Liberrants

Welcome to Liberrants, a blog dedicated to editorials, discussions, and studies of all things libertarian. Don't let the title mislead you; it's merely my attempt to be creative in describing myself as a "hopeful curmudgeon" who embraces the goal of the free, peaceful, economically vibrant society envisioned by America's founding fathers. Jump in! Contribute! Enjoy!

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Location: Tucson, Arizona, United States

A critically thinking curmudgeon whose goal, in addition to creatively venting about the imperfect world in which we live, is to induce critical thinking in others. The ultimate goal is to help bring about a peaceful world in which we can all live in freedom.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Christians in Today’s America: Persecuted or Persecutors?

During the Palm Sunday service in church today my pastor made an interesting comment. The topic of the sermon focused specifically on Christ’s tribulations immediately preceding His crucifixion and resurrection and how these have parallels in our own lives. Among the specific pains Jesus experienced the pastor referenced betrayal, persecution, denial, rejection, and scourging, with everything culminating in the crucifixion itself. In discussing persecution he made the interesting comment that America is still very much a free nation and that we as Christians in America have been fortunate not to experience, as have so many others around the world, persecution for our faith – at least “not yet.”

I should mention that I make it a point to avoid, as much as is possible, discussing politics with my fellow believers. My reasons are twofold. First, I believe that our temporal existence is fraught with enough political discord that we should want to avoid it when we are gathered in Christian fellowship, focusing on spiritual matters to the greatest extent possible. The second reason is more straightforward: I do not share my fellow congregants’ almost fanatical adulation of George W. Bush and American nation-state and do not wish to sow the seeds of discord and disagreement. I am not sure that I will be able to avoid this indefinitely. But I digress.

I understand why my pastor made his statement and to be fair, he has not been at all jingoistic from the pulpit, as so many other Protestant evangelical clergy have been (a cursory listen to your local Christian radio station during the afternoon and evening hours will probably yield a festival of state worship on a par with Hannitimbaugh, Liddy, and the other neoconservative babblers of the commercial airwaves). The fact that his older brother is an army chaplain currently deployed in Iraq (indefinitely, he was recently informed) probably in no small way molds his point of view. He feels, like many other Americans of every religious and philosophical belief, that he is obligated to “support the troops” and that the only legitimate way of doing so is to praise and support the State that his put his brother and his fellow soldiers into harm’s way. It never occurs to him that this same state has not only needlessly endangered his brother and thousands of other Americans, but that it has propagandized him and his congregation into believing that this war is both just and biblically justified. The fact that George W. Bush has publicly declared that he is “born again” is sufficient to instill belief that the president is doing God’s work. The fact that the president rarely, if ever, seems to behave in a manner consistent with one who has been born-again seems not to register at all.

But getting back to the original statement about freedom in America for Christians, I am compelled to wonder just how “free” we really are. Let’s start with a subject near and dear to my heart, the federal tax code. Churches, as most of my readers are aware, qualify for exemption from corporate income taxes under Section 501.c3 of the United States Tax Code. While this is certainly a boon to churches in that it frees them from what would be otherwise crippling tax liabilities, there are strings attached. One of the most onerous (and arguably unconstitutional) of these is the restriction placed on political speech from the pulpit. Basically, the tax code states that any use of the pulpit to endorse a particular candidate or political position constitutes advocacy and is a cause for revocation of tax-exempt status. For just a small sample of how toxic this is to both freedom speech and the autonomy of churches to worship as they see fit, see this. Not only does the State use federal regulation to co-opt Christian worship, it also enlists “fellow believers” as Judases, motivated by secular politics, to persecute churches that it considers ideologically threatening. Now that “Born Again” Bush is in office, this is apparently A-Okay with most evangelical Christian Americans, but one wonders if such tactics would be tolerated were Al Gore or John Kerry currently occupying the oval office and members of “liberal” traditional churches were assisting in the persecution of evangelical churches by “ratting out” conservative sermonizing from the pulpit. It might behoove my pastor to consider this as he waxes rhapsodic on “freedom” of the church.

