Is Selfishness the New Virtue?

The whole Ayn Rand thing at best confuses me and at worst devastates me.My Dad used to say – referring to certain life choices – “Maybe it’s a good way to live but it’s a mighty poor way to die.”  He believed that poor life choices resulted in a straight shot to hell in the afterlife.  I’m more likely to believe that poor choices can make this life hellish.  The kingdom of heaven begins now and we are called to serve in such a way that God’s will is done now – on earth as it is in heaven.

So, when Christians express appreciation, if not devotion, to the teachings of Ayn Rand, it wrecks me a little bit.  I would rather people be indifferent to Jesus than espouse objectivism.

Ayn Rand:  “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life . . .” (from Atlas Shrugged)

Jesus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (quoting Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18)

17th Century Protestants: Q. 1. What is the chief end of humanity?
A. Humanity’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy God forever. (from The Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Greed is not good.  Living for myself is wrong.  Money is not the barometer of our virtue.  Following Jesus is the best way to live.  So there.  Call me a fool.

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6 responses to “Is Selfishness the New Virtue?

  1. another thoughtful theological reflection – thanks Jan. Interestingly (to me, at any rate) I’ve found life more meaningful and joyful when I connect with something important that’s bigger than myself. It’s similar to the richness I find when I cross borders and immerse myself in things that aren’t WASP, middle class, male, north american.

  2. You know whose philosophy is surprisingly similar? The Church of Satan‘s.

    Satanism is fundamentally about the supremacy of the individual over all others. Christianity is regarded as a perversion of that value, as it is self-sacrificial at its core.

    You don’t hear many conservatives trumpeting the values of selfishness as such – they prefer to talk of Ayn Rand and individualism and whatnot. But selfishness is indeed what it fundamentally boils down to…and that is fundamentally satanic in its self-glorifying nature.

    • A little strong Tom in that I hesitate to call those who disagree with me Satanic or evil.

      I’d rather say that both those who disagree with me and I have the same issue in that neither of us know the mind of God. But . . . I can’t for the life of me find anything Rand-ian in Jesus’ teachings.

      • I agree that it’s unhelpful to condemn individuals as evil/racist/homophobic/classist/etc. That just causes people to draw lines in the sand and take their side. But I do know from personal experience how valuable it is for others to point out to me that I am participating in evil/racism/homophobia/classism/etc.when I do XYZ. So I’m not interested in maligning individuals as evil or satanic, especially on the basis of agreement with you or me.

        But I do think that the broader concept of selfishness as inherently evil – which even the Church of Satan acknowledges, studies and celebrates! – is a very important consideration for people of faith in particular. What that means for me is not that we can point fingers at individuals and call them evil, but we can honestly name that whenever any of us participates in selfishness, we are participating in evil – and need to be called out, even/especially if we endeavor to be loving and good people!

  3. There isn’t anything Randian in Jesus’ teachings. However, Rand can be divvyed up between her selfishness screed and her radical libertarianism, which then falls out to light economic and social norm regulation. That latter part actually transitions successfully into government policy and can result in progress and wealth creation that benefits all.

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