Thursday, February 13, 2014

Live and Let Live: a World Where Anything Goes

"I support individual liberty, political freedom, and laissez-faire capitalism. I believe government is too big, too intrusive, and the biggest problem facing our nation. I believe that private citizens should have the right to live the way they want to live, in peace, and to be left alone. It's none of the government's business what you do in your private life. I say, live and let live!" ... Or so says the Libertarian.

At face value, I like most of the ideas listed above. Politically, I am a registered Republican, but consider myself significantly more conservative than my own party. I believe in smaller government, the right to privacy, responsible government spending, first amendment freedoms, and in Capitalism. In fact, when I first learned about libertarianism, I considered myself a Republican with libertarian leanings. But the more time libertarians have had to flesh out their ideas, the more they sound like anarchists than like any other political group.

In all fairness, I fully recognize that not all libertarians are the same - although it is difficult to properly define their political philosophy because there isn't a cohesive group aligning all (or most) parties. The closest American group is the Tea Party movement, which has such a loose set of ideas that its umbrella can encompass anarchists on the fringe of the political spectrum.

My biggest beef with libertarianism seems to be the concept of personal liberty taken to a new extreme. "If you want to have an abortion, you should be allowed to have an abortion. If two consenting adult siblings want to get married, they should be allowed to marry - government doesn't belong in the business of marriage anyways. If you want to smoke pot and get high, you should be allowed to get baked out of your mind." In other words, they do their very best to turn a blind eye to moral issues as if by ignoring them they will simply go away.

Stated pointedly, I am firmly opposed to the idea of liberty for everything. Considering the above examples: I don't support the murder of unborn human beings, incestuous relationships, or substances that the American Medical Association deem dangerous, with recreational use being used to get high.

In response, the immediate implication is: "So you basically support a Christian theocracy, forcing your religion on people." I would reply that there is a clear difference between supporting basic human morality and forcing Christianity on people through legal means. A distinction should be made between the state and religion - and this to protect religious and non-religious liberties, not the state. Finally, it doesn't do any good to pretend as if Christians are the only ones who possess a worldview by which the governing authorities pass laws and regulate morality. It is this last point that my libertarian friends do their best to steer clear of. Because no matter how much you wish you didn't have one, everyone has a worldview through which they interpret the world around us. Furthermore, all laws directly or indirectly regulate morality - to purport otherwise is intellectually dishonest.

Here's a clear-cut example of what I mean: because murder is immoral, it is legally a crime to commit murder. My libertarian friends are quick to ask: "Aha! But where do you draw the line? Is EVERYTHING immoral to be considered a crime?" To which I respond: Ideally, yes, just not necessarily punishable by the state. The state is primarily responsible for allowing for a safe society that protects the rights and property of others, while also allowing for the flourishing of society. I've asked many libertarians this awkward question: So let's suppose there are 2 consenting adult brothers who want to get married and have a consensual sexual relationship - should the government allow this? In his heart of hearts the libertarian knows that incest is wrong, that homosexuality is wrong, and that marriage is exclusively a relationship between one man and one woman. But his worldview tells him that anything goes, so he faces a conundrum.

A common libertarian response to these sorts of puzzling scenarios goes something like this: "As long as you don't cause physical harm to someone or to someone's property, you should be allowed to do anything." This sounds like wisdom, except that there are 2 glaring shortcomings with this perspective. The first is that many such behaviors do cause physical harm. For example, there is documented evidence demonstrating that the homosexual lifestyle drastically shortens the average lifespan of homosexuals. Second, there are other kinds of harm being done as a direct result of this behavior. Consider the emotional and psychological impact of denying the proper sexual function assigned at birth. Psychological studies have shown the immense changes homosexual behavior has on the human brain.

Going a step further, your behavior doesn't only affect you (which is what we are told), but also has a profound impact on those around you. Let's pretend that I started cursing like a sailor. My speech would have an active affect on those who heard my foul language. Their thoughts would be affected which may lead to changes in their words and actions.

Here is another example: Let's say that I were unfaithful to my marriage, and was proud of this fact. When I arrived at the workplace, I would tell stories about the strip club I was going to, and what a great time I had! Day after day I am telling these stories to my coworkers, who are laughing along, without realizing the influence I'm having on their thinking. In a short amount of time, and with relative ease, my behavior has made an impression on my coworkers that may weaken their understanding of marriage, love, faithfulness, and how they regard human sexuality. Feigning ignorance that one's own behavior affects others is to live in a fantasy world.

What type of society do we really want? Do we want a society where anything goes, where moral standards are so degraded that we have difficulty recognizing good versus evil? Think about a recent case where a biological male identified himself as a female at the age of 2, who is now 16 and goes by Nicole. He was recently caught up in a controversy because his state of Maine has 2 conflicting laws about which bathroom transgendered students ought to use. Think about this for just a moment: a male toddler identified himself as female, his parents encouraged this confusion, and our society is baffled about which bathroom he should use. Is this the type of society that we really want? One where the gift of gender cannot provide a meaningful expression of our identity as human beings?

My point is simply that morality is a good thing. Christian morality is a good thing. "I don't want your morality pushed on me!" cries the Libertarian. You're winning the popularity vote, Mr. Libertarian, so no need to worry any time soon. In any case, I don't have to exhaust my imagination to come up with an example of how Christian principles of morality can be applied to a society without forcing religion on people. In fact, I don't have to use my imagination at all! History records for us that America was founded on such principles, though I don't believe America was or is perfect as a government or a cultural setting. What it does show us is one possible way for how this might be done.

I would also go so far as to say that the insanity we are introducing in our society today can only bring about what insanity produces: further chaos. We will be left puzzled at what bathroom a gender-confused teenager ought to use, and even what pronouns we should use to describe someone! I feel like I've been saying this a lot lately, but worldview matters! If you believe that anything goes, and the ultimate authority for making moral determinations comes from each individual, you will be left without a moral basis to draw any kind of meaningful moral boundary. By contrast, the gospel of Christianity offers something truly unique: a consistent moral framework that is the best way to live life.

Jesus once told a parable of two men who each built a house on different foundations. The wise man built his house on the rock, and it withstood the pounding wind and rain, and the flood waters that crashed against it. The foolish man built his house on the sand, and could not withstand the bombardment, so it fell ... and how great was its fall. What was the difference between these two houses? Was it the materials used? Or how about the way they were built? Was the wise man more skilled at building? No ... the difference was the foundation they chose to build upon. The firm foundation of the rock allowed the house to withstand whatever it faced, while the shifting sand bought the foolish man's house to its destruction.

This parable is a marvelous example of why the foundation we choose to build our beliefs upon are of supreme importance. If your worldview is inconsistent and fails to properly explain and interpret the world in which we live, then your worldview will someday come crashing down upon you. However, if your worldview is built upon the foundation of Christianity, you can rest assured you are safe and secure upon the firm foundation of God's truth. Nothing can shake you.

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