments are incapable of any good. One might think that, but one should not claim Jesus expressly teaches it. Harp and Coulter:
Must Christians—because of the example of Jesus—oppose states enacting sabbatarian laws or limiting access to pornography? How about making drivers wear seatbelts? There might be prudential reasons for opposing such laws, but Jesus’ teaching doesn’t address them. In addition to punishing criminals, governments can use their power to do positive good, such as sometimes using force so that child support is paid by a non-custodial parent. Government can also use its power to discourage some harmful behaviors, such as divorce or public drunkenness. Nothing in Jesus’ teaching explicitly rules out these kinds of state actions. The Gospels do certainly offer ethical principles, such as the Golden Rule, but they don’t provide a blueprint for health insurance regulations or tariff policy.
While I don’t want sabbatarian laws enacted, I think I get the point. The Gospels, and I will add the Bible, don’t offer us detailed economic policies which must be followed as one would follow revealed truth. In much Christian discourse today (e.g., David Barton’s sermons), the Bible is presented as the GOP policy manual with deviation from the political platform treated as grounds for excommunication.
Christian libertarians who want Jesus to be a libertarian have to contend with an inconvenient truth. One the icons of their movement, Ludwig von Mises, didn’t think much of Christianity. Again, Harp and Coulter:
Mises was no fan of Jesus’ economics. He asserted that Jesus’ “teachings had no moral applications to life on earth.” Mises contended that, “Jesus offers no rules for earthly action and struggle; his Kingdom is not of this world. Such rules of conduct as he gives his followers are valid only for the short interval of time which has still to be lived while waiting for the great things to come … In God’s Kingdom the poor shall be rich, but the rich shall be made to suffer.” As for the religion Jesus founded, Mises was convinced that “A living Christianity cannot, it seems, exist side by side with Capitalism.”
Although I wish they would have named names, the article is a good read and I encourage you to check it out.