THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 669, May 6, 2012
"I'm thoroughly tired of all this fascist crap"
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
A few evenings ago, I was in church
"Wait! Stop! Desist!" I pretend to hear you gasp. "Can this really be an L. Neil Smith column? What's next, the conversion the Pope to Islam?"
Probably not. But it may surprise you to learn that I've spent a great deal of my life in and around churches. Believe me, I am not an atheist, nor do I dislike religion because I'm ignorant of either one. It's probable that I know more about the subject than the average religious person. Like an anthropologist studying my own culture (my secret vice in a salacious interest in Catholic Church politics), I'm fascinated with the phenomenon, although I've never understood its appeal.
The fact is, I've never had any use at all for authority, and I tend to view atheism and anarchism as pretty much the same response to it.
I've read the Bible, the Q'ran, and the Book of Morman more than once. I earned the Boy Scout God and Country Award after a lot of hard work and study. As a part of that, I engineered Pepperrell Air Force Base's radio broadcast of Protestant church services every Sunday for about a year, a fairly nifty feat when you know what winter is like in Newfoundland. Or what a 12-year-old would rather do with his Sunday mornings.
But all that's neither here nor there. I was in church this time for the same reason I'd been there exactly a year ago, to hear the Front Range Community College Chamber Choir, of which my daughter is a member.
The FRCCCC are very good (a former professional musician myself, I'm a pretty fair judge) and their program was remarkable, featuring folk and "art" music, both religious and otherwise, classical and recently composed, from all over the world. One of our family friends sang a ditty from Iolanthe. I was so young that I can't remember when my mother first introduced me to the unique works of Gilbert and Sullivan.
As I sat there in the pew (a phrase I'll bet you never expected me to write), I looked around. The church is Lutheran, the same as the minister who worked my tail off to get my God & Country, keeping me at it twice as long as the average Scout because I think he wanted me to be "confirmed" in my disbelief. An Estonian refugee and U.S. Air Force captain, he was a very good man, and I'll be grateful to him all my life.
The place is beautiful, with a high, vaulted ceiling, wonderful, abstract stained glass windows, and very pretty woodwork, set off by plain white surfaces. (The one jarring note was a large, particularly ugly crucifix dangling on invisible wires from the overhead, reminding me of George Bernard Shaw, who once remarked that he objected to the cross, as he objected to all gibbets. But it's a Christian church, so what are you going to do?) The acoustics are excellent, I could easily pick my daughter's voice out of the two dozen others she was singing with.
Later on, she told me you're not supposed to be able to do that.
But what I was thinking, as I listened, was that, although it's dedicated to principles I do not share, not a dollar of stolen money had gone into the construction of the place. In fact, under the First Amendment, such a thing would be against the law. Nobody was coerced into paying for another person's idea of the good. To a certain extentan exception being the teacher/conductor's salaryexactly the same was true of the chorus, who were into it for sheer love of the music.
Something that I can understand.
Now I can't tell you how many millions of dollars have gone into building and maintaining that place, and a hundred or more like it, in my hometown over the years. But I do know that it's exactly the kind of undertaking that statists, both right and left, habitually insist can only be accomplished with government assistance (for which read, interference).
Let's not have that tired old argument about a church's tax-free status being, in effect, a subsidy. The fact is, taxation is theft armed robbery, to be exactand everybody ought to be immune to it.
But I have digressed.
I have long argued that, while human enthusiasms vary with the individual, if people would only focus their attention on their own families (certainly the source of my greatest satisfaction in life), then the ugly and murderous business of politics could finally be assigned its proper prioritydead last on any rational being's listand we could all say goodbye, at long last, to the actual legacy of government, which is economic and technological stagnation, brutal conflict, tyranny, and poverty, the opposite of which, progress, peace, freedom, and prosperity, are the inevitable products of a free society.
Now to that proper focus, I confess that I am personally reluctant to add religion, the effects of which, on the history of our species, have largely been disastrously destructive. But the experience of other people, or at least their interpretation of it, differs from mine, and that's what maintaining a free society is all about. What I will say is that if all of the energy we currently waste on politics were retasked and focused on music (alreadyand properly soa major passion of the human race) then the world would be a better place.
So go home Harry, you hysterical old woman. Go home Nancy, you mad cow. Go home, Barack, wherever that may be, and whatever the hell your name is. Go home, Moneymitts and Pig Newton and leave us and our kids alone. You're not needed, neither to build a church nor to sing a song. And if you're not needed to do that, then you're not needed for anything.
Was that worth reading?