John Galt vs. Jesus Christ


DSC02076For a shorter read that helped inspire me to write this post, something I’ve been meaning to do, read Joel Miller’s excellent article on the subject.

The Blaze is an extremely conservative online publication, meaning that any time one ventures into the comments (word of advice: Never read the comments on a website), one finds the extreme right of the conservative ideology. Thus, it should be no surprise that a story about a man giving his business to his employees after retiring was met with quite a bit of hostility. The hostility wasn’t necessarily over the action, but the man’s justification for his action. He said that he felt he needed to “give back” to those who had helped him, just as he had done charitable giving his entire life in order to “give back” to society. The idea of “giving back” is what got the commenters rowelled up. After all, the man paid wages to the employees and paid his taxes, what exactly did he “owe” to his employees or to society?

The hostility towards understanding one’s obligation to the other stems, I believe, from Ayn Rand’s filth-ridden ideology philosophy, which has infected permeated the conservative movement. Rand believed that every person existed for themselves, thus altruism and charity were evil. No one owed anyone else anything, we only owe to ourselves. In fact, through the mouth of John Galt, she wrote:

By the grace of reality and the nature of life, man–every man–is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose. (Part 3, Chapter 7)

“Every man is an end in himself and exists for his own sake.” Think about that – if true, all ethics related to the other exists solely for one’s own benefit. In other words, the only reason I don’t murder my competition is because by doing so, it allows someone to murder me. However, if I find myself in a position where I am the strongest and control the means to murder, well then, murder away. In a less extreme example, such as economic distribution, I can do whatever I want to my workers so long as it doesn’t pose a threat to me. They exist for themselves and I exist for myself – the ultimate irony is Rand’s philosophy is that in attempting to insure against people being treated as means, she ensured that all men are treated as means. After all, if I exist for my own sake and my happiness is my highest purpose, then your existence and happiness mean nothing to me. They can be used at my leisure, should I be more powerful than you, to create my own happiness.

Hence, what Mr. Lueken did is the ultimate affront to John Galt because he recognized that not only does he not exist for his own sake, but where he is in life is owed to others. President Obama had the unfortunate experience of giving an extremely poorly-worded speech during his campaign, one where he famously said, “You didn’t build that!” I cringed when I heard that soundbite because I knew every person voting against him would jump on that one part of the speech while ignoring the message. His overall message, however, was still rejected by the extreme right; his message is what Mr. Lueken lived out, namely that where we are in life is in part thanks to people who have helped us along the way. Yes, it takes personal initiative to get where we are (which is why I support private ownership), but no man is autonomous, no man is an island, no man exists within and for himself.

John Galt’s speech, or Rand’s teachings, fall short when applied to actual existence because they go against our very nature. Christianity teaches that all men and women are created in the image of God. Since this image is not physical, it means that certain traits of God are also inherent within us, though to a limited and finite degree. One aspect is that God is Trinitarian, meaning that God is relational. This, too, has been transfered to us. We are relational creatures and cannot live without a relationship. But being relational by nature means that by the very act of existing, we have moral obligations to other people. We no longer exist for ourselves, nor is our happiness our supreme goal. Rather, being in the image of God means we are tied to God, who is love. Thus, our ultimate purpose is to love God, but in order to love God we must also love those who bear His image. In loving those who bear His image, we therefore have obligations to them; we owe them. We treat them as ends rather than means; thus, when our workers help us become rich and we have paid them a small fraction of what we’ve made, we feel a moral obligation to “give back” to them for all their hard work.

It is this idea of “giving back” that irked Rand so much and why she hated Christianity. For one, the woman feigned indifference to charity, willingly compromising and saying that charity was neither a moral duty nor really a virtue. From the same linked article, Rand, talking about Christ, goes on to say:

Now you want me to speak about the cross. What is correct is that I do regard the cross as the symbol of the sacrifice of the ideal to the nonideal. Isn’t that what it does mean? Christ, in terms of the Christian philosophy, is the human ideal. He personifies that which men should strive to emulate. Yet, according to the Christian mythology, he died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the nonideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificed for men who are vicious and who are expected or supposed to accept that sacrifice. If I were a Christian, nothing could make me more indignant than that: the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the non-ideal, or virtue to vice. And it is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used. That is torture.

Her understanding of the cross aside, notice what she says. Christ died for the “nonideal.” Thus, those who are ideal are encouraged to sacrifice for the “nonideal.” Even when talking about charity, she argues that charity is acceptable so long as the people we are giving charity to have “earned it” and are “worthy of it.” Now think about that; if you have to earn something then is it really charity? And people say she was a great thinker Certainly, such a contradiction must have been apparent to her.

