Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Flavor of the Tea Party

In a revealing little editorial today, conservative columnist George Will explored the character, motivations, and philosophical underpinnings of Ron Johnson, a tea party candidate running for Senate in Wisconsin.

I'll admit that "I'm Ron Johnson from Wisconsin" does have a rather nice rhythm to it.

Johnson seems a straight shootin', matter of fact, no-nonsense sort of guy. He's a businessman, with a practical, matter of fact, no-nonsense...wait...I already said that. Well, that's the general idea. He thinks government is the problem, and that taxation at any level represents an impingement on his liberty.

What is most interesting about Johnson is what he says is the most important philosophical influence on his life. He's a Christian, of course, and pro-life. That goes without saying. That's pretty much a default. But the specific teachings of that strange guy from the middle east don't provide the foundation of his political philosophy. His "foundational book" is Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged."

This is a sign of the character of the Tea Party. For just as you can't claim to be an atheist and simultaneously a Christian and maintain even the tiniest semblance of intellectual cohesion, you can't simultaneously be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ and think Ayn Rand is the bee's knees.

The reason for this is rather simple. The core of Ayn Rand's philosophy, which is made clear in John Galt's monologue near the end of Atlas Shrugged, is intentionally and diametrically opposed to the Great Commandment. The beating philosophical heart of Atlas Shrugged is the rejection of Christ's message to love God and neighbor. For Ayn, the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself was a command to be weak. To be a parasite. This is not me being mean to Ayn. If you could straight up ask her, I'm sure Ms. Rand would agree.

For the Tea Party, which does draw inspiration from Ms. Rand's ferocious worship of the individual and yet is purportedly very Christian at the same time, this is a bit of a problem. Or it would be, if anyone bothered to make them think about it.

Just who in the Sam Hill pastors these people, anyway?