I am a confessing Christian but understand people have a right to their own faith beliefs – or the absence thereof.
My Christian convictions run deep but I do not proselytize. I am a welcoming person and my welcome is inclusive. I take seriously what Jesus said about loving our neighbors and respecting one another. To be my friend does not require you to share my faith or politics (but you should probably like baseball).
I allow this is not the norm for beginning an opinion piece about presidential politics, even here in the Presidio Sentinel, my Here I Stand once a month place, but it’s how I choose to begin, for reasons I hope will be clear.
I allow this is not the norm for beginning an opinion piece about presidential politics but its how I choose to begin, for reasons I hope will be clear.
Mitt Romney, the man who leads the Republican Party against Barack Obama and the Democrats, is not my focus. Paul Ryan, Mr. Romney’s vice presidential running mate, is.
But without Mr. Romney there is no Paul Ryan as the standard bearers of the GOP. So whatever judgment I make of Mr. Ryan, Mr. Romney is culpable.
The first thing one should know about Paul Ryan is not about his family or where he grew up, whether he was athletic or studious, of the girl he married or where he went to college, but a choice he made at the time of his intellectual awakening.
That choice involved a woman named Ayn Rand and a novel she wrote, “Atlas Shrugged”.
Given my age and Mr. Ryan’s I am reasonably certain I knew of Ayn Rand before he did, but unlike him I never, ever, thought Ayn Rand’s ideas worthy of admiration. From my own initial intellectual development I knew she represented almost everything I loathe – self-absorption, arrogance, greed, and worse, was a God denier and someone who viewed people of faith as objects of ridicule and contempt.
As a kid growing up in San Diego I was active in the Church of the Nazarene (evangelical but not fundamentalist), Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade for Christ, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Navigators. At age 27 I joined the Methodist Church out my profound regard for John Wesley, the man who saved England from the blood bath that engulfed France during its revolution (as Prime Minister Disraeli remarked). In time I would become a lay preacher and would be invited to speak and preach more than 100-times in churches representing ten different denominations – from the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, to Capshaw Southern Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama (and two synagogues). I would later become president of the San Diego County Ecumenical Council, an organization of 125-Christian churches.
Every one of those associations represents what Ayn Rand reviled, and deemed its adherents as weak-minded and worse, of weak and sniveling character.
This is the woman Paul Ryan came to apparently wholly embrace and to promulgate her ideas and “virtues” to others (and who, upon election to Congress, gave members of his staff copies of “Atlas Shrugged,” a 1,068-page novel, which at its core is everything that conceptually America isn’t).
This is one of Ms. Rand’s essential beliefs:
“Man – every man – is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.”
Of Ayn Rand and “Atlas Shrugged,” Whittaker Chambers, one of conservatism’s patron saints, would write:
“Randian Man, like Marxian Man, is made the center of a Godless world…Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal.”
Last December, in the Christian season of Advent, Will Willimon, a bishop of the United Methodist Church and author of more than 50-books, wrote this about “Ayn Rand and Christmas”:
“William F. Buckley, a perceptive conservative, had enduring contempt for Rand and her ‘philosophy,’ not only because of his wisdom but because he was a Catholic in a way that Congressman Ryan is not. Buckley knew Rand didn’t just happen to be an atheist. Her views on the danger of government, the sovereignty of the individual, the evil of the family, and the sanctity of self-aggrandizement directly relate to her hatred of God and religion (God as a primitive, silly illusion, and religion, any religion, as “a crutch” used by weak people who can’t cut it in a competitive market). Atheism accounts for Rand in a way that it doesn’t even count in Marx.”
What I find unfathomable is evangelical and fundamentalist Christians endorsing for president a political ticket that has as its vice presidential candidate, one-heart beat removed from the most powerful office in the world; a man whose core beliefs, as an acknowledged disciple of Ayn Rand, are the antithesis of what Jesus Christ taught and of the life he lived; of failing to understand that one can be a follower of Ms. Rand or Jesus but not both – because her teachings and his are incompatible.
How could that be? Is it because the tax cuts proposed by Mr. Ryan and his Republican colleagues in the House that benefit the wealthy while dismantling programs for the poor have somehow confused evangelical and fundamentalist Christians into believing they trump Matthew 25?
Or how do white evangelical/fundamentalist – and the Romney/Ryan supporters among them are overwhelmingly white – explain their apparent support of a man who endorses the philosophy of a woman, who in her life despised those same evangelical/fundamentalists, while appearing to reject a president and vice president who have testified to their faith in Jesus Christ? (Only Jimmy Carter has made more public confessions of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior than Barack Obama.)
Do I allow that Mr. Ryan has changed his mind? That he has recanted his Objectivist beliefs. That he has moved intellectually beyond Any Rand. That he has come to see her God-denying beliefs as wrong-headed. That he has come to understand his fascination with Ms. Rand and her creed of greed is un-American and unworthy of someone who seeks to serve the public interest of a “community” greater than Janesville, Wisconsin.
Am I willing to allow all of that and to do so out of my Christian obligation to be charitable and forgiving toward others?
But I would ask of Congressman Ryan one thing:
Will you publicly declare you have broken with Ayn Rand and her Gospel of Greed and have asked Jesus to forgive your idolatry of her?
If so, then in that spirit, I embrace Congressman Rand as a brother in Christ.
But until we have that public profession, I will see him as being in conflict with the Middle Class Values and Virtues I was brought up to believe embody the American Way.
Congressman. Ryan, if you haven’t gone to Confession, I urge you, go.
PS: This was originally written a few weeks back and efforts to give it a wider audience, one beyond the Sentinel, have been spotty. I also wondered whether I wanted to say all of this, to again write something that becomes an object of controversy and makes me a target of attacks?
In consequence, I’ve been of various minds and moods.
But then Mitt Romney gave a talk at a private $50,000 dollars per person fundraiser in Florida and proceeded to say that 47 percent of Americans didn’t matter to him, that they, the non-tax paying government entitlement crowd, wasn’t his constituency, that he no chance to win their votes and he was done with them.
Thanks to Mother Jones and a video recording of Mr. Romney’s remarks, we know he said this; so if those on the right, the reality deniers among us, want to say this is all a liberal media conspiracy, the same self-serving bogus argument they always invoke, they will have to account for the fact that not even the Romney campaign denies he said what we heard him say (over and over again by media).
It was a shockingly revealing moment of a man seeking to be the President of the United States of America – and thereby, President of all the People.
And what it reveals about Mitt Romney is a philosophy of life that mirrors Ayn Rand’s basic creed that the only people who matter are those who achieve wealth and achieve it on their own.
How exactly did a self-confessing Catholic like Paul Ryan and a self-confessing Mormon like Mitt Romney become Ayn Rand’s acolytes? How is that possible, unless their understanding of their faith is so shallow they fail to understand what Ayn Rand taught and what Jesus taught are not remotely compatible; or worse, their public posturing of faith is false?
Those questions will be answered decisively November 6, but it’s not the answer either Mr. Romney of Mr. Ryan is looking for.
George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader.