So often, I hear the loud and clumsy proclamation of the way things should be, a kind of evangelism or proselytizing, whether it’s Objectivism or Christianity. In contrast, the monks were busy doing excellent work. If anything, they were earning the right to be heard. But, even without being heard, the Gospel was being proclaimed in what people saw.
At Brown, I studied the Middle Ages. Some call the period the “Dark Ages,” because of the violence and disease. A lot of that was perpetrated in the name of religion. In that midst of the chaos, I found the behavior of the monks refreshing. When they left their cloistered habitat to participate in the the lives of the people, they went about the work of another kingdom. The monks’ inventions, scholarship, art, and building of hospitals renewed society and improved lives.
When it comes to the sacrificial life, there is a subtle but crucial difference between the motivation of self-interest and God-centeredness. If you accept a more broadly recognized definition than Ayn Rand uses, sacrifice has a place in Objectivism. According to the common definition, sacrifice is not subjecting a greater value to a lesser; it’s making the often difficult choice to forego a good value for a great one. In the case of the monks, they were putting their own lives (of great value to themselves) at the disposal of God (a much greater value). God, in turn, directs his work for the benefit of those whom he loves. At face value, the monks are putting others before themselves and this looks like Altruism. Whereas the motivation of Altruism is its own end, the monks’ end is glorifying God.
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