Bushwhacked: Why the Evangelical Right Was Wrong

It is done. The secular sacrament of voting, the hallmark of the modern day religious orgy known as elections, has come and gone through its cyclical four-year presidential cycle. The nearly insatiable gorging at the trough of Leviathan by true political believers and neophytes alike has temporarily run its course.

Hanging in the balance is the quality of life (and possibly lives) not only of millions of Americans but of many citizens around the world, most notably those in Iraq.

What is interesting is that our President actually holds office as the result of the favoritism of only about 20% of the “qualified” voting public. Americans turned out in record numbers to vote, yet when all is said and done only a very small proportion of our citizens is responsible for the occupant of arguably the most powerful political office the world has ever known.

In light of such numbers, clearly most people hate, dislike or are indifferent to George W. Bush. Many people apparently voted for Bush because they feared a Kerry presidency. Others hated Bush and would have voted for anyone but him. Has it escaped notice that upwards of 80% of "qualified" residents didn't vote for him?

One can hardly blame them. Never in my adulthood have I seen two presidential candidates who at bottom were so startlingly similar as regards the issues. Yes, the packaging, style, and temperament were different, and, no doubt, in some politically correct DC sort of way, that kind of stuff really matters.

But on the issues it seems we were choosing between Bud or Miller, McDonalds or Wendy's, Delta or American, Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee. Each side had its staunch adherents, but in the end it came down to a matter of taste not substance.

The standard libertarian argument has been that while the buildings are different, the foundation of the parties are the same; both statist to the core, using Leviathan for their own personal ideological aggrandizement, if for somewhat, at least rhetorically, different ends.

This election struck me not only with its foundational homogeneity, but rather the extent in which the buildings were nearly the same as well, just with different color paint. The emotion and passion displayed on both sides might lead the average observer to believe there was a vast chasm separating the two candidates. Unfortunately there was not.

For example, on that great evil, the war in Iraq, both candidates espoused essentially the same position. Yet the anti-war left was firmly in Kerry's camp.

As regards the issue of homosexual marriage, both candidates essentially said the same thing, despite public perception. Yet the anti-homosexual marriage right was firmly ensconced in Bush's camp.

And if there was a difference regarding the treatment of our civil liberties la that freedom-stealing piece of legislation known as the Patriot Act, I surely could not discern it.

On nearly every major issue of consequence, you would find the exact same thing. Two virtually identical candidates parsed only by the difference in verbiage, not substance.

The constituents of either side, drunk with the giddiness of coercive power, are simply blind to the galling acts of their own political machinery when it is calling the shots, even when their own party's position is nearly identical to the opposition they so vehemently oppose.

Remember the Republicans stirring opposition to the imperialistic moves of the American Empire during the Clinton Administration? Where are they now? Beholden to the political teat of their own party leadership, and confronted with even worse imperialistic moves of the Bush Administration, it seems the only wars they don't like are the one's pressed by the Democrats.

Both sides think, wrongly, their party's acts of political thuggery are okay, while the other side can't be entrusted with such power. Yet the critique by some within the parties is often profound. When you listen to the radical left critique the establishment right and left, it is pretty good stuff, save for a few major1 potholes here and there. And ditto for the radical right critique of the establishment left and right.

Nonetheless, both sides seem oblivious to how their concerns are mobilized during the election process and then shunted aside when victory is assured. What other explanation can there be for the radical left and right to continue to participate in a process which over and over again absorbs them into the political center so that for all practical purposes there is no distinguishing them from that which they so often critique?

Then there is the curious issue of moral values. The press has spun it a certain way, and perhaps the Evangelical Right, which has been bushwhacked for a long time by Shrub and company, did have some impact in certain areas (although I'm not quite convinced that is why all those states voted red).

The election certainly points out a split in the electorate regarding these issues. The problem of course is not so much the split, but that these issues are a part of the political process, allowing one group to lord it over the other as to the imposition of their particular moral ethic. Imagine if the state was out of the relationship business entirely. Then the issue of marriage, homosexual or otherwise, would carry no political water whatsoever.

