No Contest

The Rev. Denise Giardina of Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Charleston, WV, has come out with a snide little sermon “matching” the views of a writer (Ayn Rand) against those of a largely legendary figure (Jesus), one of His followers (St. Timothy) and a comedian (Stephen Colbert). The reverend claims to be staging something that she calls, with classic priestly selectivity, a “smackdown” between Ayn Rand and the Bible. It’s actually nothing of the sort, but let that pass.

Now, I should say that my enthusiasm for Ms. Rand is somewhat qualified, and I thought that some of the ‘Going Galt’ chatter of a year or so back was distinctly overwrought. Nevertheless, let’s just say that if anything is likely to increase my admiration for the sage of Murray Hill it is nonsense of the type apparently now being spouted from the pulpit of Saint John’s Episcopal, Charleston, WV, but read the sermon and judge for yourselves.

Hat-tip: Andrew Sullivan, who is using this sermon to attack Newt Gingrich for hypocrisy. Presumably Mr. Gingrich has being saying something favorable about Ayn Rand or the new Atlas Shrugged movie. No big deal if so; the former Mr. Speaker is a carnival barker these days and the show must go on and on and on…

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11 Responses to No Contest

  1. Acilius says:

    I’m always surprised by writers who are unfair to Ayn Rand. You’d think from reading her critics that Rand constructed a logically airtight system, since they resort to such desperate avenues of attack.

  2. Roger H. says:

    I’ve never read Rand. Never had the desire to and likely never will. Spengler, on the other hand, I found illuminating.

  3. Don Kenner says:

    This is one of the selling points for Rand’s philosophy: her critics are generally nuckin’ futz. After all, if your critics at least include people who genuinely disagree and can express this by gathering reasons and evidence and expressing themselves without hyperbole, then a real debate is on. But Rand has the absolute worst critics.

    Witness the reviews of the movie which include 1) Rand’s admiration for serial killers; 2) Rand causing a mother to abandon her children (because of her father’s selfishness!); 3) Rand’s philosophy would mean that one cannot save a drowning child without committing a “metaphysical crime.”

    Everyone needs some good critics. Rand has not been fortunate in that respect.

  4. Polichinello says:

    The preacher chick’s main point is that Rand’s philosophy is incompatible with Christian ethics. Wow. What a revelation. Whodda thunk it?

    In fairness to her, though, a lot of people touting Rand do overlook Rand’s disgust with Christian ethics. Malkin, Hannity, Gingrich and others elide this unavoidable face when they talk about Rand’s prophetic abilities.

    OT chauvinist rant: God, who would want to go to some church service run by a broad? It’s bad enough getting hectored by a smarmy guy, but volunteering to get nagged by a chick every week? No thanks.

  5. Roger H. says:

    In general I am of the opinion that most conservative commentators aren’t worth the bandwidth that their work was transmitted over. Among the few whom I consider worth reading is Charleston , S.C.’s Jack Hunter. His current video essay on Atlas is interesting:

    Though I confess that I’m still not much inclined to read Rand at this point in life…

  6. Nemo says:

    Two things:

    1) Both the Rev. Glardina and Andrew S. seem to think that 1 Timothy was written BY St. Timothy. Of course it was (supposidly) written by St. Paul TO St. Timothy. For an Episcopal priest to make this mistake is really appalling. (Of course, many doubt that the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were actually written by St. Paul, but that is another story.

    2) The linked NT Sun article mentions the story about the Library of Congress/ BOMC “poll” about the influence of Ayn Rand. Check out the linked article which explains what this urban legend is really based on and also offers some delightfully snarky comments on Rand’s followers:

  7. J. says:

    While not generally in agreement with Ayn Rand’s philosophy of egocentric capitalism, I would agree many misread her as a sort of demonic nihilist and don’t really understand her core ideas, which were Aristotelian, though of a rather trivial sort.

    As with these idiots from “New Worlds”–

    On one hand, NWs-thug-in-chief “Byronius” considers Rand a “glittering-eyed atheistic sociopath.”
    In the comments below, “Cat eyes” however insists on the “religiosity of “Randians -who Miss Eyes insists “connect personal certainty to dogmatic faith and thus conflate the natural/real (social) worldview with their supernatural/ideal (narcissistic) worldview.” WRONG. Miss Eyes obviously hasn’t even bothered with the Rand Wiki.

