Christians Among Libertarians at ISFLC
In my experience, I've noticed most libertarians don't exactly jump at the opportunity to talk about Jesus. I've met many who claim to be atheist or agnostic and are open to conversations about morality and ethics, but when "Christianity" or "Jesus" is mentioned, they react defensively.
I believe many libertarians see Christianity as antithetical to their political views, because faith in Christ requires one of three things:
- Taking a leap of faith beyond human reason
- Accepting an absolute truth
- Submitting to a higher authority
But the intellectual gap between Christian theology and political philosophy is not so much a failure of the libertarians as a failure on the part of Christians—I haven't exactly met many Evangelicals excited to engage in scholarly conversation about economic freedom, either. Christians are often perceived as "anti-intellectual," as Mark Noll's "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind" reminds us.
However, my experience at the International Students for Liberty International Conference (ISFLC) in Washington, D.C., this past weekend proved that many students are hungry for a faith-based conversation on economics.
Despite our perceived differences, the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE) was welcomed with open arms at ISFLC. As I stood at IFWE's booth, I was greeted by students from across the world excited to learn more about our research.
I had several conversations with atheist and agnostic students, who, though they didn't agree with my Christian faith, expressed gratitude when I initiated a faith-based conversation about the dignity of work, or economic freedom. I also met students who grew up in Christian homes, but have struggled to connect their political convictions with their biblical convictions and questioned their faith because of a perceived disconnect.
What I wasn't expecting, though, was the incredible number of Christian students I met. While I assumed libertarian circles weren't exactly "Christian-friendly," I was encouraged to find plenty of Christians at ISFLC. Some expressed feeling alone in their faith and thanked us for our presence. But if they knew how many other Christians I met that weekend, I bet they wouldn't have felt isolated.
Even though IFWE is not a libertarian think tank, I was excited to offer these students an opportunity to have a conversation about Christianity and economics at IFWE's breakout session, titled "Five Reasons Why Christianity Supports Economic Freedom," presented by Dr. Anne Bradley, our vice president of economic initiatives. The session brought in a full house.
She opened the presentation by asking the question, "Why should Christians care about economics?" and answered with a quote by Abraham Kuyper:
There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, "Mine!"
In other words, there is nothing on this earth that should be separated from Christ's reign. Dr. Bradley made the point that there is truth in economics—truth that cannot be separated from God. She presented five ways in which Christianity supports economic freedom:
- A Christian view of anthropology
- We are called to serve others, especially the poor
- We are called to flourishing
- Property rights are critical in scripture
- Redistribution through coercion is not biblical, rather limited government is the model
The lecture was very well received by the students, most calling the topic "refreshing." One student in particular said she was excited to hear a fellow Christian quote Ludwig von Mises. Alexandra Woodfin, a student at Towson University, tweeted: "Christianity & Econ Freedom: full house. Intellectuals aren't always atheists, Christians. #ISFLC13 @sfliberty pic.twitter.com/nXEkjQvw
Thank you, libertarian students, for proving me wrong and welcoming a faith-based conversation at ISFLC.