We must therefore ask ourselves how any organization, religious or otherwise, can be “free” when gagged by state-imposed restrictions. How is a church “free” to worship if it can be taxed out of existence and its property seized simply for exercising the collective conscience of its members? But the most important question is: what business is it of the State what ideology any organization endorses? What clearer example do we need of raw state power than a federal law that regulates the association of individuals? Indeed, with raw state power exercised more ferociously than ever in the nation’s history, will there be any more explicit examples necessary?

5 Comments:

Blogger Convoluted Muse said...

Wow, and excellent and thought provoking post!

"I do not share my fellow congregants’ almost fanatical adulation of George W. Bush and American nation-state"

I too have held this belief for quite some time. I find it amazing the degree of passion so many christians have for the Bush administration and God forbid a fellow believer point out something negative about him or it. To dao so is to bring immediate excoriation and alienate onesself from the fellow believers.

Keep proclaiming the truth it needs to be heard!

Convolutedmuse

7:46 PM, March 20, 2005  
Blogger HimOverSin said...

Well thoughtout post but I guess I just don't get what the major problems are. Maybe after reading about 3rd world Christians and how they suffer, talk about our tax code just seems a bit hollow.

And to slam evangelistic chruches as a whole is no better then me saying that ALL libertarians are anti-American. It's just not constructive nor accurate. My church does not talk about politics. I don't know why (and it is very evangelical), but probably because Jesus didn't seem to care that much about the whole issue.

Iraq? Who can really say if it is a "just" war? Scriptures can be read both ways on this one and is not clear.

Muse and Liberrant, I can see how you both might feel a bit isolated though surely we can love each other even though we agree to disagree, agreed? ;) Take care all!

8:56 PM, March 20, 2005  
Blogger liberranter said...

"Maybe after reading about 3rd world Christians and how they suffer, talk about our tax code just seems a bit hollow."

Just because I have a migraine headache and someone else has a malignant brain tumor doesn't mean that I don't make an effort to take medication to alleviate my pain, no matter how much worse the other person's sufferings are.


"And to slam evangelistic chruches as a whole is no better then me saying that ALL libertarians are anti-American."

It was not my intention to "slam" evangelical churches. I am merely pointing out what I feel is an inappropriately reverential attitude to secular political power that borders on idolatry. If pointing out this problem constitutes "slamming", then count me guilty as charged.

As for the idea that all libertarians are "anti-American", this is true to the extent that we loathe with all our hearts what the American state has turned into. However, you will not find a group more devoted to the concept of America that our founders bequeathed us and to which we seek a return.


"My church does not talk about politics. I don't know why (and it is very evangelical), but probably because Jesus didn't seem to care that much about the whole issue."

Precisely my point. Jesus was occupied with what truly matters: the reclamation of our souls and guiding us to the lives God wants us to lead. Nowhere in the scriptures is there any indication that believers should conflate spiritual matters with temporal politics.

"Iraq? Who can really say if it is a "just" war?

We can, all of us. Indeed, we are obligated to do so, whether as believers or citizens.

"Scriptures can be read both ways on this one and is not clear."

Actually, scripture is very clear on what constitutes a "just" war. Rather than repeat it all here, I recommend that you read this article by a LewRockwell.com contributor, in which the definitions for a just war in the scriptures are clearly summarized:
http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig2/mckenzie1.html

"I can see how you both might feel a bit isolated though surely we can love each other even though we agree to disagree, agreed? ;)"

Absolutely! God bless you and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

9:59 AM, March 21, 2005  
Blogger HimOverSin said...

Thanks Lib for that url. Interesting and well thought out. It's just so complex to me though due to the fact that terrorists are not countries but groups that sometimes are supported by countries. WWJD? You may feel like you know but I really don't know.

I see Bush in a lose-lose situation for either doing too much or too little. This isn't the Cold War anymore, I almost miss the simplicity of that "war." Thanks for your replies.

10:25 AM, March 21, 2005  
Blogger Sir Bubba Thumper said...

HI Liberranter --

Congratulations on your excellent blog and thanks for your comments on my ravings as well.

As hard as it may be to tell the truth, particularly as a church member, I would strongly encourage you to speak out.

Why should it be difficult to tell the truth in God's temple? And why should people, committed in spirit at least to love of their fellow man judge and excoriate anyone for speaking their mind?

The fact is, if you don't speak out, no one will. It's a hard job, but somebody has to do it.

Good luck!

6:59 PM, March 21, 2005  

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