A flip side argument from my long ago post A Short Pondering: Should a Christian Leader Impose Laws Based on Christian Standards?, as I’ve become more Libertarian in outlook.
Yes, Christians have a duty to warn those headed towards eternal doom off their wrong path (and in fact, it is a responsibility to do so, whereby a Christian’s neglect is a punishable offence in God’s eyes).
But should Christians in politics or power enact laws to enforce ‘moral’ behaviour? Apart from the fact that forcing behaviour on people automatically excludes moral actions out of their own free will, I feel that Christians should support a minimum of individual, group and government interference into the lives of people (that do not negatively affect other people).
Here’s a few reasons why:
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? – Matthew 16:26
Quick question: Would any of us condone coercing or tricking unbelievers into converting to Christianity? You know, like what the Islamic State thugs are doing in the Levant – ‘convert to Islam or die’?
Of course not, as apart from the fact that we believe only true repentance and conversion of one’s own free will count before God’s eyes, we simply don’t do that sort of thing (anymore, a polemic would be quick to add).
So if we won’t force the unsaved to believe in Jesus in order to save their very souls, then why force them to save their health or wealth or anything else on this mortal plane? After all, as Jesus says in the passage above, what is more valuable and precious than one’s soul? It is eternal and immutable, whereas earthly possessions will be left on earth, and the body will fade away into dust.
If we consider it immoral to coerce people into ‘saving’ their own eternal souls by law or threat, then what justification do we have for coercing them to avoid sweet or fatty food for the sake of their brief-by-comparison health? (If you answered ‘So they don’t burden the national healthcare system with their eventual health problems’ then that’s just another good argument against socialized healthcare.)
(Some caveats apply of course, e.g. preventing people from carrying out decisions made under non-neutral circumstances like suicide when in depression, driving when drunk, signing binding agreements without full information & understanding, etc.)
1st CORINTHIANS 6:12
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. – 1st Corinthian 6:12
This passage basically summarizes the Christian approach to ‘religious law’. Namely, we do not have long lists of detailed and binding legal minutiae accompanied by specific punishments like some other religions. (Caveat again, there are a few instances in the New Testament of proscribed behaviour and recommendations for action.)
Rather than specific letters of the law, we are given general guidelines in the spirit of the law – love God, love thy neighbor, seek righteousness on a personal and public basis. Non-adherence to these precepts brings about divine retribution rather than human punishment. (Caveat yet again – this is of course not including earthly punishments as prescribed by the laws set by human governments.)
What each of us does therefore should be with an eye on whether or not doing it is of benefit and in accordance with the precepts given by God.