Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ayn Rand v Jesus Christ, Round 1

Jesus is, like the God of the Old Testament, pretty jealous. He wants first-place in his followers' lives. Which means that Christians first follow Jesus. If someone else were to contradict the teachings and life example of Jesus, then that person - be it philosopher, writer, leader, politician, etc, - would need to take a definitive backseat.

Luke 9, Jesus says:
If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. (NLT)

Found Cross 3photo © 2003 Dave Gilbert | more info (via: Wylio)

In case that wasn't clear, The Message translates it as thus:
Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat—I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.
The cross. Suffering. Self-sacrifice. Turning from selfishness. These are how Jesus says that his disciples are to follow him.

Partial transcript of Mike Wallace's interview with Ayn Rand towards the end of this first part:

Rand: What would it mean to have love above self-interest? ... I am marrying you for your own good... Every business has to have its own terms and its own kind of currency. And in love, the currency is virtue... You love people, not for what they do to you or for you. You love them for their virtues, for their values, which they have achieved in their own character. You don't love everybody indistinguishably. You love only those who deserve it.
Wallace: So if a man is weak or a woman is weak, then he is beyond, she is beyond love?
Rand: He does not deserve it. He is certainly beyond it. He can always correct it. Man has free will. If a man wants love, he should correct his weaknesses or his flaws and he may deserve it. But he cannot expect the unearned - neither in love nor in money. Neither in matter nor in spirit.
Wallace: ... There are very few of us in this world, by your standards, who are worthy of love.
Rand: Unfortunately, yes. Very few. But, it is open to everybody to make themselves worthy of it, and that is all that my philosophy offers them. A way to make themselves worthy of love, although that's not the primary motive.

She is offering a different way. Her gospel is that one needs to be worthy of possessions and love by their "strength of character" before they should receive any material or social good-will.

Yet Jesus says that we must love our neighbors as we love ourselves (which is sacrificial. But it's silly to argue that there is no self-love involved here).
Yet Jesus argues that we must care for, protect, be alongside the "least of these."
Yet Jesus argues that we must die to ourselves.
Yet Jesus' life was one of humbling himself.

How come Christians cannot see the trouble between following these two? Take the good she offers, reject the core of it - that I can understand. We all do that to some extent with every philosophy and custom we come across.

But why are so many Christians buying her selfishness wholesale?


  1. Anonymous3:30 PM

    Wow. You nailed it right there.

  2. Anonymous7:02 PM

    "Love thy neighbor as thyself!" How can I presume to know if my neighbor likes the same kind of love that I do? Which reminds me of my neighbor, a gorgeous Nazi camp survivor, who when making love would urge her husband to beat her. We stopped summoning the police when we learned that that is precisely how she wanted love. Ayn Rand was a Jewish refugee from Communist Russia and whose work is in part a rebellion vs Russia.

  3. i'm sure you were trying to make a point, but i'm not sure what that point is, Anon #2.

    Love isn't blanket. It's not generic, and not everybody is going to receive the same kind of objective love. That's utterly nonsensical. Loving your neighbor means getting to know your neighbor.

  4. If Anon#2 was merely pointing out that Ayn Rand may have been highly dysfunctional in her thought due to experiences of Stalinesque communism, not a bad point. But central here isn't as much Rand herself as the fact her dysfunction is embraced by the Right, who in turn must be dysfunctional themselves. The huge -- and huge is not even descriptive enough -- disconnect between those who say they love Jesus Christ yet turn to embrace Rand's philosophy is simply inexplicable. Unless, I suppose, we explain it *as* dysfunction rather than anything else. I'm tempted to call it sin; it was C. S. Lewis who said in The Great Divorce that there are indeed sins of the intellect.

  5. Anonymous2:10 PM

    To love someone as God intends does not mean you are a doormat to them. If you love someone and desire what is best for them, that does not mean that you give them everything that they want. People who use their talents, strengths and even their weaknesses to their fullest potential for success are making the most of God's gifts. The definition of "love" is so watered down these days. We forget some of the following. You can love someone and not agree with them. You can love someone and not support their lifestyle. You can love someone and refuse a request. Think of how we all love our children. We love them enough to tell them "no" sometimes and to require that they grow up, clean their rooms, develop their talents, work hard, respect themselves/others, and eventually move out of our house! I agree that the perspective of Ayn Rand's interview presented here doesn't embrace my definition of love. However, I still believe in God's love AND in man's responsibility to take care of the task at hand by making the most of what he has been given.

  6. I understand why she appeals to some Christians. Probably the same ones who believe in pulling one's self up by the bootstraps and believes others should do for themselves as they have done. These type of people have very little empathy for the human condition.

  7. Anonymous5:06 AM

    I am curious have you met Christians that buy into Ayn Rand's philosophy? I am an evangelical Christian and involved in conservative politics and know a lot of Christians that are involved in politics and I don't know any that buys into Ayn Rand politics.


  8. I personally do not know of Christians that buy into her philosophy, but I do know the Christians that believe in bootstrap spirituality. I knew of one man over finances at a church that said, "God didn't call us to solve social problems." While God didn't call us to solve the world's problems, I believe He does call us to be part of radical change by being salt and light and being generous with that which God has blessed us. This particular individual was always a hard sale when it came to outreach in the church. He was more interested in getting and keeping money within the church. It was always a "what's in it for us" mentality.

  9. Pat Pope: I know what you mean. I am a missionary and I am stunned sometimes by how we behave. One elder in a church I know said that the reason to hire a professional worship pastor was the proverb: You need to spend money to make money.

    Really we need a worship pastor to make money!! Sad very, very sad. But I think this is product of the business culture in America more than any influence by Ayn Rand. Many Christians don't have any idea how much they have allowed their business or professional lives affect their beliefs and even how they read the Bible.


  10. Pat,
    did you ever tell the finances guy, "The poor will always be among you, Judas"? LOL.

    yes. very yes.

    Anonymous #4,
    in short, yes. very much yes. some are friends of mine.

  11. @Jasdye, no I was in such shock that I was hearing these words, all I could do was write down the quote. But that was a good question.

  12. Anonymous1:22 AM

    I don't think many Christians have bothered to look into her philosophy too much. I believe they are primarily attracted to her dislike of government intervention and the rise of the Nanny State, and they would be disappointed to know how deep-seated her antipathy is toward helping or serving others.

  13. Rachel4:34 PM

    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.

  14. interesting. i'll look into that, Rachel. Thank you for your suggestions and kind words.


Be kind. Rewind.