Friday, April 15, 2011

Why Christians Shrug?

Ah, the squeaky voice of the little lady from St. Petersburg, Russia rises again with opening of a new movie based on her novel, Altas Shrugged. For though who are not familiar with Ayn Rand’s Altas Shrugged, it is polemic of the glories of Capitalistic Anarchy dressed up in a rather badly written 50s era science fiction novel. The irony of her novel thickens like mucus in Flu season. She claims the nobility of art in her novel with little artistic value. She claims the value of self-interest through a character, John Galt, who demands everyone conform to his worldview. Her character Galt, much like a communist plotter, makes all who join his movement take an oath:

I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man,
nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine.

So, you would think a novel and the movie based on a woman who thought little of Jesus and his ethic of love, who advocated free love, and who live a life so unapologetically unchrist like (open affairs with her disciples), would face relentless criticism from Christian quarters, especially since she has proved popular in the media with important opinion making advocates such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Alan Greenspan? Alas, the Christian apologists have shrugged and raise hardly a word or complaint against Ayn Rand’s very unchristian philosophy, even as many in the pews lap up her words as if they are gospel. I do not believe there was a time in the Church’s history in which a teaching like Rand’s would go unchallenged. Why now?

I think our current political climate that promotes Manichean view of them and us, bad guys and good guys, right and left weakens us. Anyone who remotely seems on “our side” has to be defended (and their defects ignored or explained away) while the other side is demonized for any seemly minor defect. Since Ayn Rand is embraced by certain quarters of the political right, the Christian right holds it nose and says nothing. Of course many similar examples can be pointed out from the Christian Left. But like the early church rejected Manicheanism, we have to stand and say that Rand’s Philosophy has to similarly reject as unchristian. After all she thought Jesus contradicted himself, and no Christian, left or right, can in good conscious accept her thought. Reading the below Rand quote leaves no doubt as to her stand.

There is a great, basic contradiction in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism -- the inviolate sanctity of man's soul, and the salvation of one's soul as one's first concern and highest goal; this means -- one's ego and the integrity of one's ego. But when it came to the next question, a code of ethics to observe for the salvation of one's soul -- (this means: what must one do in actual practice in order to save one's soul?) -- Jesus (or perhaps His interpreters) gave men a code of altruism, that is, a code which told them that in order to save one's soul, one must love or help or live for others. This means, the subordination of one's soul (or ego) to the wishes, desires or needs of others, which means the subordination of one's soul to the souls of others.

This is a contradiction that cannot be resolved. This is why men have never succeeded in applying Christianity in practice, while they have preached it in theory for two thousand years. The reason of their failure was not men's natural depravity or hypocrisy, which is the superficial (and vicious) explanation usually given. The reason is that a contradiction cannot be made to work. That is why the history of Christianity has been a continuous civil war -- both literally (between sects and nations), and spiritually (within each man's soul).

If the choice is Jesus or Rand, I chose Jesus. It leads to a better life, and eternal life.



Anonymous said...

Ed Roger :

It's quite strange but I feel living this kind of contradiction : if you're not yet save then one smiling beliver say to you that Jesus loves you unconditionally (the only thing you need to be save is to choix G_D's grace). But if you take away from church then your're an reprehensible, ungrateful, self-sufficient person that can lost easily his salvation. All that sounds like a trap.

Maybe this contradition is due to misintrepretation of apostol Paul unity concept of Jesus-head with church-body. The mixture of both of them only has leaded to historical mistakes. For examples (from the middle age), a catholic inquisition church who persecuted to death in Albi (France) all the Cathars (a branch of manichaeans) because church's head decisions were (is) delegated on the Pope. Or a protestant church that destroyed many catholic cities (with all his inhabitants) in Switzerland because God's head was delegated on calvinist governors.

I need church fellowship to find mutual help but I'm only save throught individual link with God.

Allen Starbuck said...

I agree with pretty much everything you say about Ayn Rand's philosophy and writing, but what I found most offensive about it when I was first reading it, decades ago, was her insistence (as you say, through John Galt, her main character) that everyone must believe in her worldview. She was anti-Communist, but in that respect very like Stalin. Of course it didn't help that I didn't find her worldview very attractive in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this great piece and for drawing people's attention to Rand's philosophy. This is a really important issue. I came across your blog while doing my own research on Rand for the non-profit, the American Values Network (AVN). My apologies for reaching out through the comments section, but I couldn't find another way to reach you. In case you might do further writing on Rand, I just wanted to make sure you were aware of this resource that AVN put together that might be useful to you - It's a pretty exhaustive collection of her quotes, broken down by topic, specifically focused on what she said the goal of her books and teachings were. Specifically, we focus on how she stands in complete opposition to Judeo-Christian morality and her condemnation of Christ’s teachings and those who follow them. And for her quotes, we supply specific Biblical passages on what the Bible teaches on these subjects. Thank you again for raising these issues. Please feel free to use AVN's memo however you would like if you find it useful.