An Awakening From an Enlightenment

Monday, March 26, 2012

I have my parents to thank for setting me on a path that leads in a slightly different direction than the one I was taking. For some time I've been developing a radical hatred of civil government, spurred on by Murray Rothbard and his disciples and culminating in my recent hearing of Rothbard's article "Do You Hate the State?" (1977). I had begun to accept all the teachings of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, of which Rothbard was an important member, as truth, an unwise and dangerous practice.

I had been sharing what I learned through social media and had been applying it to current events and government policies, often to the displeasure of friends and, especially, family members, many of whom, as is common in America, are either staunchly on the left end of the political spectrum or staunchly on the right end. Even those in the middle often could not quite grasp my new doctrines of absolute liberty. My parents recently guided me to ask myself this important question: "What would the Lord have me do about these things I'm so passionate about?" For I am a Christian in mind, heart and soul, dedicated to the work and vision of Jesus above all else.

I have struggled recently to understand the scriptures teaching that governments, no matter how evil, are established by God (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2). Even as Pilate was trying the innocent Jesus, a trial that would result in His death sentence, Christ declared, "You could have no power at all against me unless it had been given you from above" (John 19:11; New King James Version) [Edit: Please see my comment below]. Why would God operate in this way century after century, setting up vicious rulers and knocking them down, only to set up other evil men in authority over His people? How is a Christian to live under an evil government, knowing that God is responsible for setting it up? What is the purpose of Christian persecution under an evil state? It is to these questions that the current work is dedicated.

As of now I still agree with all the Mises Institute's teachings on free-market economics and the evils of the State, but there is now one important difference in me. I have recently clung to two different brands of non-aggressive anti-statism. As an unofficial student of the Mises Institute, I believe in the nobleness of the free market for the provision of human needs and in the ability of the individual person to govern himself and to live among other individuals in harmonious ways that benefit all, without the need for armed policemen and forced taxation.

However, I have also been exploring supposedly Christian anti-state views as expressed by writers such as Leo Tolstoy,  David Lipscomb, Ammon Hennacy and Jacques Ellul. This morning I listened to Chapter One of Tolstoy's What I Believe (1884), which he wrote after accepting Christ's doctrines as the focus of his philosophy and lifestyle. I am so far unsure of how much I agree with Tolstoy's thoughts on spirituality, but in this chapter he extolled Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:39: "But I tell you not to resist an evil person." Tolstoy seemed to base everything he did and thought on this solitary teaching in the latter years of his life.

The Mises Institute teaches a non-aggressive philosophy of anti-statism, but their official motto, from Virgil's Aeneid, is translated, "Do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it." For a man who is interested in living a good, noble life in this evil world, this motto is highly appealing. But today I realize, thanks to Tolstoy, that this philosophy is in direct opposition to the doctrine of Christ that teaches us not to resist evil. Jesus teaches us to love, bless and pray for our enemies and to do good to them (Matthew 5:44), for this is how the true children of God behave (v. 45).

If I am truly His child, it's no wonder I was confused in my philosophies. It's not enough just to allow policemen to abuse me and tax collectors to steal from me. Christ teaches me to love them. What does that mean? When the apostle Paul described so eloquently what love is, he taught that love "is not provoked, [and] thinks no evil" (1 Corinthians 13:5). While love "does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth" (v. 6), Christ teaches that His children respond to evil with good, by turning the other cheek, giving up their cloaks and going the extra mile (Matthew 5:39-41).

Therefore it is not enough, and perhaps it is even sinful, to simply point out the evils in the world, stirring up hatred within ourselves and those around us. When we see evil, our first response should be prayer, for those who are committing the evil as well as for the victims of it. I hope now to adjust my anti-state philosophy to fit in much better with Christ's teachings of love and nonresistance. It is my hope that by discussing many aspects of this issue in a public, interactive way, I can begin to develop a new, Spirit-filled philosophy of how the body of Christ can and should operate in a world ruled by men but controlled by God.

[Originally published June 22, 2011, on the blog On Faith and Authority]