A few years back, I read some advice on a writing blog that said you should never, ever, ever blog publicly about religion or politics, because that would alienate your potential readership. Well, it’s an election year and I’ve already blogged quite a bit about politics, so I might as well go all the way and throw some religion in there too.
I am a devout Mormon. That means that I attend three hours of church on Sunday, strive to make personal prayer and scriptures study a part of my daily routine, hold a priesthood, and worship at an LDS temple as often as I can (about every week or so). It also means that I don’t smoke, do drugs, or drink alcohol, coffee, or tea, and that I practice strict abstinence before marriage and fidelity within. Without getting too deeply into the doctrine, faith in Jesus Christ is at the center of everything I believe and practice.
So why would I say that God is a Libertarian? Aren’t the Libertarians those crazy political fringe guys who like to smoke weed and get the government out of everything? What does a straight-laced Mormon have in common with any of them?
Quite a lot, as it turns out.
Libertarians basically believe that individuals should be free to govern themselves with as little interference from the government as possible. All of the different schools of libertarian thought basically revolve around the proper role of government in society and where the line should be drawn, but they all agree that the power of the State should be minimal.
Because actions have consequences, however, the only way we can all be free is for everyone to be responsible for their own actions. For example, if a worker does a poor job, his boss should be free to fire him. If he refuses to work at all, he shouldn’t get a welfare check, because that’s forcing other people to support his lifestyle. If a woman decides to be promiscuous, she should pay for her own birth control, because the only other alternative is to force other people to pay for it, infringing on their freedom.
This is why the flipside of the coin of Liberty is Responsibility. If Liberty is the freedom to act without being acted upon, then Responsibility (or the ability to respond) is an essential part of that.
One of the ways that governments take away our liberty is by enticing us to give up individual responsibility for our own life decisions. Gun control? Don’t take responsibility for your own self-defense, just trust the government to take care of it. Mass surveillance? You’re innocent and don’t have anything to hide, so just let those government agencies police themselves. Socialized health care? No matter your lifestyle decisions, health care is a right (never mind that everyone else is going to have to pay for it)!
The LDS church is very opposed to all of this. It teaches that we should all strive to be self-sufficient, or in other words, responsible for ourselves. We believe in charitable giving, but not in the form of handouts. The church welfare system revolves entirely around teaching people how to provide for themselves and, through one-on-one help, bringing them to a point where they can accomplish that.
But the Mormon-Libertarian connection is more than just a practical one: it’s a doctrinal one as well.
According to LDS theology, God is our Father in Heaven, literally. If you call up the Mormon missionaries and start taking the lessons, one of the first things they will teach you is that every human being is a child of God—that God is the father of our spirits, and that therefore we are all spiritually brothers and sisters.
Before we were born, we lived as spirits in the presence of God. As His sons and daughters, He wanted us to grow up to become like Him and inherit everything that He has. But there was a problem. Evil cannot exist in the presence of God, and without experiencing evil, we could never understand or know how to choose the good.
So God proposed a plan. He would create a place called Earth, where we could experience good and evil and learn how to choose between the two. He would make us forget everything from our life in his presence, so we would have to walk by faith. That way, when we did choose good, it would all be on us. We would learn through our own experience.
Inevitably, though, we would make evil choices that would make it impossible for us to return and live with Him. But God promised He would send us a Savior, who would pay the price for our sins and cleanse us of them. This Savior was our elder brother, Jesus Christ. All we had to do was accept His gospel and follow His teachings.
Most of us rejoiced at this plan. It gave all of us an equal chance to learn and grow and become like our Heavenly Father.
But equality of opportunity is not the same thing as equality of outcome. When our brother Lucifer looked at the plan, he saw that those who rejected Jesus Christ would be damned, or unable to return to the presence of Heavenly Father.
So he proposed a different plan: that God would make him the Savior instead, and that he would save everyone. In order to do that, though, he would have to take away our ability to choose between good and evil. Instead, he would make all the choices for us, and we would never be able to learn from our own experience. He would take all the glory.
God rejected Lucifer’s proposal, because He knew that without the freedom to choose between good and evil, we would never be able to learn and grow and become like Him. So Lucifer rebelled against God, and decided that if he couldn’t have the glory, then no one could. He convinced a third of our brothers and sisters to reject Jesus Christ and follow him instead. That is how Lucifer fell and became Satan.
According to Mormon theology, Satan’s downfall was that he tried to create a perfect world by destroying individual liberty. Sound familiar? It should, because the war in heaven never actually ended. When Satan was cast out of heaven, he took his followers down here to Earth. Each one of us faces that war every day.
Satan doesn’t just want to spread evil all over the world. Evil, by itself, does not defeat God’s plan. No matter how horrible our suffering may be in this life, it will all eventually come to an end, and turn to our glory if we are faithful. Satan knows that the way to destroy God’s plan is to destroy our Liberty, and he seeks relentlessly to do just that.
This is why I believe that God is a Libertarian. He wants us to have the freedom to govern ourselves, because that is principle at the very core of His plan—the Plan of Salvation. He wants us to stand fast in that Liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.
So does that mean that President Jesus would legalize marijuana? Yes, I think he would. Remember, Jesus spent a lot of time among publicans and sinners. He didn’t condone their stupid decisions, but he didn’t condemn them to prison either. Why should we?
Would President Jesus legalize the death penalty? The man who said “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”? No—not because capital punishment is morally wrong, but because the State shouldn’t have the power to exercise it. After all, just look at the corruption of the Sanhedrin.
Would President Jesus legalize abortion? Here, I’m going to depart from mainstream Libertarianism and argue that He wouldn’t, except in cases that threaten the health (including mental health) of the mother. By legalizing abortion, we have effectively granted the State to arbitrarily define what is and is not human life. Jesus had a profound respect for human life, suffering even the little children to come to him. I cannot believe that this same Jesus would grant the State that power.
(That said, there are cases where the taking of human life is morally justified. That’s why I believe a President Jesus would make exceptions for cases threatening the health (including mental health) of the mother. But for people who use abortion as a birth control method, who think they should have the right just because they made a bad decision and forgot to wear a condom? No.)
What about taxes? If the man who admonished us to render unto Caesar Himself became Caesar, would He raise our taxes? Remember, this is also the man who said that His yoke was easy, and His burden light. Would He want any of us to be yoked to the State? Even the wealthiest one-percent? I don’t think He would.
Would President Jesus build a wall and make Mexico pay for it? Well, apparently even Trump isn’t going to do that anymore, so enough said.
But you get the picture. If Jesus Christ reigned in power and glory on this Earth (and as a Mormon, I believe that He will someday), His government would look a hell of a lot more libertarian than the government we have today. In fact, it might even be so libertarian that people wonder if His government even exists, leaving room for the unbelievers well into the Millennium (and that, too, agrees with Mormon theology).
So there you have it. The book is blue, the church is true, and God is a Libertarian (just don’t go one-star all my books, please).