Where Ayn Rand Went Right (Prophets and Bullies)

We must call evil “evil.”

We must have the courage to speak up.
We must not give evil the sanction of our silence.

Now, I’m no Objectivist. I’ve talked about where Atlas Shrugged went off the rails.

And unlike former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, I don’t think Objectivism is compatible with Christianity. But if Balaam could learn from a donkey, surely we can be humble enough to learn from a mid-century social darwinist.

But the truth is, it is far too easy to let things slide, either to keep the peace, or because we don’t want to damage our favored candidate’s chances, or because we just don’t want to make a fuss.

But evil grows best in silence and darkness.

I truly believe that we must start within ourselves, with the beams in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3).  Otherwise, we become hypocrites, whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27). And we must temper our boldness with compassion and empathy, lest we become cruel ourselves.

This means we must have the courage to call out the people in power, not pick on minorities and the marginalized just because they’re easy targets. THAT is the difference between the prophet and the bully. And THAT is the difference we must never forget.

But we must take hold of the courage to speak up. We must call out actions, plans, policies, and institutions. Even if they are popular. Even if they are done “to protect American lives.” Even if we voted for the guy doing them. Especially if we voted for the guy doing them.

We must speak out … even as we remember that the people committing these terrible acts are beloved children of the same God that made and loves us.

A Time to Mourn (a response to John Piper and those who quote him)

A time to weep a time to laugh a time to mourn a time to dance ecclesiasties 3:4

 

 

The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  I’m writing this on the Monday after the most terrible primary school massacre in American history, after a mentally ill young man went to his mother’s school, killed her, several adults, and at least twenty young children.

This is a time to mourn.

Not a time to score Calvinism points by hammering away about God’s sovereignty.

Not a time to remind us that this massacre is nothing compared to the greatest crime, the crucifixion of Jesus (which was also God’s plan from before the foundation of the world).

Not the time to explain that every murder is primarily an assault against God, and God’s sovereignty. Not a time to learn “A Lesson for All from Newton” – the lesson being that we should think of this as a warning about our own depravity.

Not even a time to theorize on the question of evil.

But considering what Piper has said in the past about God’s unquestionable right to kill women and children, even commit genocide, maybe this would have been a time for him to take off his theologian hat and simply offer compassion and sympathy as a fellow Christian and human being.

The same could be said for every pastor who cribbed yesterday’s sermon from Piper’s blog posts. We don’t need a lesson. We don’t need deflection away from this event onto an oversimplified, self-contradictory view of the crucifixion. We don’t need the decaf version of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

What do we need? Compassion. Space. The humility to admit that there isn’t an easy answer to this, no matter what the  Reformed bloggers say.

We need what the author of Ecclesiastes offered:

A time to mourn.

 

Why Bother? (Drone Strikes and Child Labor and Factory Farms, Oh My!)

Chickens Stuffed into Battery Cages

Sunday, I had someone ask me what I was trying to accomplish.  She was specifically talking about boycotting factory farmed meat and eggs, but I suppose the same could be said of several of my “causes,” including: Voting for a third party candidate in protest of the two major party candidates use of, and approval of, continuing drone strikes that kill hundreds of Pakistani civilians. Boycotting Hershey’s chocolate until they institute a plan to stop using cocoa farmed using forced child labor. Or, to go way back, making sure the diamond on my wife’s engagement ring was not a conflict (“blood”) diamond.

And I stuttered.  I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer.

What I finally came up with was this (and I hope I can phrase it more eloquently here than I did then).  Many of the evils we encounter in this day and age are systemic.  They are clearly above our pay grade, above the area of influence we have any power over.  And I’m talking real evil here, not policy differences (the argument whether the current welfare system helps or entraps the poor is not “good versus evil.”  Both sides have concerns for those who need assistance, they just don’t agree on how it’s done.  That’s not what I’m talking about).

When I encounter such an evil, when I become aware of it, I have a choice.  I can ignore it, pretend I didn’t see it, and by doing so, give it my support.  Or I can do something, even something small, to push back against it.

So what am I trying to accomplish here?  I want to preserve whatever shreds of my integrity still exist by not being blindly complicit with known evils.  I want to let the people around me know that these things are going on, that people (and animals) are suffering terribly.  I want to let people know that our disposable consumer culture comes with consequences, often for the weakest and most vulnerable.

And most of all, I want to remind myself.

Ayn Rand was wrong about a lot of things, but she was right about at least one.  If you can do nothing else, call evil evil.  Say it.  If you have no power to do anything else, name cruelty.  Name theft.  Name murder.  There is power in just saying the truth.