They (the Left) know it wasn't just whacked out rightists who voted against homosexual unions being recognized as marriages, and they know a similar fate would befall the issue of abortion if it were put up to a vote. Most people in this country do not believe that such positions should enjoy protection by the law, much to the chagrin of our educational and media establishments. I have no doubt that most modern leftists just don't get it on this point, and after hearing a steady dose of NPR over the last two months I am led to believe probably never will.

On the other hand, the Evangelical or Religious right doesn't get it either, albeit for different reasons. Despite George Bush's profession of faith, they have no friends in high places. They are useful to the powers that be because when mobilized they can be counted on to vote on the basis of rhetoric, not substance. Sharing the same statist presuppositions as the Republicans, they are easily duped into believing that Bush and company share their cultural concerns and that such will translate into political reality. It never does but apparently hope springs eternal in the Evangelical mindset.

Think about it for a moment. We have a president who is ostensibly pro-life and committed to defending the lives of innocent pre-born babies, yet seems to have no compulsion against destroying innocent adult lives. Amazingly, the Evangelical Right seems to be totally unaware of the problem with such a moral bifurcation.

It is not as if Evangelicals believe that pre-born babies are just pieces of tissue, somehow automatically infused with life just because they move from their mother's womb to a few inches outside of it, which ironically makes their position even more appalling.

Such hardheartedness at the most basic level goes a long way towards explaining hardheartedness at a later level, and should be expected of the pro-abortion Left, given their position of elevating abortion to the level of a sacrament (which is what distinguishes their abortion position from that of most pro-choice Libertarians).

Yet for some reason the tenderheartedness of Evangelicals for innocent babies does not translate into tenderheartedness for innocent adults. They condemn the death of innocents (babies) on the one hand while sanctioning the deaths of innocents (adults) on the other hand.

The historic Christian confessions simply do not make such a fundamental error. Catholic or Orthodox, ancient or modern, they are consistently pro-life and anti-war, short of self-defense. Listening to Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones, to name only a few "leading lights" of the Religious Right, such considerations seem to have no meaning whatsoever. I doubt they are even aware of the historic teachings of the Church regarding war which were honed long before the famous schism of 1054.

Here is what the Evangelical Right doesn't understand and why they continue to be bushwhacked by the lure of politics.

  1. The killing of any innocent life is a crime. The taking of innocent life is never a "necessary" sin parading under the language of "collateral damage." Crimes are a special subset of sins that our Creator has deemed so notorious to the peace and commonwealth of society that they have special and relatively immediate punishments attached to them, i.e. they are subject to civil sanction. Both the Right and Left rhetorically value life in one arena while sanctioning the taking of life in another arena. For the Left, it is abortion. For the Right, it is imperialistic war. In actual practice both sides can be quite imperialistic when it suits their purpose. This shouldn't surprise us with the Left as they have turned their hearts against the most innocent among us, but it is a point of shame with those who identify themselves with the Religious Right.
  2. The forcible appropriation of the fruit of a man's labor is robbery. To put it bluntly, taxation is theft. Involuntarily separating a man from his money is robbery, whether it is done directly or by proxy. Lysander Spooner pointed this out long ago:

[i]t is true that the theory of our Constitution is, that all taxes are paid voluntary; that our government is a mutual insurance company, voluntarily entered into by the people with each other….

But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: “Your money or your life.” And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.

The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is nonetheless a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.

The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these.

Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will, assuming to be your rightful ‘sovereign’; on account of the ‘protection’ he affords you.

He does not keep ‘protecting’ you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resists his demands.

He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.

The proceedings of those robbers and murderers, who call themselves ‘the government,’ are directly the opposite of those of the single highwayman.2

One argument advanced in favor of limited fiscal coercion is that tithing is a model for civil financing, and derives its legitimacy from that model as long as total taxation does not exceed 10%. Now there is a certain aura of plausibility to such an assertion since the tithe provided for more than just worship functions in the Old Testament.

