Wise Fool

Recently a Tea Party associate urged me to support the movie Atlas Shrugged. Having read the book twice, I declined. Let me explain why.

While I agree with the book that free enterprise and personal responsibility are the best political system known to men, offering unparalleled opportunity and freedom, I differ from Rand who thinks such a system can work outside of a spiritual framework.

No novel I have read better displays the need for personal responsibility; it perfectly captures the intellectual subterfuge and whining shame of mankind when they depart from a spirit of self-reliance. Years before the Clinton town hall meeting, Ayn Rand showed what it would look like: “It took us just one meeting to discover that we had become beggars—rotten, whining, sniveling beggars, all of us, because no man could claim his pay as his rightful earning…he had to claim miseries, because it’s miseries, not work that had become the coin of the realm.”

Atlas Shrugged has dozens of good lines like that. Here are a few:

  • “They professed to love him for some unknown reason and they ignored all the things for which he could wish to be loved.”
  • “She felt a strange evasiveness in the air of the room, in every speech, in every argument, as if the real reason of their decision was never stated, but clear to everyone but herself.”
  • “‘Francisco, what’s the most depraved type of human being?’ ‘The man without a purpose.'”
  • “It’s an interesting characteristic of epochs such as ours that people begin to be afraid of saying the things they want to say…” (But read Psalm 12 and see that this epoch has always been.)
  • “When you violate the rights of one man, you have violated the rights of all.”
  • “The essence of that modern language, which he had learned to speak expertly, was never to let oneself or others understand anything down to the root.”

Yet for all her good lines, what does Rand have to offer? Hear her tell it: “There’s nothing of any importance in life—except how well you do your work. Nothing. Only that. Whatever else you are, will come from that. Its the only measure of human value.” Sounds like Ecclesiastes, except Solomon was wise enough to add, “But know for all these God will bring you into judgment.” And Solomon knew that it is better to be a living dog than a dead lion. Because made in the image of God, a human being has intrinsic worth. If Rand’s version is true, where does this leave the person who, because of physical or mental debility, cannot work? Euthanasia?

How empty such a life! As Non-Absolute dies with the bullet hole in his chest, all Hank Reardon can do is kiss his forehead. He tells the dying man that spirit means something, that man is more than chemicals. But what? Rand cannot put her finger on it. Certainly nothing mystical or heavenly! Such things she deplores.

All through her book, Rand sneers at Christianity without naming it. She maligns sacrifice (“I don’t accept sacrifices and I don’t make them”), mysticism, original sin, “pie in the sky.” In spite of her noble talk about truth and courage, she herself never finds the courage in her novel to name the Christ or the Christianity she seeks to demolish.

And she is inconsistent in other ways. The very virtues she exalts in John Galt—his power to draw men to himself, his silence under accusation, his courage when tortured—Jesus exhibited on a greater scale. And if John Galt did everything as a true exchange of value, did not Jesus do so even more, going to the cross for the joy set before him? As I see it, Jesus says to us what Hank Reardon might say to a potential worker, “I’ll give you a chance because I need someone reliable; let’s see what you do with it.”

At the end of Atlas Shrugged (the book), society has broken down; in a sense, the movers and shakers have won; but it is a phyrric victory. They are huddled in a secret valley under camoflage netting in the western deserts of the United States, utterly incongruous and impotent. The fact is, materialistic atheism always takes a people to the same place: economic and spiritual misery. Whether materialsm is couched as Marxist ideology or in capitalist realism, it robs a people of their soul. It robs them of their freedom, their morality, their rationality.

Hank Reardon says at his trial, “I refuse to apologize for my ability—I refuse to apologize for my success—I refuse to apologize for my money. If this is evil, make the most of it.” The problem is he doesn’t recognize where he got his ability, his resources, anything. He is Nebuchadnezzar lifted up with pride. He is the sinner of Romans 1 who refuses to give God thanks and loses his reason. And that is the flaw of Rand’s system, her particular avoidance of reality.

Ayn Rand wrote “Any refusal to recognize reality, for any reason whatever, has disastrous consequences.” I fear that it will be so for her eternally. Had she been a Christian, what power she could have exerted to make people understand reality. As it is, God’s word remains unchanging: the fool has said in his heart there is no God (Psalm 14). For all her brilliance, Ayn Rand was a fool.

Books Authored or Co-authored by Dan

The Archbishop Who Killed a Man.
Anecdotes from Christian history.
Doctors Who Followed Christ.
36 notable Christian doctors.
Scientists of Faith.
48 notable scientists who were Christians.
The Earth Will Reel.
A study of the Bible’s Geological prophecies. Revised 2017.
Great Women in Christian History.
37 women who changed their world.
This Day in Christian History.
366 days in Christian history.