Hang Together

Too often I will see threads online where the substance of someone’s argument isn’t what is being discussed, but the person and their beliefs. At a time when the movement continues to grow, why are we focusing on what someone believes or doesn’t?  Why do we feel it is our place to call them out for their most personal decisions, especially in regards to their religious beliefs? This is the type of thing that keeps those on the fence from coming into our yard.

A little tact will go quite a long way in making friends and influencing people.  Condemning and criticizing those of certain beliefs is the last thing our movement needs. The whole point of political work and activism is to build bridges – not to burn them.  How likely will others be to work with someone who has attacked their personal beliefs? Their belief set may have been instrumental in leading them to the ideas of liberty.

Part of being a libertarian is accepting that you will have to work with many different people. I’ve worked with Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and people of many other creeds, or lack thereof.  I’ve worked with blacks, Hispanics, Arabs, Indians, and people of many other ethnicities. When I met these people, the voice in the back of my head didn’t tell me to instantly attack them on their beliefs (or beliefs that I perceived them to have).  Respect is mutual to me, no matter who I’m working with. Nor do I collectivize like some do, something that is decidedly un-libertarian in nature.  Everyone is an individual. It is their character that should distinguish them, not their beliefs.

Categorical descriptors such as religion, one’s ethnicity or, one’s orientation are all things that should not determine the validity of one’s views.  God makes us what we are: equal human beings.  As equal human beings, we all possess the same capacity to reason, regardless of what deity we pray to or those aspects about ourselves that we cannot change, such as our ethnic backgrounds or those who we love.

I ask those who are guilty of such criticisms, regardless of who they are, to consider the big picture. Consider that we have to build bridges and not burn them down. We are a diverse movement, and we will continue to be more of one as our message spreads beyond borders and regions.  I’m not asking for you to lay down your beliefs or convictions, but to become more productive by working with people regardless of who they are.  On social networks, contribute to the discussion rather than lacing your responses with ad hominem attacks.

Working with many different people has opened my eyes and helped me in becoming a more capable leader.  People from different backgrounds, whether they be religious, ethnic, or socio-economic differences- all have much to contribute given ways they’ve done things in the past.  Integration of strengths is one of the best ways to overcome difficulties, regardless of the goals you have.

bridge

Do you want to win? Regardless of what field you are in (be it of the political, academic, or entrepreneurial variety), winning requires overcoming the petty arguments you may have based on someone’s differences.  In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “[w]e must hang together or assuredly, we will all hang separately.” We have too much in common in terms of our political, economic, and moral beliefs to focus on the little differences between us.

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Fear, Fatalism, and Faith

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27 (KJV)

Last year, I attended a graduation ceremony for some of my friends at the local university. I was excited that the commencement speaker was none other than the fabulous PJ O’Rourke. His message was a simple one. Our generation – the graduating one – has it pretty good. We didn’t grow up practicing hiding under our desks in school to prepare for nuclear war with the communists like many of our parents or grandparents did. We didn’t grow up without voting rights for women or political protection for minorities like our grandparents or great-grandparents did. It wasn’t as simple as a platitude of “count your blessings,” but rather a reminder that every generation faces big threats. Every generation has fears. Every generation has monsters. We endure because of what made us great in the first place: liberty, tolerance, and determination.

School children drill during the Cold War era.

I am often reminded of O’Rourke’s remarks when I talk to my fellow libertarians. To many libertarians, the above may sound like blasphemy. “The world is ending!” we protest, “the government is encroaching! Our liberties are going down the drain!” This week, as we watched things from deadly tornadoes ripping through our heartland to a British soldier being killed in cold blood on the streets of London, the debate has returned to the surface. What are the merits of remaining optimistic in such a time as this? Is there any room for hope in a world where it seems as though every day we lose liberties quicker?

With this in mind, I decided to come up with a list of some things that libertarians, especially Christians, should remember. This article is from an explicitly Christian perspective, but hopefully there is room to apply its message to non-theistic libertarians.

1. God doesn’t want us to live in fear.

This is the first and most important thing to remember. The verse that opens this article is just one of many Biblical reminders that Christians, despite dire circumstances, should not live in fear. Let’s look at some of what else the Bible has to say about fear and the Christian life (all verses KJV).

“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” – Deuteronomy 31:6

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” – Joshua 1:9

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” – Psalm 23: 4

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” – Psalm 27:1

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18

The context and stories to which these verses refer are even more powerful reminders not to let fear overtake us. We aren’t traversing through the desert for 40 years, we aren’t running from an angry king, and we aren’t adherents to a newly-formed religion living in the height of the pagan Roman Empire. We do really have it fairly good! We need to be constantly vigilant, yes. But even in much more dire circumstances, Christians are reminded not to let fear overtake us.

