Screwtape Makes Deep Advance by Surprising Right Flank

By Gary Moore

“Looking for a True Conservative: A conservative, in the best sense,

sees the world and its inhabitants as an interdependent organism…. And,

needless to say, an acceptable conservative is not one who thinks all the

answers are obvious but is a modest person who admits that problems are

not easily solved, that perfection is unattainable in this world and that it is

often necessary to admit mistakes, change one’s mind and start again.”

Paul Johnson


November 16, 2009
Several years ago I managed the retirement plan of Willow Creek Church, the mega-church outside Chicago. When I’d go there, a local evangelical radio station would have me do a show. One show was about how we might help the poor of the US and the world. I mentioned two ideas that I personally utilized. One was Opportunity International, on whose board I have served. It is a Christian micro-enterprise lending ministry also located just outside Chicago. It raises money here so it can make tiny loans of about $200 in the third world so the poor can start businesses. That idea has since boomed.

The other idea I mentioned was the South Shore Bank in Chicago, where I’ve had a CD for over twenty years. It was partially owned by Christian denominations as its mission was to bring money into the inner-city to rehabilitate affordable housing. This life-long conservative Christian liked that as it created jobs, thereby getting people off welfare. In addition, it created private housing, allowing people to move out of government projects and build equity through home ownership. Of course, if people have more wealth, retail businesses also thrive and the area stops deteriorating. You might call it breathing economic life into dried bones.

The next day, I called my host and asked how listeners had responded. While I had not mentioned one government program, he said most listeners wanted to know what a socialist was doing on the show. I wanted to cry as politics had transformed the Christian concept of voluntarily helping others in need into socialism. Obviously, few found the idea appealing. So recently, our not understanding that both Moses and Jesus–in the Sermon on the Mount no less–actually commanded us to lend to those in need, as well as the Great Recession, has taken South Shore to the verge of bankruptcy, as it did Citicorp and so on. Yet as South Shore prudently behaves in a socially responsible fashion rather than speculate in socially impoverishing ways, some large financial institutions, including the tarnished Goldman Sachs, have voluntarily cooperated to keep South Shore afloat so a governmental bailout won’t be needed, as was the case with those banks deemed to big to fail.

Ironically, that has recently been criticized by some supposedly “conservative” talking heads, who also told us we should leave any church that preaches social justice. So let this old political science graduate who once served on Jack Kemp’s board of advisors make this as clear as possible. Jack did not serve as the head of Housing and Urban Development before seeking the vice-presidency as he thought every American should be on their own. If he was still with us, I believe he would strongly tell us such individualism is not a conservative stance reflecting the traditional Golden Rule of Christianity but a libertarian stance reflecting the secular new-age religion of Ayn Rand.

Christ respected government, as St. Paul noted in Romans 13 even when it was by the barbarous Nero. But both wanted love, rather than coercion, to organize society when possible. Ayn Rand hated both government and religion as she didn’t think we have any moral obligations to others. Professor Jennifer Burns put it this way in Goddess of the Market; Ayn Rand and the American Right: “Rand was blazing a trail distinct from the broader conservative movement, as indicated by the title of her second nonfiction book, The Virtue of Selfishness. Whereas traditional conservatism emphasized duties, responsibilities, and social interconnectedness, at the core of the right-wing ideology that Rand spearheaded was a rejection of moral obligations to others.”

In short, if you want less government in your life so you have more resources to personally and lovingly help those in need, perhaps through organizations like Opportunity and South Shore, you are a conservative. If you want it out of your life as you believe selfishness is a virtue, you are a libertarian in the mold of her atheistic morality. Personally, I find it rather easy to be a conservative Christian, though no earthly, human system of government can ever shape the Kingdom of God. But I’ve never been able to figure out how Christians, including friends and relatives, can be libertarians, as I told Willow Creek Church in my segment entitled “Ayn Rand: Wall Street Anti-Christ?” Rand would not take offense at that title as she wanted to be remembered as history’s greatest enemy of traditional religion. And when the Library of Congress published the ten most influential books in America, it said, in what could be a metaphor for America today, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was second only to the Bible.

Ayn Rand's Landmark Book

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  1. byafi
    June 10, 2010

    You said about Rand: “… she didn’t think we have any moral obligations to others.” (Heller said pretty much the same thing.) What you are missing is that Rand was describing obligations placed on us by others, not obligations we undertake on our own.

    For example, you may feel that the poor in your town deserve your help. I may agree with you. We may feel morally compelled to help. What we don’t have, according to Rand and many others (including me), is the right to compel others, by force, to take on this same obligation (or any other).

    There’s a BIG difference.

  2. July 5, 2010

    byafi: Actually, I didn’t miss that. Yes, Rand did say that. But Moses didn’t, and thereby leave us the Ten Suggestions. He actually thought social responsiblity, or loving our neighbors as ourselves, was so important, for at least believers, that he made it punishable by capital offense if that responsiblity was habitually denied (Ex 21:28). I believe recent events prove that Moses, rather than Rand, was precisely correct. So our church-going but post-Christian nation, for which syncretism is the “preferred religion,” according to George Barna, is reaping the whirl-wind of Wall Street’s and Washington’s irresponsibility treatment of society, meaning us.

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