Jesus Christ, Libertarian

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“Then
the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught
in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him,
"Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing
adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?" They said this to test him, so that they
could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and
began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued
asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let the one
among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they
went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left
alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and
said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither
do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin anymore."
(John 8: 3–11)

As we approach
the new year with conservatism again ascendant in the political
sphere, this story of Jesus’ uncompromising libertarianism
seems even more timely than stories of his birth, despite the approach
of his celebrated birthday. Nowhere does Jesus admonish “social
conservatives” more harshly.

There is an
important distinction here. By “social conservative,”
I do not mean anyone who disapproves of certain human behavior.
The freedom to follow the dictates of one’s conscience was
the first inalienable right recognized by the founders of our nation.
If one truly believes that homosexuality, adultery, or other “non-conservative”
behavior violates the laws of God, it is that person’s inalienable
right to disapprove of it, even to voice his disapproval of it,
regardless of the anguished cries of the political correctness lobby
on the left.

However, no
one has a right to use violence against those who engage in behavior
that does not harm another person, regardless of whether or not
that behavior violates the laws of God. Since all laws are enforced
under the threat of violence (as this story also makes wonderfully
clear), Jesus makes it clear in this passage that it is not for
men to enforce the laws of God. With the exception of cases in which
one human being has harmed another, the right to punish the behavior
of others is reserved for God.

It is important
to recognize that Jesus does not condone the sin that the anonymous
woman has committed. When he has shamed away the mob who would have
stoned her, Jesus commands her to sin no more. Neither does he insinuate
that her behavior might not have consequences for her soul. With
flawless libertarian reasoning, Jesus teaches us the true meaning
of freedom: that God grants us the liberty to do as we wish, even
to reject him and his laws, but that we also bear the full consequences
of our actions. If we harm another person, then we are subject to
the laws of men. However, it is for each individual to determine
the will of God according to his conscience and to choose whether
to act accordingly or not. There never has been nor can there ever
be any body of corruptible men who can save an individual’s
soul.

This is by
no means the only place in the gospels that Jesus teaches us this
lesson. His entire public ministry was one admonishment of the hypocritical,
socially conservative theocracy after another. Indeed, it is the
Jewish state that is Jesus’ chief antagonist throughout the
gospels. He is noticeably disinterested in the more secular Roman
government, despite its tyranny over his people. While he certainly
doesn’t approve of the Romans, he has no interest in political
revolution. As Jesus tells Pilate, “my kingdom is not of this
world.” (John 18:36). However, his own government does not
merely commit secular, political oppression against its people.
It usurps the authority of God and attempts to judge in his place.
For this, Jesus constantly lets loose his most venomous admonishments.

“The chief
priests and Pharisees” are constantly shown up for what they
are throughout the gospels. They do not seek to punish sins to defend
the honor of God, but for their own selfish political motives. Their
persecution and eventual murder of Jesus himself is quite obviously
perpetrated out of fear of his influence over the people. And what
is this subversive influence that warrants torture and death? “Love
one another as I have loved you. Love your enemies. Do unto others
as you have them do unto you.” Of course the state would hate
such a message. It runs afoul of every depravity that the state
tries to exhort its citizens to, including its wars, its persecution
of non-conformists, and its rampant looting of the citizenry dressed
up as “public works.”

When Jesus
encounters man-made laws masquerading as the laws of God, he openly
condones breaking those laws. When his disciples pick fruit on the
Sabbath and are caught in the act by the Pharisees, Jesus beats
them at their own game by citing Jewish scripture, which describes
David actually eating sacred bread out of the temple, reserved for
the priests by Jewish law.

Demonstrating
how perverse any theocratic state eventually becomes, the Pharisees
then bring a man forward with a “withered hand,” daring
Jesus to cure him and break the law himself. They are willing to
see this man miss his one chance to be cured in the hopes that they
can use their distorted interpretation of God’s command to
“keep holy the Sabbath” to ensnare Jesus for political
ends. Jesus breaks the law without hesitation, saying that “it
is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Caring little for the
wisdom of the lesson and interested only in maintaining their own
autocratic power, the Pharisees withdraw to begin planning Jesus’
murder. (Matthew 12: 1–14)

By attempting
to use the law to enforce their morality, social conservatives violate
the very principles that they say that they cherish most. Social
conservatives decry Islam because it attempts to “propagate
the faith by the sword.” However, there is only a cosmetic
difference between promoting your religious views through acts of
terrorism and doing likewise through passing unjust laws against
minorities who have no recourse but to obey or suffer violence.
In both cases, it is the sword that compels the victim rather than
the mind or the heart. Neither can social conservatives rely on
the argument that their laws are passed by an elected body representing
the people. If that justifies socially conservative laws, then what
is their objection to the welfare state?

No part of
this argument should be misconstrued as an endorsement of political
correctness or the left’s agenda to grant positive rights to
their own special interest groups for political purposes. If we
are truly a free country and we meant what we said in the first
amendment to our Constitution, then every individual, whether the
most fundamentalist Christian or the most libertine atheist, should
have the right to speak freely, even if what they say offends another
person. For many devout Christians, it is their sacred duty to try
to persuade their fellow man to repent of his sins and embrace Jesus
as his savior.

However, there
is an ocean of difference between persuasion and coercion. The minute
that we say, “there ought to be a law,” we are picking
up the sword. If we do so in defense of the inalienable human rights
of life, liberty, and property, we are within our rightful authority.
If we do so to supplant the authority of God, we become the very
type of people that Jesus spent his life fighting against. To truly
be Christian, we must recognize the need for “a wall of separation
between church and state.”

Jesus was very
clear about his views on what would lead to salvation and what would
not. Jesus condemned many behaviors, like adultery, that social
conservatives likewise condemn. He also said that “no one comes
to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) However, he does
not go on to say, “Therefore, if your brother does not come
to me willingly, then draw your sword and force him.” Salvation
must be chosen; God did not create a race of slaves.

As we celebrate
the birth of this great libertarian, let us not forget the lesson
of his life and death. Jesus was murdered by the theocratic state
for exposing their hypocrisy and resisting their unjust, blasphemous
laws. Let us follow his example of speaking our minds according
to our consciences but never raising our hand to save our brothers’
souls. Each one of us will ultimately find that our understanding
of the will of God is imperfect, as we are imperfect. Therefore,
we must follow Jesus’ example of tolerance and forgiveness,
lest we find that we ourselves have mistakenly punished the innocent.
Our laws should keep us from harming each other, and leave each
person’s soul to the judgment of God.

Reprinted
from Tom Mullen’s blog.

December
25, 2010

Tom
Mullen [send him mail]
is a writer, musician, and business consultant. In January 2009,
he published his first book, A
Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of
America
. Visit his website
and his blog.

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