The Apocalypse is coming soon, a lot of people say. About ten years ago, I read the Left Behind series because the effect it had some kids had at the Parish School where I was serving, and worked a lot to understand the series and the worldview of Dispensationalism. I found a chain that had a missing link at the beginning: if one doesn’t accept that Thessalonians 4:16-7 has to refer to the Rapture, the rest of it doesn’t work. Even though I don’t believe we’re on a specific timeline for the End of the World, I have a nominee for the role of AntiChrist, and the ironic thing is she’s already come and gone. In fact, there are clips of her speaking on YouTube, one of which I posted on this blog August 17.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a very specific passage about the work of the AntiChrist:
“The supreme religious deception is that of the AntiChrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. (CCC 675)”
The danger of putting ourselves first is we put ourselves before God, if not making God irrelevant. That was the temptation of Eden, where the Serpent told Eve and Adam that eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge would make them like Gods. Our will be done, we get what we want, and to heck with anything or anyone else. The old Burger King commercial said: “Have it your way,” but I wouldn’t nominate the Burger King for the AntiChrist, since his agenda seems to be clogging arteries and not world domination.
My candidate turns the standard of Christian society upside down, says man’s highest achievement is the accomplishment of his wants. My candidate disregarded Christ’s teaching to “Love one another as I have loved you,” that unconditional love is unrealistic and that we should give nothing to anyone unless they’ve proven they deserve it to our satisfaction. Yes, I am speaking of the author of a book entitled The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand. And for all I know, she may have liked the title AntiChrist.
She told William F. Buckley that he was “too intelligent to believe in Gott (sic)”. She had no use for the sacrifice of Christ, said it was the main problem of Christianity, Jesus shouldn’t have to sacrifice Himself. She had no use for religion and considered it a destructive influence on the human person, better dispensed with and ignored. Her role of government is limited as well, for she thought government should perform only three functions: the protection of nations security from invasion, enforcement of the Law, and the protection of personal property rights. Taxes should be voluntary, in her teaching.
She also said that she always practiced her philosophy, and so I offer an example from her life as evidence of a key problem with her philosophy:
Ayn Rand was a lifelong smoker, believed it was a sign of man’s mastery over nature. In one of her books, she said that the creative spark in the mind is like a point of fire, and that point is best mirrored by the flame at the end of a cigarette. Many of her pictures have her holding a cigarette, although that’s not remarkable because the vast majority of people of her generation smoked, and most of the heroes in her novels smoke. She died of lung cancer, and the story is she didn’t understand why something she thought was good was killing her. In the end, one could say Objectivity wasn’t objective enough for her to realize what smoking was doing to her.
My problem with Objectivity is that for human beings, we can never be totally objective. We always have a bias of one kind or another, if we’re being honest with ourselves. How do we know what we want is what’s good for us? Do we ever know enough to make an informed decision? Do we ever know all the effects of what we do? Do we ever make a decision completely free of bias, emotion, feelings, wants, desires? Do we ever see Reality in its fullness? Are we brave enough to recognize and accept Reality as it is when it doesn’t match what we think it should be, or when it’s in our best interest to deny Reality? The best we can ever say is we know in part, we act as best we can, and what we don’t know CAN harm us. But to make Reality an Objective standard that we can see as it truly is? It would assume our senses infallible, which they aren’t.
Revisiting the standard of Ayn Rand’s life being the embodiment of her philosophy, there are several things about her life than contradicted her message: although she preached a message of extreme personal freedom and independence, she permitted no dissent within the ranks of her own followers, casting them out of her presence if they strayed, and didn’t want to hear about any criticism of her works, as the interview of Buckley I posted will testify. The prophet of personal freedom practiced strict conformity in her social circle. She also said that the highest accomplishment of a strong woman was to submit to a strong man, but she submitted to no one. Ayn Rand also thought her philosophy was a whole that could not be done piecemeal. Her economic and social theories depend entirely on her theory of the human person, and without that, they have no foundation. However, what respect does a prophet have who preaches but does not practice? In this case, is it because the practice is impossible?
I know a lot of people will have problems with Ayn Rand as the AntiChrist, because the traditional criteria of the AntiChrist aren’t there from the Book of Revelation or Dispensationalism. She’s a woman, she isn’t forming a world government through the United Nations, she isn’t legislating a cult worship of Satan, or tattooing people with the number 666, and perhaps the biggest objection is she’s dead already. The Cult of Self she intended to start has taken over as a master standard for human life in many, many ways in many parts of the world, overriding religious principles and community standards. Her principles of economics have become dogma in many circles, which is ironic because she was never trained as an economist. She would replace the vision of the Kingdom of God with a place where there are no common needs, no common vision beyond self-preservation. She was buried with a floral display in the shape of a dollar sign, sign that has no value to her now.
I do not belong to a political party and do not intend to start now, nor do I endorse any party. I am not a socialist, knowing from George Orwell’s Animal Farm how that turns out, and I’m not a free market capitalist, knowing from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World how unbridled consumerism turns out. The thing I fail to understand is how anyone who professes Christianity, who follows the Great Commandment, “Love one another I have loved you”, can contemplate Rand as any kind of positive example at all, for anything. She’s wasn’t a sweet little lady who just preached self-esteem and self-reliance. Her standard of radical self-interest and radical denial of a Common Good is as far from Christ’s standard of unconditional Love and universal Communion as one could get.
We don’t need her to have a healthy self-esteem and be empowered to live a full and happy life in as much Freedom as is reasonably possible. We don’t need her to be self-sufficient, although none of us are unless we live in a cave, make our own clothes and gather our own berries to live on. A healthy sense of Self can be found in Christianity when it’s properly understood, and I would say that’s true of all world religions. We don’t even need her to promote the just protection of the fruits of our labor, and the right to dispose of them as we wish. In my book, she is a good nominee for the role of AntiChrist as any, and the striving for her values a destructive opening for a true Apocalypse, not to mention a road to Perdition.