    The thug sort of parroted the Wiki summary of Rand’s ideas semi-competently though Miss Rand was hardly “sociopathic.”–Quite cool, rational, actually. While pro-capitalist and virulently anti-union, she did object to the US Military in ‘Nam at one point, and detested the Reaganite moral majority (Ive read she voted for JFK).

    The aged Miss Rand waxed a bit libertarian-moderate at times and quoted the likes of Locke and Jefferson, favorably. Most conservatives haven’t read Rand’s later essays–for one, she argued against the divine right of Kings and all forms of theocracy–to her credit.

    Like most sentimental pseudo-liberals the NW bozos don’t even get her mistakes correct.

  8. Polichinello says:

    While not generally in agreement with Ayn Rand’s philosophy of egocentric capitalism, I would agree many misread her as a sort of demonic nihilist and don’t really understand her core ideas, which were Aristotelian, though of a rather trivial sort.

    It’s pretty hard square the Aristotle of Politics with the Rand of Atlas Shrugged. Her claim to Aristotle might be better described as superficial instead of trivial (I’m not sure how you’re using the term here, to be honest).

    Despite her denials, I do think Whittaker Chambers was right (in an otherwise shameful review of AS) in that she owes a lot to Nietzsche. She also seemed to take the ethic of Karl Marx and simply flip it. Another writer somewhere (I forget who), said that when you read just about any setting description from Atlas Shrugged, the resulting picture in your mind is akin to Socialist Realism, with well muscled workers and farmers moving into the bright uplands of the future utopia.

  9. J. says:

    Rand did admire Nietzsche for a time–I’d say Roark was Nietzschean in a sense– though she finally rejected Nietzsche as anti-rationalist, said she was Aristotelian, and then from 60s on, championed the US-Con, and Lockean ideals, mainly (though I doubt all Lockeans would agree with her praise of industrial capitalism at any cost).

    Rand was more of a political hack than metaphysician, though she tried, I guess. Rand was an empirical realist of a sort–as was Aristotle–though she’s not the complex scholastic sort obviously (can Ari. and Locke be joined? maybe). Aristotle also allowed for a division between strong, aristocratic sorts and the plebes–even in the Politics, did he not. I would agree her reading of Ari. was superficial, but then…at least she read him, allegedly. Yet Aristotle did not approve of usury in any form (finance really). So Im not sure how that anti-usury view in Aristotle squares with AR’s “economics” such as they were.

  10. Polichinello says:

    …can Ari. and Locke be joined? maybe

    It’s been a while since I went through the Two Treatises, but, yes, there’s a vein of Aristotelian thought in Locke, even though he strives to deny it at times. Bertrand Russell argued Locke was something of Thomist in politics. I can’t see that myself, since Aquinas was a monarchist.

    Aristotle also allowed for a division between strong, aristocratic sorts and the plebes–even in the Politics, did he not.

    Oh, yes, but it was a relationship with mutual obligations. The aristocracy had duties, like military service and even charity. Aristotle is famous for saying “Man is a political animal”, which means a rejection of atomism. “Going Galt” was not an option for Aristotle. Compared to that difference in starting points, any disagreement about usury is pretty trivial.

    Now Nietzsche is quite different. The strong have no obligations to the weak. The aphorism about the eagle and the lamb (I forget the cite) make that rather clear. This is closer to Rand than Aristotle, though she’d blush to acknowledge that.

    In fairness to Rand, though, I should note that her admiration of industrial capitalism did not extend to making money unethically. She rejected fraud and deceit, so anyone trying to hustle a dishonest buck in, say, securities exchanges, really wouldn’t be justified in citing her work as a basis for their behavior. This is true in both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

  11. J. says:

    I contend Ayn Rand freaks some people out on a visceral level. It’s not merely due to her ideas–the quasi-Nietzschean glorification of individualism and strength– but also because she was a Russian jew and female (though Rand nee Rosenbaum renounced her jewishness)–exotic, strange, a bit sordid. The phunn with her young protege did not help matters. Nietzsche was quite more extreme, really (recall the Genealogy of Morals, and the praise of the “blond beast”, etc)-

    The rightist moralists hate Rand as do the leftist, multicultural sorts–and there are hints of anti-semitism, and misogyny for that matter in that hatred. As in the case of the New Worlds site linked above–this fundamentalist moron “Byronius” (that it’s a fundie who takes drugs and votes Demo at times doesn’t change matters)–a seething, woman-hating loser and anti-semite glimpses a few pics of the somewhat homely Miss Rand, and his baptist-mormon rage kicks in. It has nothing to do with a rational assessment of her ideas, such as they were.

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