Paul Gordon Collier-When you hold to a non-coercive political worldview, but you also hold to a Christian worldview, how do you approach the current coverage of police in America today?
With such sites as Cop Block, which focuses on highlighting cop abuses of citizens (and many times actually takes videos out of context, condemning cops that don’t deserve to be condemned), social media would give you the impression that abuse by the police is widespread, that cops are fundamentally thug-like, lawless, and ignorant of basic constitutional law.
From my particular political worldview, the method of policing would look radically different in a Voluntarist kind of world. Standing up to enthusiastically support police would be to stand up and support a method of governance that betrays one of my core political standards. Policing, as it is practiced today, involves coercion, lethally-enforced coercion.
From my Christian worldview, condemning whole groups of people because of the acts of members in their community is unjust. People should be judged individually by their own actions, not the actions of others within their group (with only extreme exceptions to that rule). This worldview prevents me from gleefully rushing forward to condemn all police. I am also wary of how I might inadvertently contribute to the spreading of hatred, the legitimizing of hatred that will lead to real death, like the assassination of the cop in Louisiana recently.
The most important aspect of my life is my Christian worldview, not my political worldview, and where that worldview violates Christ’s worldview, I will always reject it. My Christian worldview does not allow me to condemn people because of their group membership. Therefore, I cannot be part of a general condemnation of police, for it violates the standards Christ set for me.
Yes, I would very much love it if overnight everyone saw the futility and injustice of supporting, perpetuating and enforcing a coercive governance model (such as the state is), but I recognize a few important factors that prevent me from counting as my enemy people who just don’t see the world the way I do (a world without the state).
Here is the first factor- Unlike many of my libertarian friends, I do not claim to have an absolute, sure understanding of the truth of human governance. I will allow that I might be wrong about the possibility of a world without a state. I would say the preponderance of evidence strongly suggests that coercive governance is a hindrance to civilization, not an enabler, but I do not believe that anyone, if they were truly honest with themselves, can say with absolute certainty, that a stateless society can and will work with human nature.
Here is the second factor- In my life, I have held different worldviews that I would singularly reject today. At one point, early in my life, I thought that a one-world government would be the best thing for the advancement of humankind. I want to be careful not to sound like I am on THE path to enlightenment and that my current understanding is the necessary fruit of a disciplined approach to the pursuit of truth, BUT my pursuit of truth has led me to some surprising places, and I’m not sure where this journey will go next.
The point here is this- while I held on to my worldview that a world government was the right path for human governance, I was not malicious, I was not seeking to empower myself at the expense of others. I sincerely held that this worldview was the right worldview for all of humanity.
The argument made by a lot of libertarians is that cops are signing up for the advancement of the coercive state, therefore, we should condemn them and call them the jackboots that they really are.
I happen to have a few friends who are cops. My friends are not jackboots. Yes, they do see a role for the state in society, which I disagree with, but they are not jackboots. My friends, the ones I know, have a real servant mentality. They believe in law and order. They believe they are serving on the front lines of the war against lawlessness. While I disagree with what they are really doing, I do not doubt their convictions, and I will also allow that, until we see a large-scale stateless society, we have yet to know with certainty whether they are right.
If my friends come to the place where I am at (again, I am not claiming to hold the advanced perspective, just a different perspective, one that came from my personal evolution in the pursuit of the truth of ‘law’), I am sure they will have an increasingly difficult time resolving their job with their political worldview.
Here is the third factor- apologetics. If I am right, if I am actually on a logical development of the understanding of what ‘law’ really is, then by standing up and condemning ‘statists’, be they cops, politicians or political activists, I am closing the door to be able to have an ongoing dialogue with them. Drawing on my Christian worldview, that dialogue must come with a hope to lift up, not to tear down.
My dialogue with my cop friends will never involve condemning them for being cops. It will involve a sincere empathy for the state of the world that they must operate within. They live in a world where many people are looking to catch them doing bad things. They live in a world where municipalities are looking at them more as revenue generators as keepers of the peace, the job they originally signed up for.
