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Glenn Beck, Ayn Rand, and Social Justice

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I’m going to take this blog off the topics of law, technology, and legal marketing for just one post. Instead of my normal subject matter, this post will discuss politics and religion or, more specifically, Glenn Beck’s teachings about politics and religion.

Time Magazine’s Swampland blog had a post entitled Faith-Based Group Fires Back at Glenn Beck. By the time I read the article, many Christians had commented and tried to use the Bible to defend some of Beck’s more controversial teachings, particularly his teaching that social justice is anti-Christian. Being a lawyer, and a Christian, I decided to join the conversation.

I submitted a comment saying that Glenn Beck is a follower of Ayn Rand, an atheist who opposed many of the beliefs of right-wing Christians. The point of my comment was that I found it strange that Beck could bundle up the philosophy of an atheist who scorned Christianity, and package the philosophy in such a way that it is being adopted by some Christians.

In response to my comment, a person called newfreedomblog wrote: “You LIE. Show your proof of it with citations and website sources. Otherwise you prove nothing except that you are a LIAR.”

I actually found newfreedomblog’s comment encouraging, because it implies thatnewfreedomblog might change his or her opinion if I can show that I am telling the truth. So, I decided to respond to newfreedomblog.

Because I don’t believe there is room for my response in the comments section of the Swampland blog post, I’m responding to newfreedomblog here, and posting a link to this post at Swampland.

Here’s my comment that upset newfreedomblog:

I don’t know anything about the group “Faithful America” but I do know a little about Glenn Beck. His religious beliefs are based on the teachings of Mormon founder Joseph Smith. His political beliefs are founded on the teachings of fiction-writer, pseudo-philospher Ayn Rand. Beck doesn’t deny that he embraces Ayn Rand’s philosophy; I saw him on his TV show recently waxing poetic about Rand’s genius, and recounting how his daughter said it changed her life after he recommended it to her. Rand was a devout atheist who scorned Christians as weak. She believed the masses were parasites who benefited from the genius and hard work of the elite (among whom, one must assume, Beck considers himself). Rand was a pro-abortion, sexual libertine who started the pseudo-philosophy of Objectivism. Some who have left Objectivism for true Christianity have renounced the philosophy as a cult. None of the things I have written are disputed by Beck or anyone who deals in facts; if you doubt these facts, just do a little Googling. What amazes me is that Beck can so openly embrace the philosophy of a pro-abortion, Christian-hating atheist, yet so many right-wing Christians swallow every bit of the garbage Beck is selling.

If you doubt that Beck is a follower of Ayn Rand, you can read a transcript here of one of Beck’s shows in which he interviews Yaron Brook, head of the Ayn Rand Cult (excuse me, it’s really the Ayn Rand Institute). Beck acts as if he’s in the presence of greatness, gushing on and on about how prescient Rand was when she wrote her novel, Atlas Shrugged. “If I meet one more person who says, oh, my gosh, I just read Ayn Rand. I love this one. Glenn, have you ever read “Atlas Shrugged”? I’m like yes, I have. They’re like, duh, a friend gave it to me and it’s all happening. I’m like, yes!”

One of the first to publicly label Ayn Rand’s following a cult was Murray N. Rothbard (1926–1995), the founder of modern libertarianism and the dean of the Austrian School of economics. In 1972 Rothbard wrote an essay, The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult, which looks at Rand’s cult from the perspective of a libertarian. He leaves little room to argue with his conclusion that Rand was the leader of an ideological cult.

A good place to start learning about Rand is Wikipedia’ Ayn Rand article. Rand lived in Russia when the Communist revolution occurred. After three years in a university in Russia, Rand was able to move to the United States, where she hoped to become a screenwriter. She ultimately found professional success by publishing novels, includingThe Fountainhead, which glorified individualism, and Atlas Shrugged, in which the leading innovators in the U.S. go on strike to demonstrate that society will fail without their contributions. Rand’s heroes must continually fight against “parasites,” “looters,” and “moochers” (ordinary people) who demand the benefits of the heroes’ labor. If they are honest with themselves, middle-class Christians will see that they have much more in common with Rand’s parasites than the exceptional hero of her book.

Rand also used Atlas Shrugged to introduce her libertine theory about sex in Atlas Shrugged. As Wikipedia puts it: “Rather than considering sexual desire a debasing animal instinct, Rand portrays it as the highest celebration of human values….”