2. Fear is not a good political motivator.

From a political perspective, giving into fear doesn’t produce good results. Fear makes representatives vote the massive PATRIOT ACT into law mere days after 9/11. Fear makes people support such foolish decisions. Fear makes you irrational. Fear is not thinking, it is reacting. The liberty movement cannot survive if our motivator is reaction. We must have rationalism behind positive goals. Our goals must go beyond reacting to things that scare us.

President Bush signs the USA PATRIOT ACT into law mere weeks after 9/11 in 2001.

3. Fatalism is pointless.

Now, at this point, some people are surely arguing that it’s not just about fear, but about being “realistic” about the future of our nation (and perhaps the world). Of course, at the radical end of this are the people who think the leaders of the free world are conspiring to bring about an “end game” of world tyranny. However, you don’t have to trek that far into the fringes to find people who are very fatalistic about the future. Christian libertarians also have a tendency to connect our political views with apocalyptic eschatology.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

It’s easy to look at the current state of civil liberties and economic freedom and be pessimistic. Even if the world is coming to an end imminently, does that mean that we shouldn’t try to make it as good as possible while we’re still here? If we are completely pessimistic about the future, what’s the point of doing anything? I firmly believe that political action can, and does, create real change, and that we are not doomed. But even if you think just the opposite, it’s still not unrealistic optimism to focus on the good. It’s not unrealistic optimism to focus on the structures, ideas, and foundation that our founders gave us. It’s not unrealistic optimism to focus on what we can do, as opposed to what we can’t.

4. There’s nothing wrong with being happy!

Finally, I think that it’s important to remember that we as Christians are not called to be dreary killjoys. This is also important to remember when we approach politics as Christian libertarians. I’m sure everyone has one or two friends who react negatively to any instances of levity, with admonishments that there are more important things to worry about.

“The founding fathers wouldn’t just post pictures of cats if they had Facebook!”

Maybe not. But I imagine our founding fathers – and our Biblical role models – wouldn’t go around trying to squash other people enjoying humor and joy and life! The Bible tells us that Jesus wants us to live  “life more abundantly“! Bad things don’t negate our enjoyment of the good things in life, and being humorless, glum, and fatalistic doesn’t win anyone over. If we truly want to try to make a difference for liberty, we need to think about our methods, and try to focus more on the positive things we can do. Sure, some people are going to continue to sulk about how the world is ending and everything’s horrible. I’d rather be with the people who try to change what we can.

The Bible and Leadership

????????????????????????????????????????The Bible can teach us much about life, but most notably, it can teach us how to conduct ourselves as leaders of a young movement that needs guidance. Many of the historical figures detailed in the Bible, especially at the birth of a new and world-changing religion, Christianity, were themselves leaders of a young movement; leaders who were able to overcome obstacles  and led to the establishment of what has arguably been the most influential religion in history.

“[The] Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
-Matthew 28:20, New American Bible

While this is clearly an allusion to Christ’s death on the cross, it tells one of the greatest lessons of leadership.  As leaders in the movement, we should not seek for others to do things for us, but to do things for others.  As leaders, we should be willing to go out of our way, assist others with their activism goals, and apply our talents where others can use them in order to serve the movement.  Leaders, like Jesus, always seek to put other people ahead of themselves and deny material comforts, or comfortable complacency, for the greater good.  Not only does this aspect of leadership have an impact on the movement as a whole, but, if you abide by such a lesson, you will also be respected and relied on by many. You will also be seen as someone who is capable of many functions, which, in my experience, is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?”
-Luke 14:28, New American Bible

This verse speaks to one of my biggest problems with the movement as a whole; the assumption that things will come fast and be easy to accomplish. Calculating the cost of the tower refers to seeing the big picture. We must know how much work it will take to build our tower- with the tower being a metaphor for the political and academic influence in society.  As leaders, we should be able to see how much work we must put into a certain task to see fruition, whether that be an advocacy campaign for public policy or political campaigns at the local, state, or national level.  To not calculate costs may run you the risk of not completing the allegorical tower.

“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”
1 Timothy 4:12, New American Bible

The movement is full of those in their late teens and twenties. We are often told by those, whether they are older libertarians or older Republicans, that we are too young to be experienced enough to know about the world.  They often reference how many elections they’ve voted in and appeal to their age, not realizing that many of us have been involved since we were in high school.  This verse has often reminds me that, regardless of what others say, I need to remain involved.  I will not let them look down on me for my youthfulness, but will instead work more vigorously towards my goals to represent the movement in a honorable way.

The Bible is not merely a religious document, but a handbook for life and the many different aspects of life that face us on a daily basis.  It has provided inspiration for almost two thousand years, and will continue to do so as long as there are people who are open to its inspiration in their daily lives.