Inverting the Moral Code

Responding to the nation’s moral and economic crisis, CNN, the cable network founded by Ted Turner, has just published a column that gives an impassioned plea for morality—yes, you heard that right, morality.

At first, I might have been tempted to think that they listen to BreakPoint. I’ve been saying this since the economic collapse.

But, sad to say, the writers, Yaron Brooke and Onkar Ghate, aren’t calling for a return to biblical ethics. Instead, they explicitly reject anything having to do with religious morality in favor of an inverted moral code that exalts human selfishness.

Brooke and Ghate, who work for the libertarian Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, say that just as humanity ushered in the modern world by rejecting religious superstition in favor of science and political tyranny for the rights of man, so now we must dispense with, as they call it, “antiquated moral ideas”—like generosity. Instead, they assert we should instead lift up those in the economy who exhibit “a profound dedication to material production.”

First, Brooke and Ghate have gotten their history all wrong. Religious faith has not been a barrier to science or to political and economic freedom. Quite the contrary. Rodney Stark, in his groundbreaking book, The Victory of Reason, rightly calls that kind of notion utter “nonsense.” Stark writes, “The success of the West, including the rise of science, rested entirely on religious foundations, and the people who brought it about were devout Christians.”

Second, Brooke and Ghate have gotten their religion wrong, presenting a caricature of Christianity that is a mockery of genuine biblical faith. The key concept for Christians when it comes to economics and wealth creation is not asceticism, but stewardship. God has created all good things for us to develop and enjoy, as long as He, and not we, are on the throne.

The problem with the late Ayn Rand, who was a devout atheist, was the misguided belief that man is the measure of all things. Rand called her philosophy “the concept of man as a noble being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” Indeed, in her well-known work Atlas Shrugged, which is still a bestseller, the main character replaces the cross with a dollar sign.

That should be enough to raise red flags for Christians. But it isn’t. Christian financial expert Gary Moore has been a powerful critic of Rand and her radical libertarian worldview. In a new Christianity Today article, Moore warns that “Rand’s philosophy is still deeply embedded in large sectors of the American economy, as well as among some Christian financial advisers and religious leaders.”

But folks, radical selfishness can never be a principle of Christian ethics—economic or otherwise. Our belief in God, and His call on us to stewardship and charity, must make a difference in our everyday lives—including in our budgeting, giving, and economic behavior. Self-sacrifice and generosity never go out of style for the Christian, especially in tough economic times like these.

Contrary to what Gordon Gecko said in the movie Wall Street, greed isn’t good. And if the current economic mess teaches us anything, it’s that we don’t need a new moral code, just more people who will follow the one God gave us—the tried and true one.

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