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Bishop Little on Ayn Rand’s influence in his life

Bishop Little on Ayn Rand’s influence in his life

The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana, reflects on Ayn Rand’s influence in his life beginning in his teen years.

It is interesting throughout.

One passage:

Rand challenged me to reject sloppy thinking, to apply reason meticulously, not least when dealing with culturally mandated assumptions. But that very commitment to reason gave me tools that led, much to my surprise, to a critique of Objectivism itself. The unseen Reality to which Plato pointed made sense not simply as an alternative way of seeing the world, but also under the test of reason.

Indeed, that very test points to God himself. The order and complexity of creation, the fact, as Lewis notes in Mere Christianity, that there seems to be a moral law with a claim upon human beings (“right and wrong as a clue to the meaning of the universe,” he calls it), all stand upon the foundation of the firm application of reason. Rigorous thought can set the stage for faith and demonstrate the reasonableness of the Christian claim that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. While reason cannot, unaided, present the fullness of Christian truth, it can support and undergird it.


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I found +Little’s piece rather stomach-turning (but perhaps not surprising, considering where it was published).

What +Little calls “sloppy thinking”, I call “cognizant of complexity.”

And what he calls “Objective Truth”, I call “simplistic solipsism—quite possibly coercive.”

The whole Josh McDowell-type “Christ is Liar, Madman or Messiah” ultimatum? Really? That schtick works great on teenagers (getting them to answer an altar call!). I really expect MORE from an Episcopal bishop.

Compare to what AA calls a “Dry Drunk”: is +Little not a Christian (?) Randian?

[I don’t know +Little, and he may be a very fine bishop, as a pastor and priest. But teacher? Ahem…]

JC Fisher

Richard E. Helmer

Glad to see this piece! It further fleshes out the thoughts that had me going in the article I wrote for Daily Episcopalian around Easter.

Michael Russell

Bishop Little’s article is well worth reading in its entirety. For those who want to know more about Rand I suggest reading “Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right” by Jennifer Burns. Whether or not you like Rand, this is an well written political biography.

Bishop Little is correct in noting that Rand taught a lot of people how to think logically, but her entire work, as the Bishops suggests is finally monstrous in its celebration of self absorption, and Ethic of Selfishness.

But just as discovering new premises can lead one from Rand to Christ, so can new premises lead people from one set of “objective truths” to another. Objective truth, one might say, is in the mind’s eye of the beholder. This is not a post modern philosophical statement, but a biological and quantum reality. Plato’s Cave, it turns out, is a pretty good description of how we apprehend the outside world.

I learned to observe and think from Arthur Conan-Doyle (via Sherlock Holmes) and Edgar Allan Poe. I suspect we can all name the person who taught us to think logically or illogically.

In our present moment it is Rand’s Ethic of Selfishness and the glorification of the “creatives” that has seized a significant portion of the public sphere. It is a completely predatory spirit that diminishes all people Rand would have called “second handers” people who cannot will for themselves but follow others. That includes every worker in the universe! Oddly, though she taught the heroic destiny of humanity theme that Bishop Little mentions, she surrounded herself with “second handers” and came to despise her own followers for following her! No one in her cult was allowed to interpret Objectivism, they were only allowed to point people to her. The discovery of her long term affair with Nathaniel Branden, which she essentially demanded that their spouses accept, nearly destroyed her movement. Branden became a self-help guru here in California!

That her own path of selfishness lead to isolation and incredible pain for many in her inner circles should be a cautionary tale for those who want replace one set of objective truth premises with another. As the current Pew study discovers, those most certain the possess the only true objective truth of Christ are seeing their influence wane. They like Rand are in denial about the reason for this. They blame it on secularism instead of listening to all the people who have told them that their objective reality of Christ is mean spirited and narrow. And like Rand, in the end “We have the truth” is objectively unconvincing.

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