Loud Commercials and Liberty
Recently a Christian educator was talking about the FCC outlawing loud television commercials. He has denounced overreaching and intrusive government and has called for a reduction of government regulation. Yet, he’s in favor of the FCC decision. Why? He explained, “While I’m against government regulation, I’m in favor of this regulation because I can’t stand loud commercials.” In other words, his positions on public policy are not rooted in objective truth – they are not rooted in principle – but in preference. As a result, he is arbitrary and inconsistent: something that Christians must desperately fight against if God is real otherwise we live as if God is not real (because He is not arbitrary or inconsistent).
Christians talk a lot about America unraveling. Part of that conversation centers on getting rid of things we don’t like and bringing back things we do like. Let’s get rid of objectionable material on television and let’s display the ten commandments in our schools; let’s get rid of alcohol sales on Sunday and let’s have only Christian prayers at public events; and the list goes on. But if all we’re about is getting what we want then we’re no different from all the other people who simply fight for what they want. We are just one lobbying group in the midst of many others. But Christians must be different. Why?
First, it’s not about getting what we want; it’s about doing what God wants. Since the dawn of the New Covenant and God’s global kingdom among the nations, nowhere are we told to impose Christian values on others through the power of the state. Rather, we are told to leave people to their own liberty of conscience while seeking to persuade them of the gospel.
Second, if we build our nation on what we want, then we are ruled by the same thing all others are ruled by – our personal preferences and not principles rooted in God’s absolute truth. It’s not merely that we like limited government better than big government because we value freedom, peace, and economic prosperity. We do. But we argue for limited government because that concept is rooted in biblical principles applied to civil society. We build our lives and nation on those principles because God is supreme. When we lobby for something else, we reject God, invite misery, and become just another self-centered group of barking dogs.
Third, seemingly little things (banning loud commercials) are rooted in big ideas (centralized government control of the people). A big controlling government can thrive when people see it as a means to get what they want whether corporate or private welfare, forced moral behavior, or banning loud commercials. Further, a controlling government relies on scare tactics to keep the people voting for big government. Those tactics might include the threat of terrorism, economic collapse, global warming, nuclear war, pushing women into back-alley abortions and economic oppression, outbreak of disease, etc. People identify government as the answer to all their problems, perceived threats, or selfish desires. They don’t think about the big picture, God, or others. But for us the question should be whether we believe in liberty or tyranny.
In the founding days of our nation, our first constitution – the Articles of Confederation – was set aside in favor of the Constitution we have now. There was much debate over this move. The Federalists were in favor of a larger, controlling, more centralized government while the Anti-Federalists favored a limited government and freedom for the people.
Ryan McMaken points out something instructive for us:
At the Virginia ratification debates of 1788, Patrick Henry denied that the propaganda of the Federalists was based on anything but scare tactics, and defied the Federalists to provide convincing evidence that the Articles of Confederation had not provided what the colonists had fought for in the Revolution. Indeed, Henry contended, to adopt the new Constitution would be akin to a Revolution greater than the one just finished . . . The real reason behind scrapping the old constitution, Henry suspected, was really that of garnering more power for those who had already tasted the perks of consolidated government. They hid this behind a façade of "economic prosperity," but Patrick Henry contended that such things were not the business of governments: "You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and prosperous people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the end of your government."
Ideas have consequences, particularly ideas rooted in self-centeredness. Ultimately, Patrick Henry and the Anti-Federalists lost, and our liberties have been eroded ever since; only now, like rising flood waters over saturated ground, the erosion is occurring at a much stronger and faster rate taking huge swaths of earth with it.
Liberty is rooted in the gospel, and the erosion of liberty points to the erosion of gospel influence in the land. We forget that liberty and justice for all, not just our particular lobby or constituency group, is what God wants us to uphold. We fall into the trap of lobbying for some legislation not because it would be better for everyone but because it would be better for us.
It’s not about what we want – it’s about our mission – to advance God’s kingdom through gospel influence. Rather than the FCC banning loud commercials, let’s tell people why the FCC ought to be eliminated: because Satan is the author of tyranny and Christ is the author of freedom.