Excellent libertarianism, dismal Christianity

January 9, 2012

I read this interesting post by Donald P. Goodman III in the Distributist Review. It’s another response to the growing influence of libertarianism in our current political landscape. Since the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and in response to the somewhat economically disastrous first and second George W. Bush terms, today’s Republican party has decided to search Ayn Rand for wisdom. Apparently, when the going gets tough…conservatives become libertarians in an ever escalating race to the margins (especially in time for the Iowa caucuses).

Occasionally an event or story will reveal precisely how absurd some ideology is. For me, that story is chronicled in Goodman’s post where he takes on Butler Shafer’s 2004 piece, “The Case for Ebenezer.” To read the original post, go here. Goodman writes,

It’s finally happened. The libertarians are seriously, with a straight face and their usual sarcastic smugness, defending Ebenezer Scrooge as a humanitarian hero. And not after the ghosts of Christmas visit him, either.

That’s right, we’re talking about defending the pre-conversion Scrooge which is sort of like praising Gordon “greed is good” Gekko of Wall Street Fame. It’s counter-intuitive to say the least.

Goodman does a good job of revealing precisely how the libertarianism captured in Shafer’s little parable is anti-Christian and therefore anti-Christ:

There’s more to this insipid little article, but it all amounts to this: greed isn’t a vice, it’s good and should be called “self-interest.” Now, no one would deny that a man must take care of himself and see to it that he procures the necessities for himself, Christians last of all. But Christians also identify, correctly, that “the desire of money is the root of all evils; which some coveting have erred from the faith, and have entangled themselves in many sorrows” (I Tim. 6:10).* This desire to acquire more and more for oneself is a vice according to the Christian tradition, and must be fought, not honored. Yet this article praises the desire to constantly increase one’s own wealth, and even at least condones the desire not to give any of it away, ever, without the expectation of significant returns. This may be (and is) excellent libertarianism; unfortunately, it is very poor Christianity. 

Libertarianism is, of course, the perfect economic philosophy for the United States–it praises the heroic individual and curses any form of collectivism. Unfortunately, even a cursory look at the New Testament reveals that the Church is a collective, of sorts. There is no room for the Byronic hero in the community of Christ. Instead the heart of the kingdom of God is the admission of weakness and dependence and the practice of voluntary self-giving love. 

It’s sad to me that so many who claim to be followers of Christ should be enamored by a philosophy that really ought to find the Christian Gospel something worthy of revulsion.