The late Chuck Colson gave a long overdue Christian response to today's metastasizing influence of Ayn Rand. Hopefully, her influence amongst some Conservative Christians has been spreading only because they are exercising a loyalty to the Conservative brand. Otherwise, we would have a serious crisis of apostasy.
You can see Colson address Ayn Rand's influence in a short video (http://www.colsoncenter.org/twominutewarning/entry/33/17003) and read it in a short article at (http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/17057 ).
Why are Rand's views so dangerous to the Christian and Society? Apart from her atheistic worldview and antagonism towards religion, which is not even a threat to the religious, the extreme selfishness of her philosophy, if carried out with any degree of consistency, will cause societies to implode and Christians to fall away from the faith.
American Christians are already ensnared by the temptation that tells us we can live as selfishly as we want and still be holy as long as what we want is not on a Bible's taboo list. We call this being righteously selfish and have mentioned it in some previous blog posts. Such selfishness denies the cross each person must bear. Such selfishness compels us to love the world rather than God (I John 2:15). According to the Bible, selfishness is a trait we must continually repent of and ask forgiveness for rather than embrace. Enough cannot be said against Rand here and Colson does a good job at showing the poverty of living for riches.
But his quick comment against big government and declaration that there are better ways to critique such a government than through Ayn Rand's philosophy is something that misses the mark. Why? It is because government is like love in that size does not matter, fidelity does. The problems we have with government today is not necessarily because of its size but that its love has been bought and paid for by the financial elite leaving the people abandoned. And that point cannot be repeated enough. Any government becomes an enemy to its people when its devotion can be auctioned to the highest bidder. Whereas religiously conservative Christians, who have reflexively bought the conservative label, want to uncritically prune government's size, the real reason any government fails is that it has lost what is suppose to be its first love.
Unfortunately, the history of mankind gives ample evidence that governmental adultery is the rule rather than the exception. Thus, many conservatives wrongly reason that government should be limited so as to reduce the clear and present danger of any abuse of power which it can pose. But too small a government leaves it impotent to help and protect those in need from predators--whether foreign or domestic. An impotent government fosters, by default, a culture of silence in an age of abuse. This is because power never dissipates when governments shrink, it migrates. So if the centralization of power is the enemy, not only must governments grow smaller, so must all other human institutions especially those that serve as the centers of wealth. And, considering that in a working democracy, the power of government is more answerable to the people than centers of wealth are, our best bet is to always maintain a big enough government.
The key to keeping government on the straight and narrow is to establish and maintain a working democracy. But there are two obstacles here and one of them is us. The first obstacle is that a working democracy can only be established in an economic system that allows workers to find the time necessary to be informed and involved in the democratic process. And the minimal amount of time to remain informed and involved is quite a bit. So, the more time we can put into educating ourselves and watching the actions of our elected officials, the less likely they are to stray. However, our current economic system works against a working democracy because, for too many of us, our jobs require too much time and energy for us to be involved with many other responsibilities. Thus, as our employment consumes more and more of our time, our democracy grows weaker and weaker allowing government to look wantonly at potential paramours, especially those who are big spenders.
As previously mentioned, we are the second obstacle to participating in a working democracy. For the more we ogle our nation's prosperity, the less we embrace the sound principles of self-rule. And presently, too many of us are doing quite a bit of leering. The cost of preferring prosperity to involvement in the democratic process is that we trade control of our own destiny for what's behind the curtain where the lovely Caroll Merill is standing. The prizes waiting for us include: longer and harder hours we have to put in at work, the pleasures we dream of for some, and the rule of others made necessary because somebody has to make the decisions while we either work ourselves to death or frolic. And the more time we spend slaving away or playing with new toys, the more complacent we become with the ever diminishing quality of the rule of others.
So we face a stark choice, our current economic system and pleasures or an enlightened autonomy through a government that is constantly being kept on a short leash by its people. The immediate reward of the former is high while its initial investment is low. In contrast, the long-term reward of the latter can be as high as the lifetime investment. But as fatigue sets in, we become more willing to settle for less and less. This is the challenge that is before us.
And this is also the challenge for movements like Occupy Wall Street. For not only does Occupy Wall Street call for the 1% to change, it calls on all of us to change as well. Will we be willing to spend less time enjoying ourselves in order to make our voices heard in the democratic process? If not, then Occupy Wall Street, and the whole Occupy Movement, will fade into oblivion.
All of this is what makes Chuck Colson's comments on the size of government miss the mark.
|This Month's Scripture Verse:|
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless -- Ecclesiastes 5:10