Since I wrote my last blog post “What is Wrong with Libertarianism?”, I’ve been called everything from a Theocrat, to a Globalist, to a Christian Fascist. It’s always lovely to see how nicely Christians can agree to disagree. 😉
Some folks have made some major false assumptions. Since I have dared to critique the Secular Humanist worldview behind the Objectivist-style Libertarian philosophy; many have concluded that I must, therefore, be a warmonger who loves big government, exalts Federalism, despises State-sovereignty, worships the Federal Reserve, dislikes cats and wants to institute a Christian version of Sharia Law on the American people. Allow me to rest your fears. None of those things are true. Quite the contrary. (Well, okay, I don’t like cats.)
Before I address a few of the problems with Conservatism, let me tell you what I don’t like about Liberals (just because this is my blog and I can!). 😉 Liberals are Utopians. And Utopians are bad.
The Liberals think that government can fix everything. The government needs to do everything for us. It needs to raise our kids, feed us, provide us with free education, housing and healthcare, give us clean air, regulate the internet so we never see any bad things (like “hate speech”), manage our retirements, and protect us from being hurt (by taking away our guns). There is only one little problem with this worldview; It is wrong.
Okay, so with that out of my system, the reason I have a problem with Conservatism is that Conservatives tend to be Utopians as well. Their view is that government is bad. Unless they are in leadership, and then it is good. Big government is really bad; unless they are in control, and then it is really good. For whatever reason, once a Conservative gets elected, nine times out of ten, he becomes what he hates.
I like how Reagan put this:
“Government is not the solution to our problem government IS the problem.”
Do you remember when George W. Bush was elected? We had endured eight miserably intolerable years of the Clinton regime, and the Religious Right had enough! So, we elected perhaps the most outspoken Evangelical Christian to ever serve in the White House. How did that work for us? Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to bash Bush. That’s been done enough, especially by the current administration! I can’t think of anyone with whom I’d rather play horseshoes, and barbeque steaks, than former President Bush (Go Rangers!).
But just because someone loves Jesus and says his bed-time prayers, that DOESN’T mean that he knows how to think according to a Biblical worldview (or apply a Biblical Ethic to matters of public policy). For example: “The cumulative debt of the United States in the fiscal years 2001-2007 was approximately $4.08 trillion, or about 40.8% of the total national debt at the time of that completion of approximately $10.0 trillion.” Unemployment also rose in January 2009 (his last month in office) to 7.8%, the highest level in more than 15 years. (See source)
And it’s not just the economy. Over those eight years, Americans did NOT become a more moral or religious people. In 1990, 86% of Americans identified themselves as being Christian. In 2001, that was down to 78.6%, and in 2009 it was down slightly to 78%. (See Source)
During the W. Bush administration, there were still millions of abortions, there were thousands of cases of adultery and murder, there were hundreds of thousands of violent crimes, parents yelled at their children, people kicked their dogs, and the Cubs didn’t win a World Series.
Now you may say, “Hey, that’s not fair to blame all of that on the President!” Exactly. Now you’re catching on! 🙂
Here is the gist of the problem: “We have met the enemy, and it is us.” In a Constitutional Republic, America is US! WE are the problem. I love what the British author, G.K. Chesterton, once said when a newspater asked “What is wrong with the world?” He wrote a short note to the editor and said, “I am. Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton.”
Government can, and should, restrain evil.
1 Peter 2:14 says the role of the Civil Magistrate is to: “Punish those who do evil, and promote those who do good.”
Despite the popular Postmodern mantra that “you can’t legislate Morality,” the truth is that you can’t NOT legislate morality. (It just becomes a matter of WHOSE morality trumps someone else’s!) The guy who likes to steal cars doesn’t think that the police should impose their morality on him, but that’s how it works (unless you simply revert to mob rule).
What you CAN’T, and SHOULDN’T even attempt to, legislate is Holiness. The end goal for us as Christians is not to make people be moral. Yes, we need morality to help keep our streets safe and our prisons empty. People shouldn’t be allowed to molest children, engage in credit card fraud, or kill their neighbors. The Civil Magistrate does not bear the sword in vain:
“For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:4)
But Jesus didn’t die for us to become moral. He died for us to become Holy. That is something that can only happen by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. You can threaten someone with punishment, and modify his outward behavior (and sometimes this is vitally important), but you can’t change his heart. Only Christ can do that.
