So What's This All About?

In case you didn't know, I'm in the multi-year-long process of posting a Christian devotional at the TAWG Blog. The TAWG Blog is, and always will be, mostly apolitical. For the most part, Bible-believing Christians will find little to disagree with there. But I also firmly believe that God's word can--and should--inform everything in life, and this should include politics and popular culture. How should we vote? How should we respond to hot topics such as abortion, capital punishment, taxes, and other issues? Which party, if either, is closer to the Biblical ideal? Tony Campolo and Ron Sider, Evangelicals whose political leanings are on the Left, have made the case in several of their writings that God wants his followers to vote politically on the Left more than on the Right. At times, some of them have gone so far as to equate voting on the Left with obedience to Christ, either subtly or not-so-subtly contending that the converse is true as well: If you vote Republican, you're sinning against the Savior.
I don't agree. I think that to the degree they actually resort to the Bible, they're misinterpreting it. With a whole bunch of caveats, I think politically conservative positions are a lot more compatible with the Scriptures than the Leftist positions.
Just to clarify, I would never accuse people who disagree with me--especially siblings in Christ--of what they accuse me of. I don't judge my own heart, much less anyone else's, and I don't equate political disagreement with theological fidelity to God. I have no reason to doubt their love for the Lord and "for the least of these," but I believe that they're sincerely wrong.
So there are two main purposes for this blog. One is to make a case for my political beliefs based on Scripture. The other is a bit more vague, basically to work out my political beliefs and figure out what's based on Scripture and what's based on my own biases. I certainly don't have all the answers. Some of this stuff I'm still figuring out. And I'm certainly open to correction. As long as you make your case civilly and based on Scripture, feel free to make a comment, and I promise I'll post it and consider your arguments thoughtfully and prayerfully. Who knows? Maybe we'll learn a little something from each other.
May God bless our common striving together towards both the "little t" truth and "Big T" Truth. Our watchword here is a line from C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle: "Further up and further in!"

P.S. -- Below on the left is "Topics I've Covered" which lists everything I've posted topically. It's come to my attention that some people would like to see everything just listed for them. If that's you, you can get it here. Thanks to my friend Stephen Young for the tip!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A (conservative) Christian response to Ayn Rand: Introductions

            If you hang around political conservatives long enough, you’re going to eventually hear one name come up which you probably won’t hear elsewhere: Ayn (pronounced “eye-n”) Rand. She was a refugee from Soviet Russia who became a famous author and the originator of the philosophy Objectivism. By far she’s most famous for her novel Atlas Shrugged.
            Her philosophy of Objectivism is a lot more complex that we want to address here, so let me hit some of the highlights of her belief system. She was an enthusiastic believer in the Free Market System (hereafter "FMS") (although she used the term Capitalism), property rights, individual rights, and democracy (at least as opposed to any of the alternatives). She really hated what she called collectivism: Her father ran a small store, which was stolen by the Communists in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, which would explain a lot about her economic and political beliefs. She was really opposed to unrestricted welfare, modern Feminism, Affirmative Action, crony capitalism, and the counter-cultural movement of the 1960’s. Thus far, she and I are in wholehearted agreement.
But there are some problems for Christians (actually anyone who holds to any religion whatsoever). First and foremost, she was a hardcore atheist. I mean, she really really really hated religion in any form. She was a doctrinaire materialist, dismissing with utter contempt as “mysticism” any belief that there’s anything beyond matter and energy in the universe. In fact, she considered people of any faith to be her political opponents, lumping them with collectivists of other stripes. According to her any progress we have made, make now, or ever can make in human rights in the world must—sine qua non—entail a wholesale rejection of all types of collectivism, of which religion is just another manifestation.  Just to be clear, anything other than materialism is of one piece as far as she’s concerned: The primitive tribesman who fears tree spirits is virtually the same as an Evangelical Christian or an earnest Buddhist or a practicing Jew, and their beliefs are all equally worthy of contempt.
Why are we concerned with her? Because, as I stated before, if you delve into the conservative movement at all, you won’t get far without encountering fans of hers. Senator Paul Ryan, the GOP Vice-Presidential candidate for 2012, supposedly once passed out copies of Atlas Shrugged to his subordinates—and at the very least was a huge fan of hers. There are huge streaks of small “l” libertarianism in the Republican party (which I have a lot of sympathy for), and if you meet anyone who calls himself a libertarian (either big “L” or little “l”), it’s extremely likely that he’s a fan of Ayn Rand. For lots of people, reading Atlas was their first gleaming of any type of questioning of their Liberal/Leftist upbringing or the Leftist atmosphere they were surrounded by in college. If it didn’t lead to their joining the Republican Party, at least it led to their questioning of the Leftist philosophy.
That’s probably the biggest mark in her favor. To the degree that her writings (probably Atlas, which is most peoples’ introduction to her work) lead people to question Leftist orthodoxy, she deserves some applause. We’ll get to a fuller review of Atlas soon, but for now let it be said that I found myself breaking into cheering sometimes as I read. There are some passages which encapsulate principles with unmatched eloquence: the virtues of the FMS, utter contempt for crony capitalism (businessmen in this book are just as villainous as government officials), the utter impossibility that we’re going to rise out of sustenance-level poverty without the FMS, etc. Little wonder that lots of people have been converted out of Leftism after reading it.
I think the pattern on this should be: A) What she did right, B) A critique of her belief system from a Christian perspective, C) A review of Atlas, and D) A summary of how (I believe) Christians should approach Rand and her followers. 

No comments:

Post a Comment