I like Austin Petersen. I supported the would-be Libertarian Party presidential nominee in the earliest days of my Never Trump declaration, when I still held out hope that Petersen could beat Gary Johnson for the nomination.
Petersen is a different kind of face for the Libertarian Party. He’s younger than I am, which (other than making me feel old) appeals to me as one who has advocated for Baby Boomer politicians to get out of the way. He espouses a pro-life position, and he has expressed support for religious liberty. In the coming years, if he can stay in the forefront of the debate over freedom, Austin Petersen can become a force in the liberty movement.
But over Labor Day weekend, Petersen managed to make some statements that could lose him some key supporters. On Sunday, he forwarded an article from his website, The Libertarian Republic, on his Facebook page. The article, entitled “Top 10 Reasons Mother Teresa Was a Fraud,” managed to denigrate the venerated — and newly sainted — nun. The piece, which Petersen did not write, accuses Mother Teresa of supporting dictators, of “being out for herself,” and of putting medical care second to reaching people with the gospel.
I’m not here to debate the veracity of the author’s claims (and I’m personally weirded out a little by the whole Catholic sainthood thing myself), but it was clearly written from the perspective of a person without faith. And it was just the beginning.
Later on in the day, Petersen made a couple of posts that proceeded to lash out at religion and believers. The first one read:
To a non-believer, there is nothing sacred, and nothing holy. To the skeptic, no one is above Earthly examination and criticism. Humans are not inherently fallen, but neither are we infallible. Humanity has suffered precisely because of our blind deference to archons, saints, government officials, and “sages” wearing funny hats… or combovers.
Look, I get part of what he’s saying here, that we shouldn’t put blind trust in leaders. What Petersen doesn’t understand is that faithful believers put their trust in God far above man.
Petersen followed up his Mother Teresa post on Monday with another Libertarian Republic forward on the “Top 10 Reasons Gandhi Sucked” and even forwarded a piece from a writer defending Mother Teresa, but later he followed both up with another anti-religion post, this one with a satirical bent:
As an agnostic, I would like to ask that my Mother Theresa bashing be considered a form of prayer, duly respected (mandatory before football practice even), or something along the lines of a national anthem perhaps. If you don’t stand and salute while I do it, I’ll be deeply offended and feign outrage to the beat of a million clicks. No particular reason of course, since it neither picks your pocket, nor breaks your leg, but because like all social justice warriors everywhere, I seek to silence those I disagree with through an appeal to the divine, whether god or government.
To his credit, Petersen appeared on Apologia TV over the weekend as well and talked about Christianity and libertarianism. He admitted that he was raised in a Christian home but considers himself a “materialist” who doesn’t believe in anything spiritual. He peppered his statements with scriptural references, which led host Jeff Durbin to remark, “You have not been able to shake your Christianity. You’ve not been able to shake it loose.”
Now, don’t get me wrong: Austin Petersen has the right to believe — or not believe — what he wants. And he can say what he wants. That freedom is part of what makes this country so special, and it’s part of the mission of liberty he seeks to hold up.
I still like Austin Petersen, and I still count myself among his supporters and fans. I pray that one day someone can reach him with the powerful, life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. But until then, I hope that he would seek to be less willing to potentially alienate the faithful who could potentially be some of his biggest supporters.