Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Christianist theocratic "libertarianism"

Mark Shields may think that libertarians are all a bunch of free-love hippies. But he's clueless about how leave-business-alone libertarianism is often connected to a hardlare Christianist theocratic worldview. As Julie Ingersoll explains in Rand Paul and the Influence of Christian Reconstructionism Religion Dispatches 05/25/2010, noting the close affiliation of both Rand Paul and his fatherRon with the far-right Constitution Party, which is heavily influenced by Christian Reconstructionist ideology:


How can they be theocrats and libertarians? This has puzzled those of us who write on Reconstructionists who see evidence of both libertarian and theocratic tendencies. In other words, how can they advocate limited government and, at the same time, application of biblical Law?

An understanding of the subtleties of Christian Reconstruction is really helpful here. For Reconstructionists, the civil government’s authority is limited to protecting citizens from criminals. Family and ecclesiastical authority are established to uphold (and enforce) other aspects of biblical law. That’s not to say that any of these institutions are understood as functioning autonomously; all are under the authority of God and are to function according to biblical law. But each is independent of the others. So for libertarian Reconstructionists (as many of them are) limited government means limited civil government. Their form of libertarianism is distinct from the more libertine versions of libertarianism. They are much better described as theonomic than theocratic. [my emphasis]
She elaborates with reference to the Constitution Party:

The Constitution Party platform opposes marriage and/or legal partnerships for gays and lesbians. No surprise there, but the plank regarding family articulates a notion of family as one of three governing institutions established by God. Likewise, the platform articulates support for Christian schooling and homeschooling. But it does so on the basis of Reconstructionist framing: the family is understood as a form of government, given by God, with a specific sphere of authority that includes the raising of children, without the interference of the civil government. Opposition to welfare, in the platform, is not based in more common conservative view, such as “welfare allows people to be lazy,” or “it’s unfair (or even inefficient) to tax productive people to care for those who are not.” Rather, it is based in the argument that welfare is more properly understood as charity and is legitimately within the authority of the church, not the civil government. [my emphasis]
Sarah Posner, also in Religion Dispatches, elaborates on the latter point in John Birch Society: You Can't Legislate Christian Charity (Or Integration) 05/25/2010, where she discusses the CEO of the John Birch Society (JBS), the mothership of contemporary rightwing conspiracy theories, defending Ron Paul's opposition to anti-discrimination laws:

Now this week the CEO of the John Birch Society says "forced integration by the government is wrong" and that Christians should just be trusted to do what's right, because you "can't legislate Christian charity."
In this case, the JBS sees anti-discrimination laws as a form of "charity". She continues:

Thompson never specifically addresses Paul's statements on the Civil Rights Act, but intimates that, like Paul, he believes people should be, essentially, trusted to do the right thing. He believes this, it seems, because, like Paul, if everyone acted on Christian charity, we wouldn't need any laws. "With Christian charity," Thompson concluded, "we can work together. Without Christian charity, we can't. And you just can't legislate Christian charity. It's just that simple."
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