As Christians, we must never think that a strong government (or a complete lack of it) will solve all of our social and moral problems. We can’t fix all of the problems. WE ARE THE PROBLEM! That’s why we need Jesus. We need to stop being Utopians and believing that we can ever have perfection here on earth. We can, and should, seek to be salt and light here. We should seek to apply righteous justice for the betterment of the weak and oppressed. We should try to limit evil. But don’t be deceived into thinking that anything other than the Kingdom of God will last forever. The kingdoms of this world, as good as they may be, are still a reflection of our fallen humanity.
Personally, I’m longing for the day when:
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15b)
My ultimate goal, as a Christ-follower, is not to convert someone to becoming a moral Republican. At the end of the day, he will still die in his sins and go to hell. My chief concern is to share with Him the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ, that will not only modify his behavior, it will save his soul. That is where my hope lies.
Israel Wayne is an author and conference speaker. This article reflects his own personal views and are not necessarily those of any organization with which he is affiliated.
Would this one-sentence (attempted) summary of your position be accurate?
“The problem with libertarian political policies is that they’re wrong, while the problem with conservative political policies is not that they’re wrong, but that people expect too much out of them.”
The main role of government, Biblical speaking, is to restrain evil (and promote good). Whether that control is loose or tight, that is basically the role of government: To restrain evil that would keep people from living a quiet and peaceable life and being able to work with their own hands (free enterprise).
Evil may emerge from foreign invaders, tyrannical leaders or common civilians crimes.
We are commanded to pray “For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Timothy 2:2)
The end goal of government is to restraint evil moderately enough that there is still liberty. The more Individual Self-Government a society has, the less external governance it needs. The less it has, the more it needs. The solution is Individual Self-Government under the laws of God. That is something that the Civil Magistrate, however, cannot mandate. That can only (ultimately) be accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit through the means of the preaching of the gospel, as shared by the True Confessing Church of Jesus Christ.
So, all government (loose or tight) is seriously limited in solving societal ills.
“1 Peter 2:14 says the role of the Civil Magistrate is to: “Punish those who do evil, and promote those who do good.”
Counter-quote: “The road to HELL is paved with good intentions!”
Israel This is a great article as was the first one. It is amazing to me how people can miss the difference between the meanings of morality and holiness. A person can be lost and be moral but in order to be holy their heart has to belong to the Lord. This could be the source of some of the confusion, if they are a moral Republican they think this gains them some sort of favor with St. Pete at the Pearly Gates 🙂 By the way I agree with you concerning cats!!
The problem with conservatism is that, as the term itself implies, the only goals are to conserve the present or recent prior state of things. Someone once said “mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” That is conservative politics in a nutshell – suffer what evils are sufferable, but no more change, please. No thanks! We need radical change, not conservation. Let’s face it, the US looks nothing like what the founders envisioned. The Republican party preys on people’s fear to “oppose” changes on the margin. This reactionary political power play has a long history of being completely ineffective. All NINE of the current government entitlement programs from FDR to Obamacare have been “opposed” by Republicans. Is the solution to roll our form of government back to the prior socialist state of a decade or two ago? God forbid! To have a just and verdant society, the rollback of regulation and the dissolution of entire agencies would go to 1912 in many areas, and much farther in others. This is radical change, not “conservative” in any sense of the word. The problem with conservatism is that the end goal, the vision, is a cognitive dissonance. It doesn’t look attractive to people of my generation (born 1981) to roll back to any of the statist regimes of the last century. Frankly, rebuilding something after the coming collapse looks simpler than rolling back to a point that could be ideologically justified. I would never use the term conservative to describe myself. The term libertarian may have baggage (and thus, needs a modifier), but conservative has a lot more baggage even than that.
First off, I would not put George W Bush in the conservative category. Don’t get me wrong, he ran as a conservative, but didn’t govern as a conservative. I think he is a great person and a Christian man, but most of the time he put to much feelings in his governing, rather than upholding the constitution, as they all are sworn to do. He would never go on the attack because he wanted the office to be held to a high standard, but when you spend money like he did, that, I think, is lowering the standard of the office. I think it is morally wrong to saddle our kids and grandkids with all this debt, just because you can’t live within your means. It will be paid back, in one way or another. We can’t run our own households this way or we would be in jail.