I’m currently finishing up the last semester in school (I never thought I would say that sentence), and our cohort is in a class on the philosophy of ethics. In doing some research on different theories, I came across Ethical Egoism and its ties to what can only be described as narcissism. Really, the definition of this theory is in its name — it is the theory that each person is to act in their own self-interest. Moreover, I quickly saw who is associated with this theory: Ayn Rand.
Friends, I’m going to talk politics again. This time, though, I’m going to approach it from a different angle. One that will bring us back to the 2008 election season, and my own personal history with Ayn Rand. I felt my eyes get big and a lump in my throat form after I wrote that sentence. I think it is the contrasting comparison to myself; who I was only eight years ago to now.
Four years ago, I wrote about where I stood in the political arena. I exited and had stepped foot into a place that felt, for a lack of a better word, clean. My mindset had since been scrubbed from the previous four years. Now, eight years total later, I have found my political voice again, sometimes fighting to talk in the arena microphone. I have been angry, uncomfortable, flustered, and at times, lost for words. Yet again, I have learned a lot about myself and how I respond to opposing views. But the crazy thing I recognize?
I once stood on the other side.
In political terminology: I was once the trumpeting elephant.
Another secret? I loved Fox News, believing everything they said was truth. Most embarrassing of all? I have also read all of Ayn Rand’s books. I took her philosophy and ate it up. What has been dubbed “Objectivism” is just pretty terminology for looking out only for yourself; it’s a world that survives strictly on a diet of individualism and corporate greed. In many of her novels, the homeless are mocked to get jobs, and the industrious entrepreneurs are the ones placed on a pedestal since they’re the only ones that made something of themselves. It’s such a backwards view, especially from a Kingdom perspective. But I didn’t know that then.
Then, I was fully set on that what I believed was right because it served me and my purpose. My purpose? I don’t know … maybe it was the affirmation of achieving the most subjective, most Americanized thing: Success. Or maybe it was being proud of myself for cheering on waterboarding and torture in the name of war. Again, I don’t know. What I do know is that I was the perfect American citizen, because I agreed and I didn’t ask questions.
That was eight years ago. At one point, I turned off the television, I sat down and had conversations with people within my church (very different than merely filling a seat at a church on any given Sunday), I began seeking out the homeless and shared meals with them, and I asked my two brothers what it was like to be gay and identify as a Christian. What was revealed through others was my own safety net that I cast for myself that was for only myself.
Everything changed when I allowed humanity to enter the equation.
I cut the safety net and I fell. Even in that, I cannot forget the road I had taken before arriving to this conclusion: an abundantly full, successful and meaningful life is one that lives to serve others. That road is still familiar in that I see it in the others’ viewpoints I find myself opposing now; I see that viewpoint as I am fueled with both compassion and anger. Compassion knowing how easy it is to hold those constricting, moral high-ground beliefs, but also anger in seeing racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist viewpoints being found as a common ground for a vast majority of people.
The climate of the 2016 presidential election feels like no other (though, perhaps we will say this again one day), I grieve seeing so many people groups ostracized for their beliefs, skin color and the way in which they conduct their lives. I have read a lot during this time, too. One book in particular (“The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd) has helped shape a perspective I am still digesting, and I hope to one day soon write about. Unlike my post from 2012, I will be voting this round. I have found that I am called to use my voice and privilege to speak for those who cannot.
Until then, I tell myself that if it’s possible for me to overcome the Ayn Rand myth, it is possible for others, too. By that I mean: Jesus, come soon.