The Tea Party and Ayn Rand versus Jesus Christ
This video imagines what a false Jesus would preach today if he were to stand on the National Mall and espouse the values of tea party Repbulicans and then contrasts those teachings with that of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The video is entertaining and manages to draw a clear line between Christianity and the tea party movement. However, it only tangentially alludes to the root of this difference when false-Jesus calls Ayn Rand his prophet. Herein, I will endeavor to make clear the foundational importance of Ayn Rand to tea party ideology and the contradictions between her philosophy, Objectivism, and authentic Christianity, which many of Rand’s admires still claim to confess.
Ayn Rand’s philosophy is inextricably linked to the ideology of the tea party movement, and much of the contemporary Republican Party and many conservative political organizations. Paul Ryan, a professed Catholic, claimed Ayn Rand was the reason he got involved in public service and has said that:
“I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are…It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged…It’s so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand’s vision, her writings, to see what our girding, under-grounding principles are…there is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works.” (Audio available here)
Ron Paul, a professed Baptist, said Ayn Rand had a lot of influence on him. His son Rand Paul, a Presbyterian, calls himself a “a big fan of Ayn Rand.” Ted Cruz, a professed Baptist, read from Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged during his filibuster against Obamacare. Marco Rubio, a Catholic (or maybe a Baptist), read Atlas Shrugged twice during his first term in office. Ron Johnson, a Lutheran, called Atlas Shrugged his “foundational book.” Michelle Malkin, a professed Catholic, hyped the links between the tea party and Ayn Rand. Rush Limbaugh, a Methodist, is fond of talking about Rand. Many tea party groups promoted the 2011 movie Atlas Shrugged, based on Rand’s most famous novel. The Heritage Foundation hosted a special screening of Atlas Shrugged. FreedomWorks claimed it helped bring the movie to the big screen. Even where these groups draw their ideas from sources other than Rand, they usually manage to find thinkers who largely reinforce a worldview espoused by Ayn Rand and her disciples.
Some of the tea party’s canonized saints, like St. Ronald Reagan the Great, a member of the Disciples of Christ and later the Presbyterian traditions, and St. Barry Goldwater the Forerunner, an Episcopalian, have expressed appreciation for Ayn Rand. Even some more “establishment” Republicans have voiced their appreciation of Rand.
But what is the trouble with Christians drawing on the ideas of Ayn Rand? Surely many Christians have drawn on philosophies outside of Christianity to clarify their faith. While that might be the case, there are two major problems with any attempt to marry the philosophy of Ayn Rand with Christianity. The first is that Rand’s ideas fundamentally contradict the teaching of Christ, his apostles, and the prophets. Jesus taught us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27,35; Matthew 5:44). Ayn Rand said: “I regard compassion as proper only toward those who are innocent victims, but not toward those who are morally guilty” and that “You love those who deserve it.”
Another area where Rand diverges from Christ is on the issue of charity. Charity and giving are central to the Christian faith. Moses taught the importance of charity (Deuteronomy 14:22,28-29, 15:7-11, & 24:19-22). Christ commanded that we “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42) and St. John the Baptist proclaimed “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise” (Luke 3:11). St. Paul also taught the importance of giving (Hebrews 13:16) and Isaiah declared that aiding those in need was the form of worship God desired (Isaiah 58:6-7). Furthermore, Amos condemned those who ignored or exploited the poor (Amos 2:6-8) as did Christ in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31 ) and when He warned of His judgement to come (Matthew 25:31-46), St. John also condemns those who are uncharitable (1 John 3:17–18). But Rand told Playboy that:
My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.
Rand also differs with Christianity on the issue of wealth. St. Paul taught us the desire for wealth is evil (1 Timothy 6:9-10) as did Christ in his parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21). St. James condemned the wealthy (James 5:1-6) as did Amos (Amos 6:1,4-7) as did Christ when he told his disciples about how difficult it would be for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23-24), and when he declared “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:20). Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged:
So you think that money is the root of all evil? Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?
Christians are called to love all people and to do good for others even if it means suffering or death for oneself. Christ taught his disciples “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13). St. Paul teaches “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Ayn Rand calls altruism and self-sacrifice “evil,” “immoral,” and “cannibalism”:
The second problem is that Ayn Rand was a vitriolic atheist. She openly hated Christianity and religion. In her novel Anthem Rand proclaimed that people should worship themselves: “And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: ‘I.'” She told the pornographic magazine Playboy that she believed faith was a “negation of reason” that was “very detrimental to human life.” In a television interview, she declared she was “against God” and calling religion a psychological weakness:
And Rand’s atheism isn’t some quirky side note of her philosophy; atheism is the corner stone of her philosophy; atheism is the root from which her philosophy grows. Rand once condemned the National Review as “the worst and most dangerous magazine in America” for daring to try and link capitalism and Christianity. Ayn idolized human reason and human wisdom as the wellspring of her philosophy. Rand goes so far as to specifically disparage Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross:
According to the Christian mythology, [Christ] died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the non-ideal 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.
To preach the gospel of Ayn Rand while proclaiming oneself a Christian is an act of heresy, blasphemy, and apostasy. It is an open rebellion against God. Those who do so are false prophets, the wolves in sheep’s clothing Christ warned about and we know them by their evil fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). The dark, twisted, greed-driven philosophy of Ayn Rand can never be reconciled with the teachings of Jesus Christ, not even if we ignore her atheism. As Christ our Lord taught “You cannot serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). We must either choose Christ or Rand. Let us pray that those who have fallen into the blasphemies of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy will repent and return to the Lord in both word and deed. Let us pray that those in the Republican Party and in conservative organizations across our nation publicly repudiate Rand’s philosophy and work to expunge her demonic teachings from their political goals and political works.
For more on how Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is antithetical to Christianity, check these out:
Chuck Colson’s Two-Minute Warning: Atlas Shrugged and So Should You: