Katie Kieffer

At any rate, I think both Rand and rational Christians can agree that the goal of life is happiness, achieved by living morally on earth. Rand maintains that life ends at physical death and happiness is achievable on earth. Christians simply take a longer view on life. To achieve happiness, both can agree that one must embrace a “selfish” lifestyle of seeking one’s best interest in a moral and productive manner.

Selfish Sacrifice vs. Self-Sacrifice

According to Rand, besides pursuing happiness, a selfish person refuses “self-sacrifice.” Rand also contends that it takes hard work and sometimes pain to achieve happiness. I will call this “selfish sacrifice.”

Galt says: “Joy is not ‘the absence of pain.’ …You [socialists] seek escape from pain. We [capitalists] seek the achievement of happiness.” And: “If you achieve a career you wanted, after years of struggle, it is not a sacrifice; if you then renounce it for the sake of a rival, it is. If you own a bottle of milk and give it to your starving child, it is not sacrifice; if you give it to your neighbor’s child and let your own die, it is.”

Like Rand, a Christian lives, not to avoid pain, but to achieve the reward of happiness. So, I think Rand defines sacrifice semantically different from Christians, not philosophically.

Rand describes her conception of Christian sacrifice thus: “I do regard the cross as the symbol of the sacrifice of the ideal to the non-ideal. Isn’t that what it does mean? Christ…personifies that which men should strive to emulate. Yet, according to the Christian mythology, he died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the non-ideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificed for men who are vicious…”

With respect to Rand, I think she misinterpreted Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. God encompasses perfect joy and strength so the crucifixion did not diminish his happiness or power; it was his way to show love (not deference) for his creation.

She also misinterpreted the Christian notion of personal self-sacrifice. Christians only sacrifice to their superior, namely God. It is blasphemous for a Christian to sacrifice to an equal (another human) or an inferior (an animal or plant). See the first through fourth commandments of Moses.

Christian sacrifice does not require flogging oneself (harming oneself) or bowing down to a worm (an inferior). Christian sacrifice is an outward sign to show God respect. Aquinas says: “Natural reason dictates to man to show, in his own way, submission and honor to the power that is above man. …inward sacrifice, to which all are bound… [is] to offer to God a devout mind.”

I think Rand’s view of acceptable pain or struggle en-route to happiness (“selfish sacrifice”) is consistent with Christian self-sacrifice. Let’s say I refrain from eating desserts during Lent. While it appears as though I am giving up pleasurable food, I am in fact selfishly seeking my own happiness by venerating my superior. Usually, my physical health improves sequentially.

Christians should embrace Ayn Rand’s economic philosophy of capitalism whole-heartedly as well as a “selfish” lifestyle because they are consistent with reason and the Gospel.

Katie Kieffer

Katie Kieffer is the author of a new book published by Random House, LET ME BE CLEAR: Barack Obama’s War on Millennials and One Woman’s Case for Hope.” She writes a weekly column for Townhall.com. She also runs KatieKieffer.com.