Monday, August 18, 2008

The strange case of Iredell County (part of) and a Christian Libertarian

[h/t to NC Senatorial candidate Chris Cole for alerting me to this ]

Thanks to NC Legislative gerrymandering, the part of Iredell County included in State House District 95 is about as Republican as you can get.

In 2002, 2004, and 2006, GOPer Karen Ray ran unopposed for the seat, usually picking up about 11-14,000 votes.

In 2004, although I can't find the exact number in the time I'm willing to spend tonight, she certainly got more, as Bush bashed Kerry 38,674 to 18,065 county-wide.

This year, Ray succumbed to a primary challenge by attorney Grey Mills, who garnered 3,613 votes to Ray's 3,499.

Here is how Mills describes himself:

A staunch fiscal and social conservative, Mills supports the right to life, the protection of traditional marriage, and the protection of our Second Amendment rights of the Constitution. He believes that our state government must curb its wasteful spending, and do a better job in setting priorities. Additionally, Mills believes that Iredell has not gotten a fair deal from the powers that be in Raleigh, and he pledges to lead the fight to correct that situation.


He has no Democratic opponent.

Enter Libertarian--excuse me, self-styled Christian Libertarian--Jeffrey Ober, who certainly is at least one Libertarian who can't be accused of wanting to be a spoiler candidate.

I'm not sure how active a campaign Ober is running, as he plans to be in Kenya (presumably on missionary work) from 21 October until the day after Election Day. But at least he's offering the voters of Iredell County (part of) a choice.

This Christian Libertarian piece keeps drawing me back. From Kevin Craig who believes God hates homosexuals out in Missouri to Dr Eric Schansberg, an Evangelical who seems to have a grasp on the difference between personal belief and legislative mandate, Christians are starting to show up in the Libertarian Party nationwide as candidates.

Which may be a good thing (I'm Catholic, and in some parts of the country that counts as being Christian, even if at least one of my in-laws doesn't believe it.), or maybe not.

The problem with religious identity is whether or not you can get past your personal beliefs to believe in freedoms for other people even when the freedoms they want are anathema to your religion. I've had it up to here with bishops in my own faith who want to deny communion to politicians who vote for legislation that the church opposes, or with Evangelicals who want to legislate their views of sexuality, or with Jews insistent that being critical of Israel equate with anti-Semitism. In each of these cases I believe that the great mass of people in each of these faiths is smarter than their leaders, but often there is evidence to shake that presumption....

In Jeffrey Ober's case, he's attempted to meet that objection head on:

I believe a government should be limited and freedom should be maximized. Nothing about this position is immoral -- which is why I consider myself now a Christian Libertarian. Christianity itself is based on complete free will -- Jesus never said to convert people by force. There is no reason government should not do the same -- allow people to be free, even when that means they are free to make a choice that will result in harm to themselves.

Certainly there should be limits -- but those limits should be only where one person infringes on the freedoms of another. To borrow a phrase from another writer, Vox Day, "To love Jesus and individual freedom, that is what it means to be a Christian Libertarian."


And again:

Q: What is your position on issue X?

A: For any issue that you don't find listed here, the answer for me is the Liberty position. I will always attempt to take the position that allows the most freedom and liberty for the most people. This is the Constitutional position.


This sounds good, Jeffrey, but it leaves room for question. The only three issues you cover specifically are eminent domain, schools, and immigration.

I wonder how you apply your Libertarian principles moderated by your Evangelical faith to issues of abortion, stem cell research, or gay marriage.

That's a serious, not a rhetorical question, by the way.

But as I pointed out with the case of Dr Eric Schansberg in Indiana, the context of the election matters.

In NC House District 95, the choice apparently falls between a social conservative Republican who makes no bones about being somewhere to the right of [insert name of radical social-con example here] and an evangelical conservative Libertarian who at least uses the rhetoric of placing individual rights over his personal moral and religious preferences.

And I am heartened by the fact that NC's openly gay Senatorial candidate Chris Cole called your candidacy to my attention, which--even though Chris is a good Libertarian who takes those down-ticket issues seriously--probably not have been the case if he figured you were running for office in order to initiate a gay-bashing pogrom.

I also find it a good thing that you have been endorsed by several bikers' rights groups and link to Jan MacKay's website.

This is the conundrum of trying to build a truly functional national Libertarian Party. Libertarianism has to be able to include people of faith, but people of faith also have to be able to embrace Libertarianism. You'd think Jesus and that non-aggression principle would be fairly congruent with each other, but the record on Christians using force to legislate their own morality is, frankly, not so good. I find myself having to constantly make Christians prove to me that they don't want a theocracy, and as a Christian that makes me uncomfortable.

I don't have a solid ending for this post, or an answer to that dilemma. Jeffrey Ober seems to get it, and in a District like NC House 95 that may be enough. I hope so.

4 comments:

Jeff Ober said...

Thank you for the kind words! I've got a response ready for you that I should have posted tonight.

Jeff Ober said...

Here you go:

http://ober.org/issues/delLibertarian.html

tom said...

I've had it up to here with bishops in my own faith who want to deny communion to politicians who vote for legislation that the church opposes,

Not because it's especially relevant, but because Steve's words somehow made me think of it... Who wrote this? And where?

"... you can excommunicate me on my way to Sunday School, and have all the bishops harmonize these lines..."

No cheating w/ Google, etc.

tom said...

Libertarianism has to be able to include people of faith, but people of faith also have to be able to embrace Libertarianism. You'd think Jesus and that non-aggression principle would be fairly congruent with each other, but the record on Christians using force to legislate their own morality is, frankly, not so good. I find myself having to constantly make Christians prove to me that they don't want a theocracy, and as a Christian that makes me uncomfortable.

Even as a Non-Christian, I don't worry about that too much. The libertarian movement has always had many prominent members who are Christian (eg. Marshall Fritz, Ron Paul, and our own Terri Lewis), as well as people of most other faiths. One of the hallmarks of libertarianism is tolerance for people with different beliefs, even if those beliefs offend us.

As long as they are truly libertarians in a big picture kind of way (and it's pretty obvious that they're not if they go around holding "God Hates Fags" rallies, or trying to stamp out "Islamofascism", or whatever), it doesn't matter if they disagree with me on a few issues, even if I consider them important issues.

This is because a libertarian theocracy, if such a thing is even possible, simply would not have the power or the resources to oppress me in even a fraction of the ways our increasingly totalitarian "secular" government does now.