Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion & Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back The United Methodist Church, published in 2008, and Methodism and Politics in the 20th Century.
Today IRD was graced by a visit from our board member Graham Walker, president of Patrick Henry College in Virginia and himself a theologian and scholar originally from The Wesleyan Church. He is today quite active in the Anglican Church in North America but remains committed to Wesleyan Methodist distinctives. Patrick Henry is a Christian school popular with students who have been home schooled, and its curriculum emphasizes a classical education.
Walker spoke to the IRD staff about the challenges posed by Libertarian influenced beliefs increasingly popular among some young evangelicals, especially among some who call themselves Young, Restless and Reformed. Some in their school of thought advocate that government and politics to some extent step back from “private” issues such as marriage, abortion, drugs, or prostitution. He warned that the absence of policies by government is itself promoting a particular policy, and there is really on way to fully “privatize” these issues. If for example government were to completely privatize marriage it would be teaching that marriage has no public purpose. Individuals may strive to be neutral, but government and polity cannot be similarly neutral.
Law is itself a “public teacher,” Walker emphasized. Much of the impetus behind evangelicals wanting political withdrawal from “private” issues represents desperation to avoid the “awkwardness” of culture wars. He noted that post moderns love Libertarianism because it often implies there is no “accepted moral truth.” This postmodern stance resonates with a certain vision of some Calvinist theology, which presumes that those outside of faith are outside of God’s redemptive rule and are “vessels of wrath.” Walker countered that God does not “create any person to break His laws.” Walker concluded by asserting his opposition to so-called “Christian values,” because the term “values” itself implies a moral relativism. Of course, Walker’s remarks provoked a lively discussion by IRD’s mostly young staff, some of whom are Reformed and perhaps even Restless!Google+