Wikipedia writes that Rand was an atheist who “wrote in her journals that Christianity was “the best kindergarten of communism possible.” Wikipedia also discusses Rand’s belief that self-interest is the only proper guiding moral principal: “The individual “must exist for his own sake,” she wrote in 1962, “neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself.” That doesn’t sound very consistent with the teaching that the ultimate good is love, and that “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Wikipedia also has a good article on Objectivism, Rand’s philosophy (or pseudo-philosophy). That article states: “Rand rejected all forms of faith or mysticism, terms that she used synonymously.”

An excellent biography of Rand is Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns. The Wikipedia article about Rand frequently cites to the Burns biography, particularly with regard to the adoption of Rand’s views by current politicians and some in the Tea Party movement:

Jennifer Burns referred to [Rand] as “the ultimate gateway drug to life on the right.” Burns further extrapolates on the gulf between Rand and conservatives, noting that “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 obligation to others.” Despite Rand’s untraditionally-GOP stance as a pro-choice atheist, the political figures who cite Rand as an influence are most often conservative or libertarian members of the United States Republican Party. U.S. Congressmen Bob Barr, Ron Paul, and Paul Ryan have acknowledged her influence on their lives, as has Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Clarence Thomas. Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan described himself as an “admirer” of Rand in private correspondence in the 1960s, and John Hospers, the first presidential nominee of the U.S. Libertarian Party, had a personal acquaintance with Rand in the early 1960s. Republican South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford wrote a 2009 review for Newsweek where he spoke of how he was “blown away” after first reading The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, while tying her signifigance to understanding the 2008 financial crisis.

The financial crisis of 2007–2010 spurred renewed interest in her works, especially Atlas Shrugged, which some saw as foreshadowing the crisis. Conservative talk show hosts, such as Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz and Rush Limbaugh recommended the novel to their audiences, and opinion articles compared real-world events with the plot of the novel. Signs mentioning Rand and her fictional hero John Galt appeared at Tea Party protests, while the Cato Institute’s Will Wilkinson quipped that “going Galt” had become the “libertarian-conservative’s version of progressives threatening to move to Canada.”

Some interesting articles about Glenn Beck and Ayn Rand:

Some books about Ayn Rand and her teachings:

In summary, I don’t think people should swallow Glenn Beck’s (or anyone’s) teachings hook, line and sinker. And if you are one of the conservative Christians who are Glenn Beck fans, be aware that Beck’s source material for his condemnation of “social justice” is not the Bible, but the atheist Ayn Rand. Christians who try to base their world-view on the teachings of the Bible should make up their own minds about Beck’s teachings; a good argument can be made that some of his doctrines are more consistent with the teachings of the atheist Ayn Rand than the Christian, Jesus Christ.

If Beck is a foe of social justice, is he an advocate of social injustice?

After I first posted this article, I commented about Beck on two other blogs. As I read more transcripts from Beck’s recent TV shows, I realized that Beck seems to be confusing the doctrine of “social justice” with the “social gospel.” The social gospel was espoused by some theologians around the turn of the 19th century, and has waned in influence over time. To borrow from Wikipedia, the “Social Gospel movement is a Protestant Christian intellectual movement that was most prominent in the late 19th century and early 20th century.” Most leaders in the social gospel movement believed that the Second Coming of Christ could not occur until humanity rid itself of social evils by human effort.

The Christian belief in “social justice” arose long before social gospel movement. The Old Testament contains a number of verses teaching social justices (see, e.g., Amos 5:24, Psalm 140:12, Isaiah 1:17). Alexander Hamilton referred to “social justice” in one of the Federalist Papers. There’s an entire video series about Christianity and social justice featuring speakers such as evangelical leader Chuck Colson. One of the sponsors of the video series is the very conservative Heritage Foundation. You can view the videos online, free-of-charge. If you would like to learn more, you can go to the aptly named web page: Social Justice is Not the Social Gospel.

These are my opinions and, I realize, I can be wrong. I’m not trying to dictate what anybody thinks. But I do believe that Beck listeners and watchers should be aware of the facts laid out in this post. If you want to share your opinions, comments are open.

About Michael J. Evans

Michael J. Evans is a personal injury lawyer who represents people with claims involving defective medicine or medical devices, other defective products that cause serious injury or death, and environmental cases. Evans also handles whistleblower lawsuits in which employees, or former employees, expose fraud or other illegal conduct by the corporation for which they work(ed), Evans organizes litigation groups of plaintiffs law firms to work with him on these cases nationwide. Evans uses social media, blogs, online video, mobile apps and traditional media to connect with clients, and help other prominent law firms connect with clients.. Evans is also an advocate for the rights of consumers. His primary areas of legal practice are mass torts, and advising law firms on the ethical rules and law governing legal marketing via the Internet and social media.

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