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Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand, the Roman Catholic Church and how to square a circle.

15 August 2012

 

 

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“You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” – Jesus

 

“If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.” – Ayn Rand

 

Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, a philosophy which rejects love of God, has even less regard for love of neighbor, is completely at odds with Christian morality, and yet Mitt Romney’s running mate, who is a Roman Catholic, says this …

 

“But if we’re going to actually win [the fight between individualism and collectivism] we need to make sure that we’re solid on premises, that our principles are well-defended, and if we want to go and articulately defend these principles and what they mean to our society, what they mean for the trends that we set internationally, we have to go back to Ayn Rand. Because there is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works.” – Paul Ryan, a Roman Catholic who gives copies of Ayn Rand’s book, “Atlas Shrugged” as Christmas presents.

 

Can you be a true Christian, or even a good American, if you vote people into public office whose views on the poor are based on a blatant refusal of Christ’s teaching?

 

Salon has a good article on Ryan’s inconsistent belief system here.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Pat McDonough permalink
    15 August 2012 8:36 pm

    Most of us believe what’s convenient. I think of your C.S. Lewis post wherein he said a bottle of port would make him comfortable, that that’s not what Christianity is meant to do. And there’s such direct comment from Jesus himself in the New Testament: the rich young man going away sad, the camel and the eye of the needle…

  2. 21 August 2012 1:48 am

    But is Ryan actually against charity? He gave $13,000 in donations last year, according to his tax returns.

    I think it’s possible to find parts of Rand’s arguments compelling without being a doctrinaire Objectivist. What makes her writing feel relevant to today for many people is the way her heroes are successful innovators who improve the lives of thousands but are punished for their success by the government. Ryan’s appreciation for Rand seems mainly to apply to her defense of the free market and not her assertions about individual morality towards others.

    Personally, I think Ryan’s great. And his budget, which does preserve Medicare (albeit in a new form) for future generations, would not be approved by Rand, who was a libertarian absolutist.

    • 23 August 2012 2:19 pm

      Ryan gave money to charity good for him! The idea of charity is something that Ayn Rand specifically objected to, so he is being a bit inconsistent. I’ll take that as a positive sign.

      Now, I am not equating Ryan to Hitler, but I am about to use Hitler as an example because I believe that we will probably both agree that what Hitler did was evil.

      I’ve been told that Adolf Hitler was very gentle and kind to his dog, and that once he saw Eva Braun he never looked at another woman. Those are both good things to say about him, but they do not make up for what else you can also say about him.

      Paul Ryan has in the past publicly advocated a Randian philosophy that is explicitly anti-Christian. It is diametrically opposed to Christian morality. I find it to be utterly repugnant, and cannot fathom how anyone else who professes, and in the least way understands, Christian faith does not find it repugnant as well.

      • 25 August 2012 7:43 am

        See, I could be wrong, but I doubt Ryan would describe himself as an Objectivist. If so, that would undoubtedly represent a pretty major conflict with his Catholicism (I am not sure that would keep me from voting for him though–policy and practicality count for a lot with me).

        I think Ryan, like many people I’ve heard of and a few I’ve met, finds the novels of Ayn Rand inspiring for the defense of the individual against the government. She defends individual human achievement against craven political correctness and the self-righteous attempts to force the spreading of wealth. She and others have argued repeatedly that the motivating self-interest of individual businessmen and capitalists actually benefits society by driving innovation, the creation of cheaper goods and services, and consequently more and more wealth. I think it is a defensible position to argue that government ought to operate according to a more utilitarian and libertarian code of ethics that resists interference and has as small a welfare state as possible, while maintaining a belief in a Christian code of ethics for an individual or family that emphasizes generosity and altruism. Jesus tells us to remember the poor, but he doesn’t tell us to make sure the government takes care of the poor for us. Basically, I think Catholicism and small government with an emphasis on human liberty are compatible philosophies, and I think that’s what Ryan would emphasize as his belief system.

        You seem to find any hint of approval for Ayn Rand as tantamount to a rejection of Christianity, but I don’t think it’s that simple. There are plenty of major thinkers whose ideology is anti-Christian and offensive, but whose writings have defined and influenced our world in countless ways and cannot be merely dismissed for one aspect of their work. Rand is not perhaps in the first rank of these thinkers, but her stirring polemics against collectivist systems and for the rights of the individual to keep what he has earned have influenced millions over the past 50 years to turn to the right on political and economic issues and it would be unwise to discount this entirely.

  3. 23 August 2012 5:46 am

    “Can you be a true Christian, or even a good American, if you vote people into public office whose views on the poor are based on a blatant refusal of Christ’s teaching?”

    There’s a Biblical commandment that says “Thou shalt not kill,” and Jesus taught to love your enemies and turn the other cheek when they slap you. Presumably then, those who fight in wars refuse Christ’s teaching, and thus are not good Americans and should not be elected to office, in your opinion? Good Americans are all complete pacifists?

    • 23 August 2012 2:36 pm

      You have a very underdeveloped understanding of what the church teaches. True, one of the Ten Commandments says “Thou shalt not kill”, in some places translated as “Thou shalt not commit murder. You can also find in Scripture though that Jesus acknowledged the legitimate use of force. He told the apostles, “let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one” (Luke 22:36). How are these passages to be reconciled?

      In broad terms, Christians must not love violence. They must promote peace whenever possible and be slow to resort to the use of arms. But they must not be afraid to do so when it is called for. Evil must not be allowed to remain unchecked. The church has a very well developed doctrine addressing when the use of military force is justifiable and when it is not. Perhaps you might want to check it out.

      Any philosophy that specifically rejects the care for the poor, widows, and orphans though is anti-Christian. A person cannot be a true Christian, and a true Objectivist at the same time. Ayn Rand would agree with me on that.

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