AYN RAND CHRISTIANS
One of the problems of being a follower of Jesus in today’s culture is trying to ascertain which of our ideas are from God and which are from various elements of society. This has always been a problem for the Christian, but it has gotten more difficult in an age of instant media bombardment. All too often Believers accept ideas as “Christian,” when in fact they are not. This is not only unfortunate, but it is also slothful, because we haven’t used the mind that God gave us to ascertain the truth.
The Bible teaches that we are to have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor.2:16). Likewise, we are to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor.10:5b). It would seem to be really important for believers in Christ to test their thoughts and worldviews against Scripture. To do this, it is necessary to filter the world through “spiritual spectacles,” a term coined in the 15th century by one of the early Swiss reformers. This means to view all of our thoughts through the lens of God’s Word. Consider the fact that most of us run our e-mail through a spam filter to get rid of junk and malware; we ought to do the same with our thoughts. This, of course, means studying the Word of God, in order to become, “a workman that need not be ashamed” (2 Tim.2:15). For instance, in 2000, the Christian pollster, George Barna found that 70% of U.S. adults believed the aphorism “God helps those who help themselves,” is found in the Bible. Naturally, if you don’t know the Bible, you won’t be able to ascertain the truth from “cleverly contrived stories.”
I say this, because a while ago my husband and I attended a “Christian” writer’s conference. During a break, we had an opportunity to talk to one of the conference leaders. At some stage in our discussion, my husband casually mentioned the influence that Ayn Rand’s ideas were having upon our culture and especially among Christian authors’. He wanted to hear this “Christian” author’s thoughts about Ms. Rand. The woman’s reaction astonished us. Responding in a very intense manner, she informed us that Ayn Rand was a wonderful inspiration to all writers. I retorted by asking her, “How can you, an Evangelical Christian, support a writer who is – by her own admission – a militant atheist, a shameless public adulterer, an advocate for selfishness and thinks that being altruistic is a crime against humanity? To which she replied, “Those things don’t matter, she was a great writer and had wonderful ideas!” They don’t matter? Indeed!
Ayn Rand has had a profound influence upon U.S. culture and upon American Christians. Over 13 million copies of her books have been sold – and they are still being sold. Additionally, the Ayn Rand Institute gives away hundreds of thousands of Rand’s books to students in High School Advanced Placement classes. Her ideas are cherished by many contemporary political and Christian leaders.
What are some of these ideas? To begin, Rand has definite ideas about the nature of society. In it there are “creator” types who allow society to exist. They are plagued by parasitic “second raters” (bureaucrats and middle-management people) who interfere with the work of the creative people. Below the second raters are the masses and they are below contempt. In her book, We the Living, her protagonist proclaims; “What are your masses…but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?” Rand calls the non –creative people, “parasites,” “looters,” “moochers” and other derogatory terms. This lesson has been well learned by many of her disciples, as our nation shows increasing contempt for those who are not the “creative” demi-gods she has championed. On the other hand, the Bible teaches followers of Christ to “not be respecters of persons” (Acts 10:34. Indeed, James 2:13, makes it clear that believers should not show favoritism toward the upper-classes.
Perhaps her most troubling thought centers on her insistence on selfish, radical individualism. In Journals of Ayn Rand, she says, “This point – no man exists for the sake of another man – must be established very early in my system. It is one of the main cornerstones – perhaps even the basic axiom” (p.266)
. In Atlas Shrugged, the hero, John Galt, is prone to make statements such as, “I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor will I ask another man to live for me.” Likewise, in The Fountainhead, the hero, Howard Roark, says, “I have come here to say That I do not recognize anyone’s right to one minute of my life….”
Rand truly hates altruism (unselfish sacrificial love): “Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good. Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: “No.” Altruism says: “Yes” (Ayn Rand, Philosophy, who needs it? p.61).
Thus in Ms. Rand’s scheme of life, every man is an (selfish) island! Christians should recognize the heresy involved in this. First of all, Jesus calls us to His Body, the Church: we are not radical individuals. Secondly, Jesus calls us to help our neighbor; broadly meaning those in need. We are our bother’s keeper. Recall, that God was not pleased by Cain – the first murderer’s – arrogant reply to God about his missing brother (Gen 4:9). Of course, we also have the very strong warning in Matt.25:31-46; where King Jesus comes as Judge and sends those who didn’t care about “the least of these,” to Hell. This passage ought to make Christians at least pause as they consider their response to the needy.
Thirdly, altruistic love, in the form of agape love is the basis of the relationship of God to us. Jesus commands us to love – he says;” Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). Altruistic love is the basis of our faith! To act as Rand desires us to, would be antithetical to what that the Bible teaches and is an affront to Jesus Christ! Our thoughts determine our actions, and we will be held accountable for what we have done. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal.6:7-10).