1) Church History Chronicles Death and Tyranny
Objectivists see the Christian affinity for sacrifice as enabling two thousand years of tyranny, slavery, and murder. From the Spanish Inquisition through the Crusades past the chattel slavery of the early American south right through the modern drive toward a global socialism, objectivists like Bernstein see the blood-soaked hands of the Church. As offensive as this may be to Christians, especially conservatives who regard themselves as champions of liberty, a certain degree of introspection remains appropriate.
Accepting that there exists some distance between the Church as a varied history of ecclesiastical institutions and biblical Christianity as a way of life, we must certainly recognize that atrocity has been justified in the name of Christ or by an appeal to alleged Christian principles. An examination of whether objective evils have been truly Christian or merely associated with Christ will have to wait for our review of the debate. Suffice it to say that objectivists and other critics of Christianity are understandably put off by Bible verses taken outside of context, and can hardly be blamed when the same error has been made by professing Christians over the centuries resulting in the atrocities cited.
Going into the debate this week, let us be content to establish that the Christian concept of sacrifice has been leveraged to promote a culture of altruism, which stands opposite the egoism which Rand argued to be man’s proper moral orientation. Again, we must combat connotation and understand that altruism is not merely caring for others and egoism is not merely caring for self. In Rand’s view, altruism is irrationally living for others at the expense of self, and egoism is living intentionally in service of rational long-term self-interest. State imposed redistribution of wealth or charity motivated by unearned guilt is altruistic. Caring for loved ones or charity in service of one’s values is not.
The preceding serves as a primer for this week’s debate between Andrew Bernstein and Dinesh D’Souza entitled “Christianity: Good or Bad for Mankind.” Next week, we will review the points raised throughout the debate and begin an ongoing introspective, both critiquing Christendom and defending Christianity. We will do so by viewing Rand’s moral discoveries through the lens of the Bible. What will emerge is a Christian virtue of selfishness, what Pastor John Piper controversially calls Christian hedonism.
One of the most important things that Walter does in this first part is explain how the Christian and Objectivist world-views differ in how they use terms. “Selfishness,” “Virtue,” “Sacrifice,” “Self-interest” — often times in dialogues and debates with those of opposing philosophical and political ideologies it will come down to arguing over dictionary definitions of terms.
How is it that we can overcome these barriers of language? “Freedom” means one thing to me, “God” means a half dozen things to you, and who’s to say what counts as a legitimate “pursuit of happiness”? In his teaser at the end Walter points the linguistic direction, which is obviously one that I too share — the blending of terms and ideologies.