Christianity and Liberty
By Steve Sawyer
Published in Liberty, June, 2000
Thanks for the interesting May issue. I just finished reading it cover-to-cover since I recieved it yesterday and I'd like to respond to two items.
In his letter, Robert Markley portrays religion in general, and Christianity in particular, as an enemy of science, enlightenment and liberty. I beg to differ on all 3 points. Christianity places a very high value on knowledge, as witnessed by its preservation of much of ancient knowledge during the Dark Ages (caused not by Christianity, but by the moral and political meltdown of Imperial Rome). Christianity affirms the basic postulates which make scientific inquiry possible, such as the existence of a rational, objective reality and the possibility of human understanding of it (many, if not most, pioneers of science were believers). Finally, Christianity promotes liberty in theory (and led to it in practice) by insisting on a higher God- given basis for the unalienable rights of man. Notwithstanding repeated efforts to cast off this "religious" basis for our liberty, in the final analysis, it is the only sure bulwark for liberty.
It is, of course, true that many medieval Christians, like modern ones and people generally, committed acts of stupidity and cruelty, especially those who held positions of power and authority. Along with Markley, I'd affirm that any version of religion that rejects science, enlightenment and liberty is wrong and that organized religion, like the state, must be viewed with Actonian suspicion. However, I reject his claim that ALL religion is, by definition, antithetical to these values. In fact, one good test for true religion is how well it upholds these human needs. I'd assert that Christianity properly understood passes this test, to say the least.As a Christian who is also a libertarian sympathizer, I have both a warning and a promise to offer. If Libertarians leave God out of the picture, they will fail to secure liberty for themselves and those they love (Psalm 33:10-11). On the other hand, there is a very large audience for the message that God is the author of liberty and not only wants us to be free, but has designed reality in such a way that freedom works best.
On the Hillsdale College scandal, I appreciate your coverage and comments. Unfortunately, some Christians want to paint this tragedy as evidence that libertarianism doesn't fit well with Christianity, which I reject totally. I have sent a letter to this effect to Christianity Today magazine. (You can see this letter at Doug Newman's interesting Christian Libertarian site.) I agree with R. W. Bradford's two lessons (Learning from Hillsdale) and I'd like to add a third; The moral or other failure of Christian or libertarian individuals does not constitute proof of the incorrectness of their views, but only of the weakness of their characters.
Keep up the good work on Liberty Magazine.
Fountain Hills, AZ
Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman
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