By Joe Parko
A “We the People” columnist recently wrote that the Republican federal budget bill that gives tax breaks to rich and takes away programs that help the poor, children, the elderly and the sick is contrary to the teachings of Jesus. A “Stumptalk” columnist responded with a letter to the editor that declared that as a Christian he would see to the needs of the poor and the sick and that government had no business helping these people. This exchange of views gives us a clear idea of how differently people see the relationship between religion and government. Some people see Christianity as a purely personal religion that has nothing to do with the world while others view Christianity as the way to redeem not only themselves but also our world and our government.
Our “Stumptalk” columnist obviously takes the first approach. His brand of Christianity is strongly anti-government and is based on the idea that people should take care of each other without the need for government help. I would ask him if he is ready to provide a lifetime pension for all of his retired or disabled neighbors? Is he ready to pay the medical bills for all of his sick neighbors who don’t have insurance? Is he ready to give a monthly check to all of his neighbors who have lost their jobs? Is he ready to loan his money to all of his neighbors’ children who are bound for college? In Cumberland County alone we are talking about many thousands of men, women and children.
Those Christians who say that government has no role in helping people are simply fooling themselves. It is a fantasy to believe that voluntary giving could somehow replace government assistance for the millions of Americans who need financial assistance. Providing canned goods, used clothing and an occasional check to charity cannot replace our tax dollars which is the price we pay to live in a decent society. The agreement we have with each other in America is that we tax each other in order to help each other. This is the glue that holds our nation together.
What accounts for the hatred of government expressed by some Christians? Other than a selfish desire to not pay taxes that helps others, it seems that many of these Christians have allowed their faith to be subverted by the radical writings of the Russian-born atheist, Ayn Rand. Rand has become the darling of many Tea Party Christians because of her hostility to government. There is even a low-budget movie of her novel “Atlas Shrugged” that is being aggressively marketed to Tea Party members. Her novels celebrate a selfish individualism that cares nothing for the less fortunate. She divides society into two classes―those who produce and those who don’t. According to Rand, your value as a human being is totally dependent upon your ability to produce, which is completely at odds with the Christian emphasis on the absolute value of every person regardless of his or her economic or social status. Rand despises efforts to aid society’s less fortunate, whom she believes deserve to suffer. Rand’s message is not only anti-government. It is anti-Christian.
The philosophy, such as it was, which Rand laid out in her novels and essays was a frightful concoction of hyper-individualism, power-worship and a sociopathic egotism. She opposed all forms of government programs such as Social Security, unemployment insurance, aid for the disabled and handicapped, the regulation of industry and Wall Street, and any government provision for roads or other infrastructure improvements.
Her view of economics starkly divided the world into a contest between "moochers" and "producers" with the small group making up the “producers” generally composed of the spectacularly wealthy and the titans of industry. The "moochers" were more or less everyone else who labor as drones in the corporate beehive. On the level of personal behavior, the heroes in Rand's novels commit borderline rape, blow up buildings, and dynamite oil fields — actions which Rand portrays as admirable and virtuous fulfillments of her characters' personal will and desires as super humans. Ordinary people are worthless according to Rand and must accept the will of their superiors. Her early diaries gush with admiration for people like William Hickman, a serial killer who raped and murdered a young girl. Rand admired him because he showed no regard for "the necessity, meaning or importance of other people.” For good measure, Rand denigrated Native Americans as "savages" going so far as to say they had no rights and that Europeans were right to take North American lands by force. She expressed horror that taxpayer money was being spent on government programs aimed at educating "subnormal children" and helping the handicapped. Needless to say, when Rand told Mike Wallace in a 1953 television interview that altruism was evil, that selfishness is a virtue, and that anyone who succumbs to weakness or frailty is unworthy of love, she meant it.
Ayn Rand is the complete opposite of Jesus. Everything that Rand says contradicts what Jesus told us in the Gospels. There is no better example of the saying that politics makes for strange bedfellows than this weird mixture of Rand’s radical ideas combined with Christianity. How do some Christians justify their idolization of an atheist who regards compassion as evil and selfishness as the pinnacle of human values? When hatred of government becomes your central focus, the Christian message is lost. You cannot serve both God and Ayn Rand.