Monday, June 27, 2011

Land on Rand

Author Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged) and Christian evangelicals, a rather odd coupling since she was not just an atheist but hostile and contemptuous towards that which Christians hold dearly.

Why this mixed marriage?

Good question.

Cynthia Tucker, liberal Atlanta-Journal Constitution columnist and always prepared to take a shot at the Religious Right blogged: Christian right deifies an athiest — Ayn Rand, and said,
But nothing is more surprising and more explicitly contradictory than their reverence for Rand, whose open contempt for Christianity ought to make her anathema among religious conservatives. It’s hard to imagine any prominent progressive saying similar things about religious faith without prompting a tsunami of complaint.
But she's a lib Democrat.

How about evangelical Chuck Colson?
He said the "real problem with Rand is the world view her novels and other writings sought to inculcate in her readers … it's hard to imagine a world view more antithetical to Christianity"...Colson said Rand and her followers were precisely the types of "cranks" and "crypto-cultists" that his friend Bill Buckley had fought to purge from conservative ranks.
How about Southern Baptist Richard Land?
A lot of people go through an Ayn Rand phase,” said Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Hopefully, they get over it.”
At the moment the best source for critical comments on Ayn Rand and her conservative Christian acolytes are liberal commentators and sites. An Ethics Daily story gives some good relevant quotes.

Sure, I suppose you could make a case for picking some Rand, leaving a lot, and sanitizing the rest but I'd at least make note of exactly where and how far we have to depart from her approach to life or even from government. One might start with Philippians 2:3:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

Glad to see Land make sense on Rand.


Jonathan said...

I'm not aware of any Religions conservatives who revere Rand (or her writings). There is a great deal about her philosophy (Objectivism)that does appear to run counter to Philippians 2:3. But there is also 2 Thessalonians 3:10b:

"If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat."

From my own reading of these novels, I saw where Objectivism ran way past the concept of "self interest" as described by classical economists running from Adam Smith to Milt Friedman. But the concept was clearly there. The problem that religious conservative should have with Rand is what I would call her militant athiesm and antagonism toward faith based communities of any kind (you referenced her conflict with Buckley).

However, at least for Southern Baptist, I find it a bit ironic that some would want to discard all of Rand. The seminal event of Atlas Shrugged has the protagonist refusing to allow the central authority to continue to assert its control over all meaningful activity.

John Galt's actions were to defund this central controlling mechanism as a protest against its arrogance. Is it too much of a stretch to see that essentially the same thing is happening in SBC life?

William Thornton said...

I was looking for a comment from you on this. I haven't read the entire book so I can't say exactly if the SBC is an appropriate parallel. Good thing the SBC can't assess, tax, us or they probably would.

Jonathan said...

Yes, you've pegged me...I'm a geek.

Objectivism is pretty much free market"-ism" minus the supernatural. If you've read "Democracy in America" by Alexis De Toqueville (or even if you haven''ve likely heard several quotes from the books), you will remember “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Rand's Objectivism is the free market minus the supernatural source of all good...which is what makes it incompatible with biblical Christianity. Of course, this is the same problem with what the Left calls "Social Justice".

The SBC is not a clean parallel with Atlas Shrugged. The parallel is with the concept of centralized control of fund collection and distribution. With such a massive pot of gold in the control of a relatively few folks (who, btw, have led their own churches to participate very little in the contribution end of the equation), there is the risk of a large number of folks with hands out (who also have contributed very little).

Hence the nearly 100 trustees for the IMB, the rules construction that makes it nearly impossible for the small to medium sized churches (i.e. the bulk of the convention church set) to have any real impact on the decisions made by the few folks with the purse...aside from the decision to reduce the amount of the purse.

The free market concept in Rand's novels is, paraphrased, "let me work hard, be rewarded for the work, and distribute that reward as I see fit as opposed to having a distant 3rd party redistribute as they see fit."

If my parallel is correct, the SBC will continue to shrink until the megas who hold the purse find the amount in the purse not worth their while.

I could be waaay wrong. I think I read an article in BP last week where the writer said that a small (and getting smaller) SBC was good thing.

William Thornton said...

Megachurches and megachurch people in the SBC - the tail that has wagged the dog for a long time.

Well put.