Ayn Rand was a Russian-American writer (1905-1982) who developed a philosophical system called Objectivism. Simply, she believed that humans discern reality through their senses; and that the moral purpose of life should be the pursuit of one’s happiness, which she called rational self-interest. For those familiar with it, Objectivism is really just another form of Existentialism. Her system can be seen in her novel Atlas Shrugged and a non-fiction book The Virtue of Selfishness.
A thought entered my mind as I was musing on things during this great season of the Incarnation. What if Ayn Rand was Jesus? See if you get a clue from this quote of where we might be if such were the case: “It is morally proper to accept help, when it is offered not as a moral duty, but as an act of good will and generosity, when the giver can afford it (i.e. when it does not involve self-sacrifice on his part), and when it is offered in response to the receiver’s virtues, not in response to his flaws, weaknesses, or moral failures, and not on the ground of his need as such.” In Atlas Shrugged, the character John Galt took an oath and said, “I swear- by my life and the love of it- that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
Gulp; we are scrooged! If Ayn Rand (or John Galt) was Jesus, it would not be in her rational self-interest to leave the heights of heaven’s glory and enter in the miseries of this life in response to the flaws, weaknesses, and moral failures of the likes of me or you. These, not our virtues, form the ground of our desperate need. She would never have humbled herself to live her life nor give up her life for the sake of ours.
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; Naked come to Thee for dress, helpless look to Thee for grace; Foul I to the fountain fly, wash me Savior, or I die! (Augustus Toplady)
A final thought: how would Ayn Rand’s virtue of selfishness affect our own generosity at Christmas or at any other time? “The Salvation Army bell ringers are out in force at this time of the year, and each day brings mail requests for donations. I have no objection to charity as long as it isn’t viewed as an altruistic duty and isn’t a central issue in one’s life. …Imagine trying to celebrate Christmas by taking altruism seriously. Instead of buying gifts for your children you would be obliged to spend that money on needy children in, say, Bangladesh. Instead of buying yourself a new suit for the holiday, you would have to go around in sackcloth because of your duty toward those who have less than you. Is that what the Christmas spirit is supposed to mean? Does an obligation to sacrifice for the sake of others sound like a prescription for goodwill among people or for resentment and conflict?” (Peter Schwartz, distinguished fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute and author of the forthcoming In Defense of Selfishness: Why the Code of Self-Sacrifice is Unjust and Destructive)
We would become Scrooge! O the beauty of self-sacrifice and generosity! O the Blessedness of the Incarnation!