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Christian libertarianism describes the synthesis of Christian beliefs concerning human nature and dignity with libertarian political philosophy. In contrast to the Christian left and the Christian right respectively, they believe charity and enforcement of personal-level morality should be the purview of the (voluntary) church and not the state. These responsibilities must not be abrogated, though any non-governmental organization (NGO) not publically financed is free to pursue them as well.
Christian libertarianism is also a political ideology to the extent that its supporters promote their cause to others and join together as a movement. They believe these principles are supported in the Bible by Christ's teaching (see below), and His criticism of the laws (Halakha) as observed by the Pharisees. As with secular libertarianism, socialism, fascism, and crony capitalism are strongly opposed, as is theocracy. Of course, the latter does not include merely being influenced by Christian concepts. Individual freedom of religion without state interference is fully supported regardless of one's beliefs. Nevertheless, a majority religion in a given locale could display its faith on government-owned property if it had the popular votes to do so. Public sector discrimination is strictly forbidden, while in the private sector, it is permitted, though discouraged (excepting bona fide associated costs, such as with insurance).
In keeping with the fundamentals of libertarianism, laws of the state should be kept to the bare minimum. Acts that merely annoy others or slowly degrade their health might be dealt with at the local level, where the least amount of effort is needed to initiate or oppose change.
There is great concern that even in relatively free societies, laws and regulations are becoming increasingly numerous, irrelevant, and too complex for the average person to understand. While those on the Christian right may wish to outlaw what they see as sinful, this only makes the public more accustomed to having to deal with new laws. Thus, it "opens the floodgates" for liberals to pass their own laws when they are in control of the government, rather than having an aversion to all new laws.
Differences with Christian right
Due to scripture never showing Jesus advocating laws to promote morality and discourage sinful behavior (very common in the Old Testament), Christian libertarians are opposed to using government as a tool to control or force the behavior of others. Most acts considered sinful should stay within the domain of the church and family, and not be enforced by the state. As libertarianism is not anarchy, exceptions are made for "crimes against humanity" such as murder, rape, robbery, and the like. For example, a Christian libertarian may believe that adultery is immoral, but it should not be illegal. When the state charges someone with a crime, this tends to "secularize" the act, rather than focus on its sinfulness (if any) and need for redemption. Since prison separates families and is extremely expensive for taxpayers, only those who are a violent danger to society or have otherwise committed a one-off heinous crime (e.g. spousal murder) should be incarcerated.
Differences with Christian left
Unlike liberal Christianity, libertarians generally see no need for government-provided social services. These are best left to private nonprofit organizations, in which churches play a major role. Voluntary giving is always preferred over mandatory taxation. They believe public welfare does more harm than good, especially if a young mother without financial resources has an incentive to have more children. Central planning is always a bad idea compared with free-market capitalism. The individual can make better choices than government, which is force rather than something voluntary.
The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments have varing enforceability under Christian libertarianism. Note: Beliefs differ on whether to consolidate at the beginning or end to prevent forming more than ten commandments. This list consolidates coveting with the alternative numbering used by Catholics and most Lutherans in brackets.
- 1st [1a] Commandment (forbid other gods): Church only
- 2nd [1b] Commandment (forbid idols): Church only
- 3rd  Commandment (forbid God's name in vain): Church only
- 4th  Commandment (keeping Sabbath): Church only
- 5th  Commandment (honoring parents): Church only
- 6th  Commandment (forbid murder): Both church and state
- 7th  Commandment (forbid adultery): Church only (assuming full consent of those who committed the adultery)
- 8th  Commandment (forbid theft): Both church and state
- 9th  Commandment (forbid false witness): Both church and state (but only civil enforcement for defamation unless perjury occurs)
- 10th [9/10] Commandment (forbid coveting neighbor's wife  and property ): Church only (unless it rises to the legal threshold of harassment)
Not all specific crimes that the state can enforce are addressed directly. For example, kidnapping would be part of the eighth [seventh] commandment.
The origins of Christian libertarianism in the United States can be traced back to the roots of libertarianism. According to Murray Rothbard, of the three libertarian experiments begun during the European colonization of the Americas in the mid 17th century, all three of them were begun by Christian groups.
Going back farther, Martin Luther, one of the authors of the Protestant Reformation, has been called a libertarian. In the introduction to "Luther and Calvin on Secular Authority", the editor, Harro Hopfl, says that libertarian, egalitarian, communal motifs were part of the texture of Luther's theology.
Lord Acton was a theoretician of Christian libertarianism who suggested that political liberty is the essential condition and guardian of religious liberty. The Acton Institute, an American Christian libertarian think tank, is named after him.
Christian Bible References
The quotes below come from the translation commonly referenced as the New King James Version.
From the last book of the Christian New Testament, called the Apocalypse or Revelation, chapter 22, verses 10-16; this passage references the principle of non-interference in the lives of others:
- And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”
- “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
- “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
The New Testament book, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, addresses this same principle:
- I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.
- Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
- But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner — not even to eat with such a person.
- For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
From the first book of the Christian New Testament, called the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 15, verses 1-20; this passage references the simplicity of spiritual purity, and the non-necessity of a multitude of contradictory physical rules:
- Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying,
- “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
- He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.
- Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
- ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
- And honor Me with their lips,
- But their heart is far from Me.
- And in vain they worship Me,
- Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
- ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
- When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
- Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”
- But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”
- Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.”
- So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”
- Andrew Sandlin, The Christian Statesman, "The Christian Libertarian Idea", October 1996
- The Origins of Individualist Anarchism in the US, Murray N. Rothbard, February 1, 2006
- Hopfl, Harro. Luther and Calvin on Secular Authority, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, September 27, 1991, p. xii
- "History of Acton Institute". Acton Institute. Retrieved 12 July 2012.