It’s a tried and true adage that politics makes for strange bedfellows. Often this can lead to creative collaborations and innovative problem solving that is laudable (and too rare) in politics. But there’s a sordid side to this reality as well, when strange bedfellows cross over into unholy alliances, and intellectual honesty and moral integrity are sacrificed for consolidation of power. That is what is happening right now within certain circles in the GOP with the resurgence in popularity of atheist philosopher and patron saint of selfishness Ayn Rand.
The American Values Network (AVN) just released a video highlighting Rand’s teachings and the influence she has had on prominent Republican leaders and conservative pundits. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of House Budget Committee and author of the Republican FY2012 budget, cites Rand as the reason he got in to politics and has said that hers is the “kind of thinking that is sorely needed right now.” Sen. Rand Paul frequently cites Rand’s novels in committee hearings. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has called Atlas Shrugged his “foundation book.” Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News personalities have all also heaped on the praise for her. Here is the problem. For years GOP leaders have purposefully invoked the language of faith and moral values to justify their policies and court religious voters. Ayn Rand’s philosophy stands in direct contradiction to those values and the teachings of Jesus.
It’s not just that Rand is an atheist who considers Christianity’s central narrative of the cross to be “monstrous”. After all, the cross has been called foolishness before and will again. Rand advocates a morality of selfishness and a worldview based on individualism that is fundamentally incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. Where Jesus says, “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” Rand says, “love only those who deserve it.” Where Jesus says, “Give to any that asks of you,” Rand says, “I am challenging the moral code of altruism.” Instead of Jesus’ command to “feed my sheep,” in Rand’s world “men [are] perishing by their attempt to be their brothers’ keeper.” Rand herself has stated in no uncertain terms that one cannot follow her and Christ.
In an attempt to hold together the disparate constituencies of social conservative Christians and libertarian Tea Partiers, Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders have attempted to create an unholy trinity of Ayn Rand, Jesus Christ, and the GOP. But, as the classic Sesame Street song goes, “One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong.” Nothing about the philosophy of Ayn Rand and the teaching of Jesus Christ is like the other. So the GOP must decide – who doesn’t belong? They can’t have both.