USA Today (a publication which is clearly in touch with the needs and desires of Christian Conservative activists, since they’ve spent so much time honorably engaging with that demographic, sarcasm intended) announced that “You can’t reconcile Ayn Rand and Jesus” and this little gem also popped up this week from The American Values Network:
I fundamentally disagree with the premise of this discussion, however, because, unlike many on the political left, I’m not looking for a savior in political clothing. I don’t hold any delusions that a political policy, figure, or brand of thought is going to save me, and I’m certainly not going to choose between my faith and a political philosophy or persona. My faith is my faith and that’s that.
So I uphold Ayn Rand because my faith is not some flimsy milk-toast set of talking points, but it is a complex set of values and beliefs, many of which are well-laid-out in Rand’s philosophies. The USA Today article states that: “I am somewhat surprised, however, at how few GOP thinkers seem to see how hostile her philosophy is to conservatism itself. Real conservatism is first and foremost about conserving a society’s traditions, including its religious and political traditions. But Rand’s Objectivism rejects in the name of reason appeals to either revelation or tradition. The individual is her hero, and God and the dead be damned.”
This paragraph completely explains why I was so heartlessly sarcastic when describing USA Today‘s finger on the pulse of the Religious Right. It’s quite clear that they have no idea what most Conservatives want, which is quite simply to be left alone. As much as others attempt to paint us as white-bread bigots who only hire blue-eyed Aryans and spend all weekend at church, most of us are more than willing to open our arms and hearts to any number of peoples, traditions, religions and customs, provided that we receive the same respect. I have no desire for a government-instituted religion, but I also don’t wish to be told that I can’t practice my religion in my own way. And, what by the way, is wrong with celebrating the individual for a person of faith? Paul writes in Romans 12:4-6: “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly…”
Paul admits that we have differences, even among those in the same faith! I’m shocked! You mean God didn’t intend for us all to be cookie-cutter clones of each other, but to use our gifts to help our fellow man and care for ourselves? You know, it reminds me of Dagny Taggart’s partnership with Wyatt Oil and Rearden Metal and Dannager Coal, except that would be crazy, since it those characters were created by Ayn Rand and Christians can’t be expected to learn anything from an atheist, or vice versa. We’re people who believe different things. We can’t be expected to actually talk to each other, heaven forbid.
Speaking of learning things from an atheist, I don’t know what USA Today columnist Stephen Prothero’s religious views are, but he takes it upon himself to make this wildly inaccurate statement: “Jesus was a first-class, grade-A ‘moocher.’”
(Deep breath). I don’t get offended by much, but this goes a little far. I’m sorry… if Jesus was a moocher, he would’ve spent his first 30 years backpacking Europe with his buddies on Mary and Joseph’s dime instead of working as a carpenter, he would have used his power and influence to demand government bail-outs and special favors, he sure as hell wouldn’t have admitted that he didn’t have “a place to lay his head“, but would’ve marched straight to Rome and demanded that the Gummint give him one, and he probably would’ve sat in Mary and Joseph’s basement bewailing the bad economy instead of helping people, loving people and ultimately dying for people. (Deep breath out.)
The last of Prothero’s statements (that I’ll bother setting straight) reads: “Real conservatism is also about sacrifice, as is authentic Christianity. President Kennedy was liberal in many ways, but, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country’ was classic conservatism. Rand, however, will brook no such sacrifice. Serve yourself, she tells us, and save yourself as well. There is no higher good than individual self-satisfaction.”
I find this to be yet another non-sequitor. Sure, Christians are called to sacrifice and Conservatives love a good “serve-your-country-ra-ra-America” story. But nowhere do we insist on sacrifice for no good reason. The monks in the Middle Ages who wandered the streets flogging each other did not bring joy to God’s heart. Their “sacrifice” served neither themselves, nor God, nor their fellow man and was no use to anybody (except maybe the whip-maker: “It’s our lucky day, fellas! The Holy Men are feeling guilty!”). Taxing me into the ground and stifling my innovation certainly brings about a sense of “shared sacrifice” but does nothing of value and is thus no more holy than the actions of those foolish monks. Rand’s philosophy is that, by serving our selfish purposes we are not only the best version of ourselves but the most capable and productive members of society. Sure, her philosophy is slightly flawed – even if a person is incapable of contributing, I believe in their intrinsic worth as a human being – but it holds truth nonetheless.
I’m writing this because so many have allowed themselves to be wrapped up in a false argument, feeling pulled by a manufactured sense of religious guilt and an imaginary choice. It’s not a question of choosing between Ayn Rand and Jesus, but rather following your religion and learning from the many ways that God manifests Himself amongst us. You may hold an entirely different religious view than I do and I respect that and want you to have the same freedoms that I yearn for. I think that following Ayn Rand’s advice and seeking out the best in people and limiting government is the best way to accomplish such a thing.
So, in a way, I agree with a well-spoken professor from my Alma Mater. You can’t follow both Ayn Rand and Jesus. Jesus is my Lord and Ayn Rand is what I’m reading on the beach this weekend. There’s a big difference.