Beverly Garside

Can Christians be Objectivists?

  Nothing confuses me more than what appears to be a rise of an oxymoron: Ayn Rand objectivists who claim to be Christians, or Christians who claim to objectivists.  Perhaps it's the assumption that anything that embraces the rabid right is automatically compatible. I don't claim to know what's behind it - all I can say for sure is that any Christian who claims to be an objectivist, just like any objectivist who claims to be a Christian, knows very little about being either.
     I do know that Ayn Rand was not only an atheist, but that she believed Christianity, and indeed any belief in any God, to be a blight on humanity. I remember an unending rant in Atlas Shrugged about how the story of the Garden of Eden illustrated man's rise rather than his fall, about Jesus' call for self sacrifice being a blasphemy against the human spirit, and about the "sin" of pride actually being our greatest virtue.  And I have the impression that Rand was pro-choice on the abortion issue, though I'm not absolutely sure.
     As for Christianity I cannot make any claim to being a theologian. It is obvious, however, that Christianity falls loosely into two major camps: the Christian Right and the Christian Left. The Christian Right emphasizes salvation by belief (faith), centered upon the Gospel of  John 3/16 -  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." They emphasize the teachings of the Apostle Paul which focus on judgement for non-believers and the demonstration of faith by striving for right-living (no drinking, homosexuality, etc).  They are also known for advocating a Judeo-Christian system of ethics and morality for society. The Christian Left focuses on the teachings of the Apostle James - "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes or daily food. If one of you says to him 'Go, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2/14-16) and "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." (James 2/24). This branch of Christianity emphasizes helping the poor and is much less concerned with issues like divorce, abortion or homosexuality.
     An oversimplification divides Christianity into those who believe they are redeemed by faith alone and those who believe they are redeemed largely by works. These two branches of Christians both have ample scripture to support their doctrines and their emphases, and have been slugging it out for centuries. There is no clearer illustration of the conflict than the new Pope Francis, a left-leaning Christian who is re-focusing his church towards charity and away from doctrinal and social issues, and who has recently made waves by criticizing the free-market ideology of Ayn Rand and the political Right.
     Again, I have no theological credentials. The only thing I can say without argument is that Christians on both sides passionately believe in God. And that Ayn Rand passionately did not. It may not be surprising that the "Christian objectivists" come exclusively from the Right branch of the faith, given the confluence of the religious right and left with their respective political ideologies.  I fault the Christian Right for a lot of things, but embracing an atheist philosopher who hated God and regarded Judeo-Christian morality as a millstone around mankind's neck could not, or at least should not, be one of them.
     In I and You the Christian Right has formed its own country, the Confederate States of New Jerusalem (CSNJ) , which refuses to have anything whatsoever to do with the atheists of the Randian Republic of Atlantis (RRA).  Because they believe in God and don't like atheism. Because in this respect they are logical. Can the same be said for the Christian Right today?
     Obviously, Christians who also claim to be objectivists are a minority in the Christian Right. And objectivists who also claim to be Christians are a minority among Ayn Rand's followers. And only they can explain how and why they came to reconcile these two diametrically opposed belief systems. My first instinct is to attribute it to an appalling ignorance of both doctrines. But could I be wrong?
     If anybody knows a Christian objectivist, or an objectivist Christian, please refer them to this blog entry. I'd like to hear an explanation from the horse's mouth.

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