"To a Country Club Prison—Go!"
Watergate felon, country-club-prisoner, and Christian ministry operator Chuck Colson lays into Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged on the event of the novel's 50th anniversary. At Town Hall, Colson says:
Rand's inversion of biblical norms had predictable results: Scott Ryan, who wrote a book on Rand's philosophy, called objectivism a "psychologically totalitarian personality cult that allowed Rand . . . to exercise personal power over [her] unwitting victims." He cites, for example, the way she manipulated "her own unemployed and dependent husband" to get him to agree for her to have "an adulterous sexual affair."
We're not talking here about personal flaws or merely human weaknesses. As Ryan puts it, these abuses are "demonstrably connected to Rand's own 'philosophical' premises"-that is, her worldview.
Rand and her followers, you see, lived in a way consistent with her worldview. But you can hardly regard a philosophy that exalts selfishness and condemns altruism as the basis for a good society.
That's why it is so important for us as Christians to understand our Christian worldview and to be able to contend for it, because it gets God right, and it gets human nature right, as well. You can find that worldview in the one book that out-ranked Atlas Shrugged.
As neither a Randian nor a Christian (I'm a recovering Catholic), I don't have a dog (or a god) in this fight, but I'm always wary of extrapolating from philosophy to personal history (even when I like neither, as in the case of Heidegger and his Nazism). As reader Innervista, who put me onto the Colson bit in the first place, notes, the commenters at Town Hall do a pretty good job of taking Colson to the cooler, so why do so here?
Less than a week ago, reason's Brian Doherty told Wall Street Journal readers what today's right should learn from Ayn Rand (Doherty's tidy little piece also explains the title of this post). Read that here. And Contributing Editor Cathy Young took a critical measure of Rand's legacy here. And we compiled evidence of Rand's persistence (the good, bad, and ugly) in pop culture in Rand-O-Rama.
And check out reason's Kerry Howley's devastating critique of Colson's InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI), a prison-fellowship program that is the recipient of many taxpayer dollars. As Howley, then the Burton Gray Memorial Intern, observed:
Even if state-supported Christian conversion could somehow be justified on the basis of results, the University of Pennsylvania study cited by the White House as proof of IFI's success is problematic. The study points to low recidivism rates, which IFI clearly delivers, but fails to provide a control group with similar secular benefits such as mentoring and education. IFI representatives claim that Christian values are central to the program's success, but the claim itself is based on faith.