These are men and women with families, the overwhelming majority of which are just trying to serve the community, just trying to be peace keepers, to be, in their worldview, the defenders against encroaching, always encroaching, lawlessness.
These are the folks that find the dead bodies and try to help the little girl who has just been raped. These are the folks that search for missing people and stop the drunk husband from beating his wife. These are not jackbooters, faceless badges we should so easily condemn.
From my Christian worldview, Christ teaches us that you will be judged in the same way you judge others. Every one of us, both currently and in the past, hold to worldviews, belong to certain groups, which have some measure of bad actors that represent these worldviews and these groups.
Every single one of us would have a reason to be condemned if we are to be judged the way we judge cops. Every….single…one.
I met a few libertarians through Facebook that challenged me with a basic question. What, exactly, is Rule of Law? I fully embraced a state worldview and made it clear to them where I stood. These friends of mine did not condemn me. They didn’t call me a jackboot even though I was heavily involved in politics and working very hard to get the right republicans elected. They simply kept talking to me, respectfully, and challenged and answered my questions.
In this way, I pursued that question, believing, when I started, that I would find the ground to stand on that would rebuke my libertarian friends. In the end, I found no solid ground, outside of Christ, and if you don’t hold to Christ’s standards, well, in human governance at least, that’s not a shared solid ground between you and I.
The person who I was back then was not wicked, was not looking to destroy people or advance a cause I knew to be wrong. I believed in Christ to the same degree I believe in Christ today. I wanted the same thing then that I want now, for people to be as free as possible, to walk in the shadow of the truth of the Kingdom of God, liberty.
My end goal has not changed since I was fully converted to a Christ follower in 2005. My understanding of the best path to facilitating that end goal has evolved as my understanding of governance, of Rule of Law, has changed. I did not deserve to be called a statist, a jackboot, a supporter of oppression even when I believed that using force to bring ‘freedom’ to a people was a good idea (Iraq War, one of my personal regrets).
I will do unto others as I will have them do unto me. If you want to reach me, if you want me to see that there is something about my approach to life that is not right, don’t come up to me and condemn me, don’t invalidate my work, my sincerity.
Cops go out every day and their families, especially cops that patrol our cities, have to partially wonder if they will come home. They see the ugly side of humanity and do their best to mitigate, to make peace. They come home and they try to keep the dark reality of life out of their home.
Yes, I think they are serving a wrong cause. But I do not doubt their motives and I will not invalidate their hard work, their sacrifice in pursuing what they believe is the best way to serve their neighbors. The only cops who should be judged, who should be condemned, are the ones that actually violate their own cop code, to serve, to make peace.
I will continue to cover and offer commentary on cop abuses of citizens. They are real. They happen. I will also continue to highlight the real heroics and service of cops, even though I do not support the coercive system they serve. I do the latter because I love my friends and I love the people who are serving on that front line for the right reasons, doing their best to be good stewards of the responsibility they were given.
I want to end this by relating a snapshot of my personal experience with cops through the years. In all of my encounters with cops, I personally cannot recall a single incident in which a cop treated me unfairly. My personal experience would tell me something very different than what I see all the time on social media.
Lastly, the powers that be have a very vested interest in invalidating our cops, especially our local police. They want very much to federalize the police. So, a lot of the libertarians so aggressively pushing the bad cop narrative are inadvertently strengthening the state they say they do not support.
Too often we get so wrapped up in our personal worldviews that we push the stories that even remotely advance our worldview, facts be damned, humanity be damned, strategy be damned. I fear that within the libertarian movement, the zeal to see an end to the state is producing actions that are contrary to the standards of liberty they purport to hold. For Christian libertarians, this inconsistency is even more acute.
Judge in the way you wish to be judged. Love one another as you love yourself, as Christ loved you. For the atheist, or secular libertarian, remember that love, that positive ‘reinforcement’ opens doors and changes minds FAR more effectively than hate, than condemnation ever will.