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Ayn Rand vs. Jesus Christ
How can Christians admire the philosophy of Ayn Rand?
This is the question being asked by a group of left-wing theologians and religious activists under the banner of theAmerican Values Network. They claim that both Rand and conservative Christian stalwart Chuck Colson demand that people choose between her teachings and the teachings of Jesus. Politicians popular with conservatives and Christians—perhaps most notably House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.—are the group’s targets.
Anyone who has a passing familiarity with Rand’s moral philosophy, known asObjectivism, sees the conflict with Christianity. Whereas the Christian is called to an other-orientation—toward God and his neighbor—the Objectivist extols a self-orientation. The Christian is called to embrace the love of God; the Objectivist embraces love of self.But Rand’s novels—most popularly Atlas Shrugged—skewer with such exquisite detail and insight those who aggrandize state power, advocates of individual liberty and limited government can’t help but cheer. Consider this from one of her fictional heroes:
“So you think that money is the root of all evil? . . . Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?”
But then her Atlas Shrugged’s hero, John Galt, has this to say:
“For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors—between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it.”
The capitalist cheers the first Rand quote, but the Christian must—if he adheres to Christ’s commandment that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that we love our neighbor as ourself—reject the second quote. Hence the dilemma for the Christian who lauds Rand.
It’s an interesting question, though as Reason columnist David Harsanyi observes, those asking it are probably not all that concerned about Rand’s lack of consonance with Christian theology. Perhaps Atlantic writer Conor Friedersdorf has the best reply:
“. . . calling Ayn Rand ‘brilliant,’ as Rush Limbaugh is quoted doing, or labeling yourself ‘a fan’ of her work, like Rand Paul, doesn’t mean that you embrace every tenet of her philosophy, never mind her every statement about Jesus Christ or the Christian religion.”
What do you think? Does Rand’s militant anti-Christianity render her so repugnant that you can find nothing redeeming in her work? Or have you managed to reconcile what her enemies on the Christian left insist should not be reconcilable?