A Case for Common Ground, Part 2

Last Friday’s post began a series entitled “A Case for Common Ground,” in which we address questions like these:

Both world views have exerted profound influence in our society, and yet, they cease to engage in a productive way. At the foundation of these two worlds is a conclusion about the existence of God.

Faith and Reason

As with the theist/atheist debate, there seems to be the relentless insistence that Faith and Reason are merely opposed to one another, despite history’s display of their interplay in symphony. While some people recognize a seamless melding of Faith and Reason, others deny the very prospect. They claim utter sovereignty of one over the other, citing the instances of religion and science or metaphysics and pragmatism clashing. Regardless of these opinions, however, it should be safe to say that Reason and Faith are fundamental drivers of culture and society. Whether one understands Faith as religion or as a mystical hope in Beauty or Love, whether Reason means the empiricism of scientific investigation or the rigor of logic in intelligent rhetoric, we see their interplay in education, politics, entertainment, medicine, and most other realms of life.

A Simple Case Study

Insomuch as Gospel Christianity and Ayn Rand’s political philosophy represent seminal forms of Faith and Reason in our culture, why is there such limited analysis in either academic or popular writing of how these world views are similar and how they differ? How is it that a conservative politician could be publically skewered in the media for holding to Randian theories on economics while practicing Catholicism? Moreover, what of his own ambivalence in acknowledging Rand’s influence on his thinking? The impulse to apply simplistic characterizations does not allow for a Christian to adhere to Rand’s ideas and seems to make the Christian uncomfortable with it as well. Is that a necessary distinction? Furthermore, how would we evaluate whether such a politician is a hypocritical Randian or disingenuous in his Christian beliefs? And why might it even matter? This is a particular example of the kinds of questions this book addresses.

We need to know and it does matter.

It matters how the story of an executed carpenter from first-century Palestine and the story of a political refugee from post-World War I Russia have managed to weave their way into our story. It matters because the influences and consequences of these ideas are pervasive in our society in ways overt and subtle; and we need to know what influences us. To recognize and comprehend what influences us and others is to function with purpose. The more purposeful we are in our lives, the more likely we are to achieve what we pursue. And this is not mere utilitarian jargon. “Achievement” can be as varied as developing a kind and loving demeanor, finishing a marathon, or bequeathing a fortune to medical research.

What Drives Us

When we know what persuades us, what controls us, and what inspires us, we are able to navigate our lives with intention. Our perspectives develop in concert with some principles and in contest against others. This book concerns two of the most profound influences—for good or for ill—of American ideology in the twentieth century in particular, and investigating those influences is a worthwhile endeavor for anyone interested in how Americans think. Moreover, it is a necessary endeavor in recognizing how these influences affect you, personally.

What are the biggest influences in your life? What persuades you? Inspires you and what deflates you?

Other posts in this series:

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

5 thoughts on “A Case for Common Ground, Part 2

  1. I think it is a bit too broad, at least for a person of limited ability to focus like me. I am torn between commenting on my personal values and beliefs in how I would prefer less government intervention and whether to address your musings on political figures with Randian and Catholic ideologies. Perhaps, divide this blog into 2 or more commentaries would help.

      • I would say go with the more topically relevant musings on specific political figures who espouse, however imperfectly, Randian and/or Christian values, and how it pertains to our government.

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