The Importance of Christian Thought for the American Libertarian Movement: Christian Libertarianism, 1950-71
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Libertarian Papers 2 (2010)
Murray N. Rothbard argued that there are many philosophic and non-philosophic arguments that provide a satisfactory basis for individual liberty. Rarely, however, did he discuss the claims of Christianity to be a suitable foundation for individual freedom. By looking at the Christian libertarians of the Old Right, between 1950 and 1971, the article contends that religious values were the most important reason for libertarians pursuing a society composed of free individuals during that period. By examining the journals Faith and Freedom, Christian Economics, and the Freeman, and the positive views of Rev. Carl McIntire, the author explains the philosophy of Christian libertarianism. It is the belief that individual freedom is only the highest political end; the necessary means for God’s Creation to develop unhindered their conscience and the full ‘sacredness of their personality.’ Christian libertarians maintain that individuals cannot be coerced by government to lead a virtuous life. They must instead be persuaded, by a true understanding of the life of Jesus especially, to choose to follow the moral life sanctioned by the Bible. The desire to follow the Golden Rule voluntarily, Christian libertarians explain, is the God-given template that allows a society of individuals to live in freedom. It was this Christian ethic, Christian libertarians insist, couched in terms of the Natural Law, that inspired the founding fathers to establish a system of government where the individual is free to enjoy their ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ The article concludes by discussing Frank S. Meyer’s ‘fusionist’ attempt to find a uniting theme for traditionalists and libertarians, and suggests that it was the Christian libertarian philosophy in all but name. It also suggests that if America has any valid claim to be ‘Exceptional,’ then it is based on the nation’s traditional defence of individual freedom as a God-given grant.
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