The Disciples of Ayn Rand and the Disciples of Jesus Christ

There’s a great deal of kerfuffle over Ann Coulter’s article about Samaritan’s Purse physician Kent Brantly, his contracting Ebola in the course of treating it Liberia, his transport to the CDC in Atlanta and the cost associated with the entire process.  Evidently she thinks him insufficiently patriotic to have gone to another place and fight this disease.

  1. I was surprised when our government allowed him to enter the CDC.  Most readers will recall that Samaritan’s Purse is headed by Franklin Graham, whose position relative to the LGBT community is, to say the least, not a happy one.  Given our government’s stance on this (shown by the recent executive order re Federal contractors) their decision to allow Dr. Brantly into the CDC (which is in one of this country’s premier LGBT places) was not a given.  But this is the same group which is enamoured with “gay-free Gaza” Hamas, so go figure
  2. It seems that any time Americans and medical treatment collide, the only thing guaranteed is an outsized bill.  I find this as frustrating as Ann Coulter but this is endemic in our system, one where meaningful cost controls have never found their way into the medical system.  But trashing Brantly on account of that seems unfair.

In any case Coulter’s rant about how Brantly should have stuck to these shores—couched in terms of his calling—is absurd.  Since when did Ann Coulter understand God’s calling for Brantly’s life better than he does?  Churches on both sides of the Atlantic have sent missionaries to die in Africa since the early nineteenth century; there’s nothing new about this.  If Brantly had been called to minister in Hollywood (and there are those who are) God would have made provision for him to do so.

I doubt seriously that Coulter’s objections to Brantly’s mission or venue are really based on her idea of his calling, or anyone else’s.  What they show is a tension in American conservatism between those who, in the “God and country” scheme of things, put God first and those who put country first—or who have any place for God at all.

It is an Evangelical conceit that the United States was founded on purely Judeo-Christian principles by people who explicitly followed them.  While those principles certainly informed our Founding Fathers to a far greater degree than they do to our elites now, those of us who are products of environments where one could be very patriotic without being very Godly know that this is just that—a conceit.  Many have gone before us serving this country without the relationship with God that Christians would like to see.

In the past the natural home of those who wanted to tone down the God thing was the Lodge.  But the Lodge isn’t what it used to be.  Today we have the disciples of Ayn Rand, whose influence on American conservatism is considerable.

Rand, however, was no more of a Christian than Margaret Sanger, and her purely materialistic “objectivism” is inimical to a faith whose Founder called the rich young ruler to sell all and follow Him.  In an age where the government is being transformed into a giant patronage scheme to keep those on the left entrenched in power, it’s easy to confuse Christian charity—and the sacrifice that goes with it—with the government’s efforts.  Part of the problem is that many Christians—especially those on the “religious left”—can’t tell the difference.  But it’s there.  Federal Government generosity is no more Christian than Rome’s “bread and circuses”.  The church in that time knew the difference and we should now.

But just because Christian churches do what we used to call “benevolent” work and the government does it too doesn’t make it wrong.  Rand called for a world where it was everyone for him or herself.  And super-patriots, putting country before God, have the idea that we should stick with the home front, probably not in charity but (like Coulter suggests for Brantly) in material success for ourselves.

The African work, for its part, has been a successful one.  Although I’ve said more than once that the greatest revival in human history is taking place in China, in many ways the crown jewel of missionary effort is sub-Saharan Africa.  We’ve seen the fruits of this in the Anglican Communion, much to the distaste of the First World Left.  And, just to make sure Rand’s disciples are paying attention, we are seeing signs of a continent (especially in East Africa) which is throwing off European-inspired socialism for real economic opportunity and growth, with the Chinese the main beneficiaries.  In the past the West sent business people and missionaries to Africa; today and tomorrow both go the other way.

But role reversal in colonialism isn’t any easier than it is for elderly parents.  Coulter worries about the state of this country.  Churches, however, are justified in putting their efforts in places where the need is greatest and the receptivity to the Gospel goes along with it.  A big problem with the Christian witness in this country is that it is sowed among a people who combine a self-sufficient idea (which explains the popularity of Rand among the conservatives) with “egos inflatable to any size”.  That makes for a tough mission field.

Christians, the only true internationalists in the mix (whether they realize it or not) are reminded again by pieces like this that they have only one true country.  Jesus Christ is the light of the world, not the United States and certainly not Ayn Rand or any other materialistic philosopher (and that includes Karl and Fred, too).

If those on either side of the political spectrum don’t like that reality, well, Our Lord didn’t promise popularity either.

8 Replies to “The Disciples of Ayn Rand and the Disciples of Jesus Christ”

  1. Don,

    I think you’re into poor psephology when you call government a huge patronage machine for the entrenchment of the left.

