This letter came in…
I felt compelled to share some of her insights about selfishness and pride, as it relates to Ayn Rand and Jesus. Insights from Skye:
I’m at college, so when I am home I still go to church. At the last Wesleyan service we went to the message was about selfishness and pride verses the beatitude meekness. The example used was the story about Jesus before Pontius Pilate, saying that Jesus was displaying selflessness because he was following God’s will, and Pilate was proud. The illustration was being used to support the idea of meekness, but if the story was taken by itself and a moral extrapolated, I think it would be Objectivist. I can’t help thinking about the amazing amount of *self*-control it would have taken Jesus to choose to be in that situation. I never think of Jesus as weak, always as a sort of Galt (the best Christ-allusion ever written by accident). And Pilate’s action is a perfect example of Ayn’s selflessness. Remember, “I wash my hands of this”? He was acting against his own consciousness, betraying his own judgment and allowing a crowd of people to decide for him when the responsibility was his. Selflessness is what he was guilty of! A prideful person could have stood alone against a mob.
I agree, and I appreciate the way Skye superimposes Ayn Rand’s philosophy on top of Pilate’s actions. Pilate was clearly subjugating a higher value (Jesus’s life) to a lower value (the crowd’s approval/demands). Rand calls that the “vice of sacrifice or selflessness.”
Making this comparison, as Skye did, brings up a general issue. The terms that Rand uses have very different meaning from Christianity. That further confuses the comparison. Mortimer Adler (one of my favorite contemporary philosophers) makes a big deal out of “coming to terms,” where anyone in a conversation must begin by agreeing on the meaning of words. Since we’re talking about ideas, we need to be sure that we’re talking about the same ideas when we use words. Some words that mean something different in a respectively Christian and Objectivist context are sacrifice, altruism, selflessness, selfishness, spiritual, soul, universe, mysticism. These are just off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more, and I’m eager to hear them, along with the definitions that you think are more fitting.
What do you think about sacrifice?