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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Emerging from one political morality to another

I was talking with a friend recently who said that he didn’t beleive the government should legislate on “purely moral” issues, such as gay marriage.

He also said he thought the government needs to make sure to have social programs for the poor, and programs to create greater “equality”.

I had to break it to him - prohibiting vice and forcing virtue are both “purely moral” uses of legislation. (Not to mention, using government to try to achieve “equality” and alleviation of poverty doesn’t work any more than banning topless bars puts an end to lust).

My friend is part of what is often called the "emergent" Christian church.  This tradition essentially rejects (rightly in my opinion) attempts by Christians to legislate against vice - it's a reaction against the Christian right and their silly alliance with the GOP.  So far, so good (as you'll know if you've read some of my other posts on the topic of religion and law).

The problem is that the "emergent" church simply goes to the opposite side of the same coin.  They don't want to use government to stop immoral behavior or to promote war, but they want to use government to force moral behavior and promote class war, green war and lots and lots of envy.  Sigh.  It just doesn't seem that crazy to me to consistently oppose using force to accomplish ANY of the goals of Christianity.  Unfortunately, not wanting to use force to do Christian stuff makes me some kind of hard to understand weirdo in Christian circles.

Great article on vice, virtue and morality in law here.

Great article on the emergent church here. (Despite unnecessary use of the word 'fascism')

Posted by Isaac Morehouse on April 7, 2009 | Permalink


I'm a bible believing Christian myself, and I find myself to be the odd man out among most church goes because of my libertarian views and complete distaste for legislating morality.

People say things like "our society will crumble!" and I say "What an excellent opportunity to show people charity and love!". Of course I don't think our society will crumble, but even if it did, the good news isn't dependent on tall buildings and a Starbucks on every corner.

I'd appreciate it if nobody tried to legislate out the practice of my faith, and I'll try not to legislate out what's important to them, maybe topless bars are part of that.

Posted by: Pete | 2009-04-07 6:31:34 PM

Isaac, excellent post. And I am eager to read more from www.libertyunbound.com.

Yes, you are a weirdo. I know you are because I am too. When I talk to my Christian friends about some issues, rather than shock them with some of my views, I ask them questions. Or I say something that is not easy to respond to without challenging their thinking.

I think many Christians would be open to Libertarian ideas if they only understood them. And that takes time.

Posted by: TM | 2009-04-07 6:32:08 PM

How are you defining morality?
What, may I ask, are the "goals of Christianity" and "Christian stuff"?

Posted by: joelaf | 2009-04-07 6:39:41 PM


By the "goals" and "stuff" of Christianity I mean things like aiding those in need (not just monetary need) offering love, freedom and hope of the lasting variety. Aiding people in improving their physical circumstances, but ultimately helping them to overcome physical circumstances with true and unshakable joy. Helping to bring not only physical freedom, but freedom from addiction, shame, guilt and other things that may constrain us from a full and joyful life, whatever those may be (only the individual really knows). Essentially, emulating Christ.

There need not be one agreed upon definition of what "Christian stuff" or goals are (though it's no doubt a good discussion to keep ongoing), but I'm hard-pressed to find a way to justify using the threat of violence to offer hope, peace, love and freedom in a way Christ did. All government action rests on the use of force. Christ's methods and purposes couldn't be less similar. Whether because forcing people to have better lives is inherently wrong, corrosive of the person enforcing it, or just plain doesn't work, the underlying truth is that Christian "stuff" is not compatible with the use of physical force.

Posted by: IMM | 2009-04-07 6:56:16 PM

Actually I find your friend is quiet representative of a lot of morally confused people. Being morally confused is not specific to Christians or even atheists, which means they are unable to justify their values which are likely to change according to the latest fashion. Some also refer to it as misguided compassion, but I think it has more to do with internalising communist/socialist ideology than religious beliefs; whereby most often they themselves are even unaware.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-04-07 7:44:21 PM

Canadians have no reason to fear the religious right! The Christian Canadian will be probably nonexistent in 40 years. Macleans just did an article which shows that the percentage of teens calling themselves Christians (Protestant and Catholics) has fallen from 85% in 1984 to 45% in 2008. The number of unbelievers among the young has jumped from 12% to 32% during this time.

Also, the percentages of believers in buddhism, islam, hinduism, and aboriginal beliefs has sharply increased from 3% to 15%. At this rate by 2034, Christians will be only 5% while unbelievers will constitute a majority. Also, there might be more practicing Muslims here then Christians.

Congratulations, secularists! You have turned Canada into a godless country! In 25 years, the battle can be between socialist secularists who want an overbearing politically correct government and a dope smoking libertarian opposition who has an anything goes mentality. Christians will feel as comfortable in Canada as they do in Muslim majority countries. They will live in a country where religion is mocked. In this new Canada, most children will be born out of wedlock and no one will think that's wrong. The pro-life movement will be non-existent. Abortion will occur at probably higher levels than today. The nuclear family will have been largely eradicated. Our already weak legal system will be even worse than Sweden's. In the end, we will be largely like Sweden. However, Sweden will continue to have wider gun ownership and a better equipped military.

The only hope left for traditional conservative Canadians will be immigrating to the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, or a eastern european country (there is some of a religious revival occurring in most of these eastern europe countries).

Posted by: Aaron | 2009-04-07 7:46:00 PM

"a dope smoking libertarian opposition who has an anything goes mentality" A classic error. I hate dope. In fact I think drug abuse is a terrible thing. I, however, do believe that individuals have the right to do as they please with their own bodies. Libertarian values do not mean anything goes. They mean letting society (i.e. individuals) dictate values, not the government.

Posted by: Charles | 2009-04-08 6:05:21 AM

Also, there might be more practicing Muslims here then Christians.
Posted by: Aaron | 2009-04-07 7:46:00 PM

There's no need to worry about. When muslims want sharia law implemented across Canada the libertarians will come to the rescue by waving pieces of paper, just like Neville Chamberlain thought he could stop Hitler with a piece of paper.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-04-08 9:18:26 AM

"just like Neville Chamberlain thought he could stop Hitler with a piece of paper."

Or just like Canadians thought they could stop Harper with the charter.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-04-08 10:23:31 AM

Perhaps Doc is suffering from delirium...

Posted by: Alain | 2009-04-08 12:40:58 PM

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