Small Government Theocons?

by Brendan James

Ed Kilgore doesn’t buy the idea that the Christian right is turning libertarian at the expense of its puritan strain:

[O]ne of the most distinctive features of the Tea Party faith has been the divinization of such [libertarian] views, often via idolatry aimed at the Declaration of Independence, thought to reflect a theocratic charter for America making pervasive property rights, strictly limited government and the “rights of the unborn” and “traditional marriage” the only legitimate governing tenets for the country. Libertarians, of course, share some if not all of this agenda. So a growing warmth for libertarianism within the Christian Right is not a problem for its leaders, and does not necessarily mean a growing warmth for any kind of cultural liberalism.

If that last line is true, then what should we make of the data from PRRI/Brookings last week, showing a slim majority (51%) of young white evangelicals now in favor of legalizing gay marriage? (Not to mention the 75% of young Catholics.) Doesn’t that libertarian bent pose a challenge to Christianists’ agenda? And what about the recent signs that these young religious types are less interested in waging the culture wars and more interested in the environment? What’s more, if this growing contradiction is some liberal-media myth, religious conservatives have been fooled: lately they can’t stop talking about it.

While it might be possible to argue for theocon policy on libertarian grounds, as Kilgore suggests, that’s not the route young believers appear to be taking.