Curtis Rivers argues in his Wednesday letter that "the foundational beliefs of the Tea Party are the most difficult of all current major political influences in America to believe in and be true to the teachings of Jesus." These foundational beliefs, he says, are libertarianism and Ayn Rand's Objectivism.
I cannot speak for Objectivism. But I have been a libertarian for over thirty years, and can address his concerns from that perspective.
It is tremendously difficult and humbling to attempt to follow the teachings of Jesus no matter what one's political views are, as Rivers undoubtedly knows.
However, I have met countless libertarians who are devout Christians, including prominent figures in this fast-growing political movement. They typically believe their libertarian views are not only consistent with their Christian faith, they are an essential part of it.
Libertarianism is simply the belief that it is wrong to use violence against peaceful people or their property. Libertarians believe that government, too, should be held to this high moral standard. Libertarians believe adults should be free to live any peaceful way they choose, as long as they don't harm others.
Thus to libertarians, the only proper role for government is, at most, protecting our rights to life, liberty, and property. Libertarians believe strongly in free enterprise, private property, individual liberty as outlined in the Bill of Rights, and a peace-oriented Jeffersonian foreign policy that defends America but avoids foreign entanglements. Libertarians believe that embracing these values will bring abundance for all and a more peaceful world.
Rivers is correct that libertarian opposition to taxation includes opposition to tax-funded welfare programs. This is not from lack of compassion. Libertarians believe it is morally wrong to force people at gunpoint to contribute to any cause, no matter how worthy. Further, doing so often creates resentment and denies the giver the great moral benefits of participating in genuine, given-from-the-heart charity.
The Good Samaritan did not pass by the injured man on the roadside and ask a government agency to help. Instead, he stopped and gave of his own time and money. This is the example that inspires compassionate Christian libertarians.
A strong religious message comes with Christian charity. But such messages are forbidden in government welfare programs. Thus every time government usurps the church's commanded role to help the needy, a precious opportunity for Christian ministry is lost. The church loses influence; the secular government gains.
Innumerable studies show government welfare is wasteful and ineffective compared to charity. Christian libertarians see government as a poor steward.
Curtis Rivers believes that "without governmental intervention, people would go homeless and hungry, and many would die." Libertarians believe government intervention is today's major cause of poverty. If we had limited government, free enterprise, did not spend trillions of dollars on what amounts to a worldwide military empire, and were free to keep the money we earn, there would be an explosion of economic activity that would create jobs for all who need them, and an outpouring of money into charities and other institutions that would wipe out poverty once and for all. This is the future libertarians are working for.
Not everyone will agree with libertarians. But I believe most people, if they examine libertarianism fairly, will find it completely compatible with the highest Christian values.
James W. Harris