    The New Deal built the suburban middle class that elected Eisenhower and later Nixon. That same Eisenhower passed the Farm Bill, labelled “socialism” by the Ezra Taft Benson who carried it out, which is the sinew of the Republicans’ grasp of the Red States.

    Dubya Bush, a preacher of the Republican doctrine that government buys votes with the voters’ own money, pushed through the midnight deal to give free pharmaceuticals to the AARP section of his base. In Republican doctrine you don’t just buy the votes, you also buy the cash donors. In the case of the Bush payoff to Big Pharma this meant forbidding price negotiation by the buyers. that same US US taxpayer.

    There is a general theme here: the American right says that government buys votes, and they reinforce the claim with their own actions. They call affirmative action a way of advancing the incompetent, and appoint Clarence Thomas. They say elections are stolen, and, well, Dubya Bush again. They call government inefficient, and in state after state set out to prove it.

    On Ayn Rand, of course, Paul Ryan would never have anything to do with a writer who says that Jesus was a socialist. Paul Ryan assures us of this. If you thought he was handing out copies of her books to his staff, well, beware your lyin’ eyes.

    On the excellent Dr. Brantly, all our prayers are with him and his associate. (You post the first good thing I have ever read about Franklin, the little, Graham.) I think the news media covered his return to the US decently, a rare event, both reporting the solid safety measures by the CDC and interviewing his Samaritan’s Purse friends who laid out what they see, soundly, as his Christian view of duty.

    Between the two they set the context for the quite unnecessary debate which erupted as soon as the egregious (Republican Presidential perennial) Donald Trump and his ilk were able to get their mouths moving.

    Well done Samaritan’s Purse!

    -dlj.

    1. The New Deal (and specifically Social Security) had the intended result: it became the “third rail” of American politics that the Republicans couldn’t touch. Ditto with Medicare. I can’t tell you how many times Democrats “waved the bloody shirt” of their opponents “gutting” Social Security just before an election. It’s a large reason for the forty year run the Democrats had over the House.

      I really think that World War II had more to do with the unique conditions of the 1950’s and 1960’s than the New Deal.

      The fact that George W. Bush took a leaf from this opponents’ playbook shouldn’t obscure who wrote the playbook in the first place.

      I was mindful of your recent swat at Franklin Graham when writing this piece.

    1. Let me see if I understand this.

      Franklin Roosevelt gets Social Security through, and it’s “to provide income for our elders”.

      George W. Bush gets the prescription drug benefit through, and it’s “pushed through the midnight deal to give free pharmaceuticals to the AARP section of his base”. Your health system didn’t have this lacuna, why should ours?

      As far “the Bush payoff to Big Pharma” is concerned, that criticism can be levelled at Obamacare. The origin of both was in the Hillarycare debacle of 1993-4. That should have been passed by all rights, given the political climate at the time (and the fact that the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress). But Hillary and her “team” piddled around too long and and the health care colossus mobilised to defeat the bill. The message the politicos on both sides was clear: you have to placate them to some extent to get anything passed. But we have a system where cost controls are not meaningful, as I have lamented before.

      I try to be sparing in using the H-word, but my position is consistent. They’re both acts of patronage, from the standpoint of those who grant them. Yours is not.

  2. Don,

    P.S. As I recall it, my response to Graham’s statement was one of pleasant surprise. Nothing further was intended, then or now.

    Given his record, of course, surprise is unavoidable.

    -dlj.

  3. Don,

    Agreed wholeheartedly on your criticism of Obamneycare: it’s a welfare program for insurance companies. Social Security and Canadian tax-payer payments of the public-private medical system both get by on expenses of 0.5% of throughput — yet the Romney Plan is said to be “controlling” expenses by restricting the insurance companies to25% add-on, 20% of throughput, for their rake-off. Unconscionable!

    On the Bush Pharmacare program, my criticism is that it does not negotiate prices. I have no strong position one way or the other on extending aid to the old — though I note that marginal propensity to invest increases monotonically with the age of cohorts. There is no blip of any kind at age 65, so we aren’t on the rocks as a group.

    Net net and overall we’re doing OK, so it’s probably about time to tax Social Security receipts as income. This would be troublesome, as it would require explaining to Congress that Social Security is neither a vested insurance program nor a Ponzi scheme. It is a redistributive income scheme, as it should be.

    Many in Congress, in a variety of ways, have made careers out of pretending not to understand either point…

    -dlj.

    1. Actually, higher income people do pay taxes on their Social Security.

      It may be hard to explain to Congress that Social Security isn’t a Ponzi scheme–after all, they made it one!

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