Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ayn Rand Missed...The Rest of the Story

(c) 2013 by Tom King

Jesus upsets the insiders - offers no bailout!
Ayn Rand has always been problematic for Christians.  A staunch advocate of selfishness, she dismissed altruism as a tool of the government devils, designed to subserviate the needs of the one to the needs of the many.  And so the Golden Rule, she figures, has been perverted to evil usage.  No more recent example need be cited than the President's inaugural speech where he touted the virtues of collective action

Is it really unrestrained greed vs collectivism?  Ayn Rand fought the battle as though it were.  Progressive liberals approach it as though it were.  Tea Party or Green Party, the ideologies butt heads on our radios each day, the airwaves left echoing from the blows like a mountain pass carrying the sound of Bighorn Rams butting heads.

But taking a look from a Christian perspective doesn't require we give up the Golden Rule in order to agree at all with Ayn Rand's argument. Rand's complaint was with power hungry politicians and would-be rulers who use guilt as a tool to force otherwise free men and women to subserviate their own needs and desires to the needs and desires of the great unwashed masses - those legions of "people less fortunate than ourselves" that demand we fork over the fruits of our labors to make up for their lack of productivity.

Sounds harsh, huh?  Yes it does, particularly if you're a typical soft-hearted Christian type whose grandmothers, aunts and moms practically tattooed the Golden Rule on our foreheads.  Ah, but let's look at what the Golden Rule says.

  • Treat other people the way you would have them treat you.
In one simple sentence, Christ codified all the laws of the Medes and the Persians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Romans or anybody else that has ever tried to write laws to govern the affairs of men and women to keep them from killing, robbing or cheating each other.

If you check out Jesus' history, though, he was surprisingly quiet about charity.  He even admonished his disciples when they criticized Mary's outlay of money for an expensive gift for Christ alone and pointed out that the money could have better been spent on the poor.  Jesus' words seem a little harsh toward the poor. He said, "The poor you will have with you always........"

In Jesus' dealings with the beggars and the sick and destitute, He modeled true Christian charity for us.  He healed and forgave them and then sent them off to do something productive.  Neither Christ, nor Ayn Rand forbade us to forgo charity.  They merely pointed out that, as Paul pointed out to the Corinthians, "I might give all my wealth to the poor....but if I have not love, I am nothing."   We must make our charities and our sacrifices because we choose to or they are not likely to benefit anyone in the long run.

If our gifts to help solve the problems of the community around us are only given to appease the unruly mob so that they don't whip out the torches and pitchforks, storm our mansions and kill us in our beds, then there really is no charity to it in the Biblical sense.  A bribe is a bribe whether we pay it to a politicians or to an unruly mob of illegal immigrants, to an angry minority. to politicians or to grasping corporate power-brokers. There is no virtue in shuffling off your guilt onto the government so you can party in peace knowing the feds are taking care of "the less fortunate".

Christians really do believe in the old saw about teaching men to fish.  Teaching men to fish is a mentoring job that calls for personal involvement with the actual poor person. It is not a sanitized process where someone else gets dirty on your behalf. Charity is about looking around you and seeing what needs done in your own community and coming up with ways to get it done.

It's not about passing a law that says everybody in that slum on the north side of town has two weeks to paint their houses or face a fine.  It's about seeing that your elderly neighbor's paint is pealing, knowing he is old and can't afford to hire painters, and dragging your church's youth group over one weekend to paint the old guy's house for him.  That's charity.  Cooking meals for a sick neighbor, mowing an injured neighbor's grass; giving them a lift to the doctor's if their car is broken.  Helping someone in your church or school find a job and get some food for his family till he gets his first check.

Noted liberal, Joy Behar, once observed that she'd rather pay the money to the government so they could take care of poor people and she wouldn't have to worry about it.  She's willing, then, to give up autonomy, freedom and (not to mention it), money all for the sake of not feeling guilty and passing off her responsibility for her fellow man to her neighbor.

Heroes are people who do the right thing for themselves and sometimes for others because it is the right thing and not because it solidifies your power.  It's not Might and strength IS right, but rather as T.H. White eloquently put it in "Once and Future King",  might should be exercised FOR right.  Heroes are those who do for others, not by swooping like Spiderman, Batman or Superman to save the day and then swooping out again to their upscale Bat Caves and Fortresses of Solitude.  Heroes are those who see that something needs doing and they do it.  Inevitably, such deeds turn to the benefit of the community.  And best of all, you don't need to spend half your gross domestic product to pay for bureaucrats and moneychangers to manage your charity for you.  Ayn Rand considered politicians and bureaucrats to be thieves and looters.  Jesus turned over their tables and chased them out of the temple with a whip.

I'd love to see Him get loose in the halls of congress. 

I'm just saying,


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