They say the things you shouldn’t talk about in polite conversation are religion and politics; but these are the things that interest me (along with economics and sports), so I fully intend to talk about them.
The fusion of religion and politics (or anti-religion and politics) is much the story of human history. Certainly we (Americans or citizens of the 21st century) are no different. Has anyone ever gotten it right? Likely not. If they had, it is reasonable to expect their success to be so dramatic that we’d still be discussing it today … but we aren’t.
I am religiously a Christian. Though I hope it doesn’t matter for the purposes of blogging, I will give full disclosure – I could fairly be described as protestant, evangelical, and even charismatic. However, the purpose of my blog is not religiously denominational at all (though I will surely at some point say not-so-nice things about political actions of some religious organizations).
Rather, my purpose is to discuss the nature of good governance from a religious perspective. It is here that I fully intend to provide a hypothesis (and someday, I hope, a conclusion) that will perhaps run afoul of the religious/political mindset that dominates politics today. Naturally I don’t want to give the whole thing away at once, but my major thesis is as follows.
There is, in my estimation, a stark difference between morality and governance. More to the point, there is a stark difference between the way moral people ought to behave and the way a government ought to govern. I hold that the best a government can hope to do is to defend a person’s rights and allow freedom of action right up to the boundary of the rights of others. Further, I define these rights fairly narrowly. As a mathematician, it does not sit well with my mind to have sets of personal rights that are not mutually exclusive. If two people in the free exercise of their rights can violate each other’s rights then we have a problem. Either we must define a hierarchy of rights (making them not absolute) or we must scale back the definition of rights eliminating those that would be nice but are not innate.
Surely I am not the only person who holds this view. Some would argue the whole of Libertarianism is based on such a concept – though I will part ways with the Libertarians on some important issues. What I hope to bring to the dialogue is a discussion of religious aspects of freedom and how they apply to good governance. (Of course, I won’t speak solely from a religious perspective, but I will do so often.)
The problem with freedom is clear. Free people will not behave the way you or I want them to. We then are given a choice. Do we move to restrict their freedoms so that their behaviors are consistent with our desires, or do we place such a high value on human freedom as to tolerate bad actors so long is clear, God-given rights are not being violated? I choose the latter.