I recently asked “Are Christianity and Freedom Compatible?” If anyone isn’t familiar with the Values & Capitalism project, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
It is important to ask these questions, though, because there are some within the Christian tent who dedicate themselves to advocating for larger government, more regulation and less individual freedom. If we don’t take a stand and interact with the ideas of the minority, they will define us all.
In the course of this discussion, I directly named the self-identified leftist Christian thought leader, Jim Wallis. In context, I said the following:
When someone like Jim Wallis is called “the most influential and visionary religious leader of our time” while preaching statism adorned in deracinated scripture, our entire community is stained with “progressive” bleached-out theology. For our conversation to be productive, we must not only engage with liberal Christians, but also non-religious people regarding the truth that liberty is compatible with Christianity.
I received some harsh criticism for this statement, because to some in the greater free market community, Christianity is so fundamentallypro-freedom that to even entertain the ideas of progressive Christians, seems like an affront to orthodoxy.
I do agree that the rich theological truths of the gospel leads to an inescapable conclusion of individual freedom, effective solutions to end poverty and the nobility of work that can only be found in a system of limited government and free markets.
And I began to believe that maybe I was worried too much about the prevalence of progressive Christian thought, until I went to my small group meeting last week. This group consists of half a dozen young, single, career-oriented Christian women. Currently we are working through Tim Keller’s “Generous Justice,” which introduced many of these women to the term “social justice.” Normally during conversations like these, I launch into a customary disclaimer about how we should all be cautious with that term to be sure we keep in mind God’s justice—not FDR’s version of justice. But in this case, such a tangent didn’t fit with the flow of conservation, and I let it go.
The next day I received an email from a member of our small group that went, in part, like this:
While surfing the internet I came across DC-based Sojourners ministries. Their tag line is “Faith in Action for Social Justice.” How perfect is that?… Makes me want to be a sojourner. I haven’t really delved that deeply into what all they do but it looks like they might have some great resources for us in our quest for social justice God’s way.
Progressive Christians have the market share of “justice language.” They are loudly preaching their message, and it is not acceptable to simply ignore them. It is not obvious to the typical Christian student that though individuals like Jim Wallis describe their work as justice work, his views are not main stream, and free-market Christians need not worry that free-market views are unjust. Small government and free markets are natural expressions of our spiritual liberty. I support free markets and limited government precisely because I want equal opportunity for all. I want the poor to prosper.
Christianity and freedom are not just compatible—they are concurring.