Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mark Shea on Glenn Beck

Over at Catholic and Enjoying It I expressed some exasperation last week about Glenn Beck’s ignorant smear of Dorothy Day, about whom Beck freely confessed knowing absolutely nothing before likening her to Stalin. Round about the same time, I remarked that I have always regarded Objectivist philosopher and screechy novelist Ayn Rand as a sort of photo negative of Stalin.

A reader writes:

Love the blog.

Your post pointing out Glenn Beck’s comparison of Dorothy Day to Stalin was the most damning thing I have seen about him (or perhaps I should say, Beck’s own worst self-indictment).

But scrolling down I saw your own not totally dissimilar comment on Ayn Rand:

“I’ve always thought of Ayn Rand as a sort of photo negative of Stalin: just as evil and selfish, but not as powerful. She couldn’t kill as many people as he could, but her philosophy is just as capable of sending a soul to hell as Stalin’s was.”


OK, I have not read Atlas Shrugged (the Chambers link was fascinating, by the way). I know approximately the same amount about Ayn Rand that I do about Dorothy Day, and prefer the latter to the former. Nevertheless, your quip struck me as unfortunate and, if I may say so . . . Beckian? For all I know, you may come out with an excellent critique of Rand and Libertarianism some day, but if you do, I hope you can do better than that.

In the meantime, I’ll cut you a lot of slack. But that means I have to cut Beck at least a little slack on the Dorothy Day howler, too!

I’m glad you like the blog! Nice to meet you. I don’t think I said the same as Beck. I actually know something about Rand; he knows nothing of Day. Rand’s attitude toward the weak is, as Chambers pointed out, “To a gas chamber—go!” Day’s is nothing but compassion for the downtrodden. And I do most firmly believe that Rand’s philosophy is quite capable of damning a soul to hell. She is radically selfish and filled with pride, the sin that made the devil the devil. She merely chooses to enact her selfishness in ways that do not organize civilizations into vast killing machines. I do her justice in noting that fact. Beck does Day no justice because he does not bother to note any facts at all about her. As to Rand, “not being a mass murderer”, while commendable, is not something that did the Rich Man a lot of good when he found himself in hell in Jesus’ parable. Rand’s philosophy is radically opposed to the gospel of Christ, as is Stalin’s. At the end of the day, one racked up a higher body count in terms of public violence, but both are capable of killing souls (and bodies if you count her zeal for abortion) with great alacrity. Indeed, it could well be argued that the gospel of selfishness Rand preached is capable of doing more damage than communism did. As Jesus remarked, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28).

Read it all here.


Reader John said...

I know a bit about Rand but was never a big fan even when I was a testosterone-crazed young individualist.
What I do know is that some of the people I grew up with (1) left the Church (using the term generically as I was then Protestant), (2) became Rand acolytes, (3) experienced repentance and return to Church as a repudiation of the folly of stage 2.
I'll take their word as corroboration of what people like Chambers said.

Alice C. Linsley said...

That's interesting, Reader John. I think my Ethics students would benefit from a short informed essay on Rand. I'll try to put that together this week.