Where Rand fails – and why no Christian should ever follow her in anything she teaches Christians should use great discernment and realize that one can support the free market without turning to Rand – is that she fails to understand love. Is Christianity about the ideal human coming down and dying for nonideal humans? Yes, she was right on that point. Not only does “Christian philosophy” include the idea that the ideal human died for all the nonideal humans, that’s the central idea. When people try to say that Jesus wasn’t perfect, they’ve supplanted the Gospel with something else, they’ve eradicated Christianity and put up a materialistic pagan version of Christianity. Thus, Ayn Rand was right in her summation of Christianity as the ideal dying for the nonideal; where she’s wrong is when she condemns Christianity for this belief.

Christ taught that the two greatest commandments are to love God with one’s heart, soul, and mind and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. What is interesting is the connection point between the two; Christ says, “And the second is like it.” In other words, to love one’s neighbor is like loving God, meaning the two are tied together. It is Christ who came to use as both God and man, as the ideal human, to live these commandments perfectly. He did so not to laud Himself over us, but to take we who are nonideal and to make us ideal. He deified human nature so that we could be as He is. Christ dying for us, for being with the lowly and downtrodden may be a scandal for John Galt, but it in line with who we are as humans.

We can try to live the philosophy of John Galt, but in the end we will end up morally bankrupt and in danger of Hell. While Rand’s ideas may provide temporary riches, they do not offer eternal riches; selfishness and greed ruin everything they touch, they are an acid to all that is good. We are created in the image of God. Thus, we do not exist for ourselves or for our happiness. We exist for God and therefore exist for each other. We “give back,” because even if we do not owe anything to those we give back to, we owe everything to God.

 

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4 thoughts on “John Galt vs. Jesus Christ

  1. I don’t believe in god myself but I like to see that unlike ‘the religious right” in the u.s there are Christians who acknowledge that Jesus went among the poor, sick and oppressed, I hope more Christians like that make their voices heard not just those who claim Christianity but speak more of prejudice and fear than compassion and love unfortunately they and the ayn rand fans make up much of one of the governing parties

    1. I think more and more Christians are moving away from the “religious right,” at least the younger Christians. Sadly, while more Christians are moving away from it, they do not constitute the majority. We are all flawed and therefore need mercy.

  2. “However, if I find myself in a position where I am the strongest and control the means to murder, well then, murder away.”
    Nope. It is not in one’s actual, long-term self-interest to violate the rights of others by being Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin. Dictators are among the least happy men on earth. They live in constant fear of being deposed and/or killed by their subjects and by foreign powers. The symptoms of long-term dictatorship mimic paranoid delusions, except they are often founded. Look at Hitler and Gaddafi.

    “After all, if I exist for my own sake and my happiness is my highest purpose, then your existence and happiness mean nothing to me.”
    If someone is my friend or lover, then their existence and happiness mean a great deal to me. In fact, the phrase “mean something to me” implies that I have an interest in the person. Their presence is a value to my psychological well-being, so their well-being serves my long-term enjoyment of life. If my most basic goal is their well-being, as apart from my own, then I’m serving them not out of real, (emotional) love, but out of a basically disinterested (or even distasteful) duty. The only “benefit” I might get from truly selfless service to others would be a moment’s relief from the guilt of not spending ALL my time helping others as I really should be under the morality of altruism.

    You can make all the noise you want about this “God” creature being our creator and owner, but that won’t change the fact that there is no credible evidence, let alone proof of its existence.

    1. It isn’t necessarily in someone’s long-term self-interest to prevent violating the rights of others. Look at Kim Jong Il and his father; both of them did it their entire lives and ended up just fine. The same is true for the multiple dictators prior to Gorbachev in the Soviet Union as well as Chavez, Castro, the multiple Chinese Communist leaders, and so on. There are also examples of absolute monarchs prior to the French and American revolutions who also did as they pleased and suffered no consequences; in fact, their actions further secured their position. Pointing to a few examples of where this absolute pursuit of self-interest failed doesn’t negate what I said; all I need is a handful of examples of how someone pursued their self-interest without regard to others and succeeded. As that has been done, it shows that we cannot put self-interest as the highest goal, otherwise we create dictators.

      As for serving others, again, the only interest I have in them is the interest I put in them. It means that at the end of the day, I still value myself more than I value anyone else. A father shouldn’t care about his own child or wife beyond what they mean to him. If, one day, he decides they really don’t mean anything to him, then he can abandon them without consequence. On a more global level, the oppressed and hurting around the globe literally mean nothing to me as their well-being has nothing to do with my self-interest. The reality is under Rand’s system I can support slavery so long as the results of slavery benefit me.

      As for your argument concerning God, you’re reaching over to scientism and positivism, both of which are self-defeating, so please try again.

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