Friday, October 4, 2013

Why Ayn Rand has EVERYTHING to do with the Government shutdown

'US Capital' photo (c) 2013, Ed Schipul - license:

The United States Government is now past day 4 of what will most likely be a long government shutdown. Basically, the government
can’t spend money without congressional approval, therefore, with no money to spend, the government can’t continue to be open for business as usual.  The GOP controlled House (or more specifically the influential Tea Party representatives) sees this as an opportunity to “bargain” with President Obama and the Democrat controlled Senate.  The House has decided they will only fund the government if all or part of the President’s landmark health legislation is de-funded. Being that Obama has no intention of decimating his only substantive legislative achievement as President, and the Tea Party Republicans are likely to face basically zero consequences from their gerrymandered deep red districts, the lines are set and we could be in for a long slog.

On a related note, I recently finished reading Ayn Rand’s influential novel Atlas Shrugged.  With over 1,000 pages it took me about a month to finish. Though Rand certainly had skill as a novelist, Shrugged is terribly long winded, creates a “straw man” of epic proportions, and is a caricature to end all caricatures. So what does Ayn Rand have to do with the government shutdown? Well, basically everything.

One must first understand that Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism” as so illustrated in Atlas Shrugged has become the intellectual foundation of the Republican economic policy—especially of the Tea Party wing—with GOP big shots and Tea Party favorites Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz endorsing her ideology. Where this gets especially problematic is that fact that the Tea Party is also a de-facto evangelical Christian movement. This unholy matrimony of conservative Christians and Rand’s Objectivism began after her death as her ideology became separate from the controversial character she herself was. So, basically what we have here is conservative Christians proudly proclaiming the ideology of an avowed atheist. If you find this peculiar you are not alone.

'Ayn Rand FU' photo (c) 2010, monkey_bob99x - license:
I don't like expletives, except where appropriate.
Family Research Council Rep Ken Blackwell demonstrates this dissonance well when he said that “there was ‘nothing more Christian’ than ‘not locking people into a permanent dependency on government handouts, but making sure they are participants in their own upliftment and empowerment so that they in fact through the dignity of work and can break from the plantation of big government.’” If only he was alone in his ideas.  More troubling is the trickle-down effect these ideas have had, with one Baptist pastor and seminary student telling me in an online conversation that the answer to our problems is “to have the freedom to create something for ourselves, our children and others around us, and it is within the system of free market capitalism.” He also chided me for decrying the rich as “these are the very people you are asking to do something for you” and “have been capable enough to parlay their talents…into wealth.” This is CLASSIC Ayn Rand.

What’s really frightening is that fact they these two people—both conservative Christians—are completely oblivious to this.  Folks who claim Christianity as their religion care more about following the teaching of an atheist Russian immigrant than the teachings of a man who they themselves claim to be the very Son of God.  As Jim Wallis has said, what’s happening is that people’s politics is driving their theology rather than their theology driving their politics. This entire government shutdown is based on the ideas of an atheist.

I could list quote after quote demonstrating the unbiblical ideas strewn throughout Rand’s work. I could list out her blatant mocking of God and Christianity. I could demonstrate Rand’s utter disregard for human life. Instead, I will simply quote the iconic line from her book; “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 mine.” No matter the denomination or affiliation one is from, any Christian should recognize such as utterly un-Christian. 

As an ordained minister and as someone holding an advanced theology degree, I could proceed to quote verse after verse which contradicts such an ideology. I could delve into church history and demonstrate how the theme of undeserved grace from a benevolent God has been central to Christianity throughout the centuries. Instead, I will simply let the scriptures speak for themselves.   Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13 KJV).” One of these two is not like the other.

The philosophy being spewed from the mouths of many conservative politicians these days is nothing short of heresy. Further, the ignorant repetition of such viewpoints represents a biblical ineptitude downright shocking.  Those who cling to their Bibles most dearly have no clue as to what it actually teaches. What’s a biblical attitude toward government? Cue Jim Wallis:

The biblical purpose of government is to protect from evil and to promote the good — protect and promote. Government is meant to protect its people’s safety, security, and peace, and promote the common good of a society — and even collect taxes for those purposes. Read Romans 13 by the apostle Paul and other similar texts. The scriptures also make it clear that governmental authority is responsible for fairness and justice and particularly responsible for protecting the poor and vulnerable. Read Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, the Psalms, and even the book of Kings to see that God will judge kings and rulers (governments) for how they treat the poor. And it wasn’t just the kings of Israel who were held accountable for the poor, but also the kings of neighboring countries — all governments. That’s what the Bible says.

Please save your critiques about how brilliant Rand’s system is. The point isn’t to bash Rand—though I did find it quite odd that she spends so little time in Shrugged painting a picture of what the world would look like if her theory was in place. I’d be glad to have the debate about whether or not Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is actually a worthwhile economic theory—just don’t dare try to neatly wrap her atheistic ideals into a Christian worldview and then try and tell me you believe in the Bible, because you don’t.



1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with you, sir. I read Rand's The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in my late teens and early twenties, and always felt something was wrong with her philosophy, especially in the latter book. That philosophy hasn't improved with time.
    It's becoming clearer that the shutdown didn't happen because Republicans are stupid, but because they really have no allegiance to the government they're part of, and want to overthrow it, and punish anyone who disagrees with them in the process. Henry Giroux, and others, have written about this, and say it's time to start taking this seriously. These aren't cranks, they're true believers who want to turn this world upside down and create misery for everyone but themselves. A lot of their followers are going to suffer to, since they're not rich, and they don't care about anyone who isn't. Let's try to get the word out to everyone, and take our government back from these creeps.