I recently shared a flight with one of the founders of the Tea Party in Wisconsin. I might never have discovered this fact, though, if it hadn’t been for the book I was reading at the time – “Atlas Shrugged,” by Ayn Rand.
You see, Ayn Rand has become a darling of the political Right. This popular philosopher was born in Russia and her best-selling novels cleverly expose how socialism destroys society. And, though Rand died nearly 30 years ago, her best-selling novels remain hugely influential. In fact, a Library of Congress survey found “Atlas Shrugged” second only to the Bible as the “most influential book of all time.” Last week, bolstered by a new movie based on the book, “Atlas Shrugged” shot to #3 on Amazon’s Bestseller List.
Yet, as I told my Tea Party acquaintance, I hold conflicting sentiments regarding Rand. I admire Rand’s belief in small government and her disdain for so-called “looting”: that’s Rand’s term for taking money from the producers in society and giving it to those who produce nothing. But, I’m repulsed by Rand’s worship of the self-made man and her promotion of greed as a virtue.
My new acquaintance was surprised by my concerns. Apparently, all the
conservatives she knew were huge Rand fans – including the star GOP Congressman from Wisconsin, Paul Ryan. Reportedly, Ryan so admires Rand, he requires his entire staff to read her writings.
While liberals often look to government to save society and demonize selfish individualists, Rand demonized the government and exalted high producing industrialists as society’s savior. But, both are unbiblical. Jesus alone saves and man is helpless without Him.
Rand also missed man’s communal nature. I appreciate that she promoted personal responsibility. I Peter 2:13 says, “Submit yourself to every ordinance of man.” And truly, even the best of Republics is doomed if people fail to govern themselves and instead look to the state to regulate personal morality. Yet, to Rand, each person was an island and she reportedly died lonely and depressed. Sadly, Ayn Rand missed that we are made in God’s triune – inherently relational image – and that we find happiness as we serve a community. You see, God intended us to govern ourselves so we can govern our family, so we can lead the church, and ultimately bless society.