Friday, December 3, 2010

Christianity & Libertarianism: are South Dakotans then syncretists?

h/t FB friend Lisa

Ayn Rand: Goddess of the Great Recession | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

I found this long article fascinating. Evangelical Christianity and Libertarianism both have strong voices in SD. When it comes to economics, they do tend to wind up on the same side, although on other issues less so.

From the article:

About the time Fortune was extolling Greenspan, I was putting the finishing touches on a book about finances for a major evangelical publisher. I included a chapter on Rand's quasi-religious philosophies, and another that encouraged Wall Street to embrace a traditional Judeo-Christian ethic. I wrote, "Ayn Rand, like Karl Marx, was one more self-proclaimed prophet who denied the existence of a loving God." I added this comment from a leading political commentator: "Libertarians have replaced Marxists as the world's leading utopia builders." I concluded that we would one day apologize to our children for what Rand had done to our souls, as well as to the political economy.

My junior editor removed the chapter on Rand. "No one has heard of Ayn Rand," she said. But my senior editor reinserted it. He said he had never understood his family until reading it. It made him realize that they had mixed Rand's strongly anti-government, unquestioningly pro-business, and individualistic worldview with biblical Christianity. Theologians call this "syncretism"—which George Barna calls America's favorite religion. It's a religion too many Christians have bent the knee to.

By the end of 2008, "Maestro" Greenspan was booed off the stage. Yet there are at least three reasons we should stay aware of Rand and her remaining disciples...


Kim said...

Fascinating discussion opener.

I would say though that the problematic issue isn't Ayn Rand or libertarianism, it's syncretism.

To be clear, I was influenced in a very positive way by objectivist and libertarian ideas. I have a responsibility to distinguish between the influential pieces and the whole package. A Christian takes the pieces to Jesus, author and finisher of our faith, because that is how our minds work. At least mine. I gain ownership of ideas like atonement and justice and love by climbing to them via other ideas I've already grasped. I work out my salvation, my grounding in the gospel, by means of wrestling with the things of this world and emerging with assurance in that gospel. I wrestle keeping in mind that I am in the world, not of it, by choice and by grace.

Regarding right wing political suspicion of social justice, I say amen. Why? Because the term was coined and is repeated as syncretism from the political left. Our enemy very cleverly subverts our impulses to be charitable into a means of redemption. That's not the Gospel. Our redemption is in Christ and the charity comes from there, through transformation and gratitude. But the glory, the credit, is His, not ours. Social justice, defined straight out of the dictionary is good: we are social, relational, and we love justice. But another syncretism has added a heavy burden to the term, social justice.

Give to Caesar....
But give to God what is God's.
We are not to just vote for the idea of doing good. We are to do good out of love. I do believe that our country is, or at least has been, a largely Christian nation. I don't believe that the governments of the United States were ever Christian. Governments are of the world. Let's not confuse the activity of government with the work of Christ.

TLF+ said...

Kim - awesome thoughts, well expressed. Thoughtful responses like this make it worthwhile to blog!

I think that you make a good point about "social justice" - in fact, there is an American invention called the "Social Gospel" (none dare call it syncretism).

One of the fair criticisms of Protestantism is the lack of a coherent body of social teaching. The fact that we have syncretism with various causes is ample evidence of the problem.

Anonymous said...

I much appreciated this article, as there are too many (well, any are too many to me) devotees of Rand promoting her strange cult over the past few years. I could never understand the appeal of what is a heartless, soulless ideology, of so many young people when I was growing up in the '70s.

Anonymous said...

You just hate Ayn Rand because she is completely right and you have no possibility of proving her wrong. I know you want to believe in this "greater being" you call God, you want to be "holy" and admired by others. And whatever happens it is because "God wanted it to happen", so you have him to "blame" for it all (although you all admire everything he does, don't you?).