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A Look At Ayn Rand
A response to Cal Thomas’s endorsement of the ATLAS SHRUGGED movie and its attack on Caesar
By Gary Moore
Founder, The Financial Seminary
Cal Thomas has famously disagreed with the worst excesses of the religious right, as have I. That may be why his recommendation of the new movie ATLAS SHRUGGED PART 1 cut like a knife.
In my mid-nineties book Ten Golden Rules for Financial Success, I noted that Rush Limbaugh had just published a cartoon of a character labeled “the religious left” bowing down to a statue of Karl Marx. I said that as funny but ungracious as that might have
been, there are times the thought of Marx probably unduly influences the thinking of some leaders of mainline Christianity. Yet I also wrote that evangelical leaders too often experience a similar problem, which theologians call syncretism: mixing the teachings of Ayn Rand with our thinking as Christians. I now believe Cal’s endorsement of the movie based on Rand’s tome Atlas Shrugged suggests we’ve reached the point where our thinking and her teachings are virtually indistinguishable, at least in matters of political-economy. That’s most unfortunate as it likely suggests The Economist was correct in 1999 when it published “An Obituary for Jesus” on Easter.
Theologians from Martin Marty on the left to Chuck Colson on the right have recently written that Rand turned the Bible upside down. She was a disciple of Nietzsche’s elitism so it’s understandable she wanted to be remembered as “the greatest enemy of religion ever.” Jesus told us to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s” and Paul said to “honor and respect government” as it was instituted by God (Romans 13). But, Rand told us there is no God and we’d have utopia on earth when we rid ourselves of government. That’s hardly conservative; and indeed, Rand was a self-described “radical.” Jesus taught the interests of our neighbors must be lovingly elevated to the level of our own interests. Rand taught selfishness is a virtue and charity toward neighbor should only be practiced in “emergency situations.”
That ethic highly influenced her close disciple Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve. Greenspan did his best to deregulate our S&L’s during the eighties, as well as Wall Street during the nineties and years leading up to the credit crisis and Great Recession. Many observers now doubt that deregulating our financial elites, as well as the CEO’s deified in Rand’s book and movie as human saviors, created heaven on earth. But, we still share Rand’s belief that government is the root of all evil. So despite Einstein saying insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, America’s new economic and political “roadmap” to the future has again been prepared by another Rand disciple, Congressman Paul Ryan. The House recently approved his plan to further cut the top rate on our economic elite from 35% to 25%. Yet the most recent IRS statistics show the 400 highest income Americans only paid federal taxes of 17% on annual income averaging $345 million. That was down from 26% in 1992. As Leona Helmsley might have quipped, paying taxes is for suckers.
Of course, Rand’s teachings also have far reaching social consequences. As a fierce individualist, Rand advocated the legalization of abortion and drugs, both of which she reportedly used personally. Believing there are no moral standards other than what we think there are, she thought it fine to have a most public affair with a close disciple. Yet she then thought it rational to excommunicate him from her movement when he thought it rational to have another affair. It takes evil genius to rationalize such selfish and contradictory confusion.
The Economist has just wondered if the growing inequalities of income and wealth might suggest Marx had a point when he predicted such would occur in capitalist nations. I included that hard question in a column I write for the financial ministry of the Willow Creek Association, but I did not suggest readers check Das Kapital out of the library for further study. As an Evangelical Lutheran, I’ve long been aware of evangelical reactions to suggestions we consider the thoughts of communist, socialist or even progressive Christian authors as even a blind pig occasionally sniffs out an acorn. To avoid potential confusion, we generally prefer authors who have seen the light. Despite the respect I have for Cal, I’m terribly afraid he’s just deepened the political and theological confusion surrounding Glenn Beck, who also advocates the contradictory teachings of Rand and Christ as Truth.
Editor’s Note: Gary Moore has a degree in political science, thirty years of experience on Wall Street and has written five books on the Judeo-Christian ethic of wealth management. His article about Ayn Rand appeared in Christianity Today in its September 2010 edition. You can read more of his views, and see a video about Ayn Rand, at www.financialseminary.org .