On Materialist Ideologies

You know there’s this materialist philosopher who wanted to overturn Christianity. Yet weirdly, decades after this philosopher’s death many Christians clamour for this anti-Christian ideology to be imposed. I am of course talking about Ayn Rand, who were you expecting? Marx? Sully has the money quote from Joe Carter on Ms. Rand:

“[T]o be a follower of both Rand and Christ is not possible. The original Objectivist was a type of self-professed anti-Christ who hated Christianity and the self-sacrificial love of its founder. She recognized that those Christians who claimed to share her views didn’t seem to understand what she was saying.

Many conservatives admire Rand because she was anti-collectivist. But that is like admiring Stalin because he opposed Nazism. Stalin was against the Nazis because he wanted to make the world safe for Communism. Likewise, Rand stands against collectivism because she wants the freedom to abolish Judeo-Christian morality. Conservative Christians who embrace her as the “enemy-of-my-enemy” seem to forget that she considered us the enemy,”

There is this sort of temptation by the Christian followers of this sour little woman to wave away her almost Nietzschean spite for Christianity and say, “yes, yes, well her economics are sound and so we can pick out the parts we like.” Curiously though, the same Rand apologists usually like to say that any aspect of liberal political thought or socialism or the social gospel are all corrupted because somewhere in there Marx is lurking (or Rousseau or maybe Mill) and they were all apparently a bunch of filthy materialists and this sort of “original sin” of materialism corrupts any leftist approach to economics or social justice. In the extreme I see that Craig Carter uses “cultural Marxism” (whatever that means) as a sort of catch-all for anything to the left of Goldwater he finds distasteful. Why does Rand get a free pass? Why do so many Christian conservatives nod in approval if someone like Paul Ryan says how Rand has been such a great influence on him?

Now one might reply that communism was shown as bankrupt in the 20th C. (even though no one today is advocating for a return to 20th. C communism). Again though, this is not the case all these other positions I have mentioned. No. On the right these are not permissable, irrespective of their actual success or failure, simply because of their alleged atheistic cores. The same thing then must surely apply to Rand. The same thing must also apply to the nakedly utilitarian calculation that forms Henry Hazlitt’s thesis about economics (the greatest benefit for the majority over the long term) since I recall that Mill wasn’t exactly a Christian thinker.

So what’s the solution here, it seems unlikely that we can cast aside the last 300 years of political thought, there is just not a way that we Christians can un-know it. But there should be a reckoning that we need to dial back this sort of “who is more materialist?” business to a zero-level where we acknowledge that, for better or worse, a lot of thinkers who influenced us were not Christian and indeed frequently anti-Christian. The early church was able to sort through the fact that many of them had studied the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle and so on, we can do the same thing.