I’m sure I will surprise few when I say that I mean for the name of my site, “Godless Liberals For Christ,” to be ironic. In my worldview, it is more important to be humorous than reverent. (I look funny and I smell funny, therefore I perceive myself to be funny. I fully recognize, though, that ‘funny’ is a subjective call.)
Godless: The Church Of Liberalism is the title of one of Ann Coulter’s provocatively titled books designed to feed red meat to the bobble-headed think-alikes rather than engage in civil discourse. By choosing that title, she implies – nay, claims outright – that liberals are not religious people, or at least not nearly as devout as conservatives are. She has a significant number of defenders and apologists who describe her as “clear-thinking” and “honest.” She self-describes as a Christian first and as a polemicist second, and argues that what she does is call out liberal lies and hypocrisies, which to her way of thinking constitutes “Christian” values. I don’t find her view of Christianity to be broad or deep. Rather, it is simplistic, and the essential message of the Gospel that she chooses to embrace is what conforms to her own biases, twisting it to make it fit. Actually, I think we all can be guilty of that to some extent, so I try to guard against letting my own predispositions overrule reason. Sometimes I even succeed. I have read Coulter’s commentary over the years and seen her express her opinions on television (even in person), and so far I have seen no evidence that she makes such efforts herself. But face it: Her intended readership for her books is not people like me. Her aim is to elicit the nods of the bobbleheads, enlightening no one.
While embracing the shallow theology of Cheap Grace works for Coulter and is very appealing, it requires willfully ignoring nearly everything Jesus said and did and taught. For example, according to scripture, Jesus told a rich man that in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven, the man had to sell everything he owned, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow him. When the man went away sad, Jesus told those with him that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. How does that fit in with conservative orthodoxy? One would be hard-pressed to make a case that Jesus favored the wealthy and powerful. I flesh out my case on the topic in another essay, Why I’m Liberal, so I don’t want to be redundant. But my point here is that Jesus of Nazareth was liberal, so why not me? As the late Chicago columnist Mike Royko once queried, “If God is a Republican, why is His Son a liberal Jew?” To my knowledge, no one has effectively answered that.
Curiously, several prominent conservatives embrace the philosophy of the 20th Century author Ayn Rand. I say ‘curiously’ because much of what many conservatives say they stand for is diametrically opposed to what Rand espoused and how she lived. At the very least, these facts about her would logically put fellow conservatives at odds with each other. For example, Rand was a strong proponent of legal abortions. You would be excused for thinking that would put her in the liberal camp, as you will not find a great number of self-identified conservatives defending abortion rights for women, let alone expanding them. That’s not to say that there are no Republicans or conservatives who want women to keep their freedom of choice when it comes to reproductive rights, but seldom do they dare express this out loud. Also, Ayn Rand, with the permission of her husband, carried on a prolonged affair with her business manager, with his wife’s permission. This behavior, one would think, puts her in the libertine camp, and certainly outside the realm of those who declare that family values are important to them. But most famously and notoriously, Ayn Rand pronounced herself to be an unabashed atheist. She was especially critical of Christianity.
Setting aside the religious aspect for a moment, let’s consider the philosophy of Jesus versus the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Or, if you prefer, let’s call them the teachings. While many of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments that God handed down to Moses, Jesus boiled them down to just two: Love God (Okay, so I’m not entirely setting aside the religious aspect.), and love your neighbor as yourself. To the first, love God, Rand says no. She was an atheist. She did not believe in the existence of God, let alone any need to love God. It would not make sense. To the second, love your neighbor as yourself, Rand says ‘Hell no!’ Rand said that altruism is weakness. She said that the highest morality is the enlightened self-interest of the individual. So how can Christianity be reconciled with what Ayn Rand believed and taught? Now, I do recognize and understand that one need not be a Christian to be altruistic. You can be Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, agnostic, atheist, or anything else and still have compassion and concern and desire to serve the needy and less fortunate. But how can someone call himself or herself a Christian and defend the morality of the self-interest of the individual at the expense of those in need? Can you honestly believe that’s what Jesus would do?
Who’s Godless now?