But there is one crucial difference. With the tithe we are giving to God a portion of what rightfully belongs to Him. He owns everything and the corollary is that the state owns nothing. Since as individuals we are only stewards, God could rightly demand it all, but the state in its demands must appropriate what it never owned in the first place.

God has not given the state stewardship over anything. All activities, law, economics, defense, etc. can exist without the state. Thus the only way the state can procure funds for its operations is by predation among those involved in private actions. There can be no other way, unless everyone willingly subject to a given state voluntarily chooses to fund it.

  1. The anatomy of the state is such that it is born out of violence. The state is a group of people who have garnered an aggressive monopoly of force over a given geographical area. Taxation is the means by which they finance this monopoly. Force is the means by which they maintain it. In other words the state is an organized crime ring living off stolen monies. Think of the spectacle of having the Church, God's people, seeking protection from a group whose first principles are founded on theft and violence. How can those who profess to be followers of the Prince of Peace countenance such a relationship?

If the first principle of government is lawlessness made legal, should it surprise anyone when this very entity turns against the Church which is fundamentally opposed to such a thing? Would a thief seek shelter amongst those who think his thieving grievous and an affront to freedom and liberty? I think not. So what in the heck are Evangelicals doing seeking a mess of pottage from a group of thugs?

  1. The future of humankind does not lie in politics. Huh? Don't Evangelicals believe that Jesus is Lord of all and the future of humankind resides in finding salvation only through Him? Of course they do. But that is for the bye and bye either in heaven or in some distant millennial reign. Here and now they seek alliances with the powers that be, seemingly unaware of their own theology which teaches that the powers that be are dominated not by the Prince of Peace but rather by the prince of darkness.

Some seek to transform civil government that it might act as a force for godliness in the land by only restricting legitimate acts of evil. I can appreciate their sentiments. But when someone is speaking of God and civil government and is not referring to the inherent antagonism between the two, we best pray such a worldview never succeeds.

Lovers of freedom do not have friends in government. That spigot will always turn ugly. Some think we can change or limit it. I do not. Civil government has its own internal dynamic. This side of heaven it will never remain limited. Its foundation is flawed therefore all the fruit it produces will be poisoned.

This is a war, the Evangelicals tell us. Therefore we must fight with all the tools at hand, including politics. They are right in one sense. There is a huge divide in this country culturally among the electorate. That much is certainly evident in the blue state/red state dichotomy. But there is no divide politically in this country. On the issues they are all statist. As Anthony Gregory has recently pointed out, Leviathan rules from the center, with very little movement either right or left.

Given the current state of affairs, let's ask a broader question in light of the Religious Right’s involvement in the political process. That is, as a Christian, Evangelical or otherwise, what is my obligation to the state? How should I relate to civil government? Is it my duty to be involved in the affairs of the state?

My answer: no. I believe there are only a few things that should concern a follower of the Prince of Peace when it comes to the machinations of the political beast. I am aware that this is not the only response, and there are many that differ, but I can think of only three duties when it comes to the state.

One is to stay out of its hairs as much as possible, unless gospel duty conflicts with secular law; in which case our duty is to obey God and not men. This position is basic to all those who name the name of Christ.

Acts 4 19But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.

Two is to evangelize its subjects by preaching the gospel which brings spiritual liberty and then teaching the implications of that liberty for all of life.

John 8 32And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Last, given the fact that civil government is not our friend and liable to hurt those we love most (conscripting our children) and tend to outcomes we despise (stealing our money), as Samuel the Prophet warned us, we should pray unequivocally and with much fervor for its demise. In light of the Prophetu2018s warning those many centuries ago, I have no doubt that such an outcome would prove a blessing to both saints and sinners alike.


  1. The radical left’s rejection of property rights is one of the major flaws of its position.
  2. Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority, No. VI (Boston, 1870), pp.12–13, as quoted in Murray Rothbard’s essay, “The Spooner-Tucker Doctrine: An Economist’s View” in Egalitarianism as a Revolt against Nature (Auburn, Alabama: Mises Institute, 2000), pp. 206–207.

December 6, 2004