I’m currently rereading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Last time I read it, I was in a van with nine other people, traversing the nation, sharing the good news of Jesus by getting water dumped on my head – not exactly the most fertile reading environment.
This time however, in the comfort of my couch and bed, I am intrigued and moved by what I am reading. Rand’s narrative – her crowning achievement and manifesto for Objectivism – tells the story of the world’s greatest thinkers, artists and industrialists and the struggles they face against society’s obsession with mediocrity and failure. Essentially these great individuals go on strike, leaving the society that is constraining their greatness to flounder and, though we don’t read it, die.
I love Rand’s ability to paint a frighteningly accurate picture of the direction our society is going, but I disagree with her conclusion – that is, the great should pursue their own happiness and achievement and abandon the weak, leaving them to wither away and die in their mediocrity. I simply don’t buy into that philosophy.
While I’ve been reading, I’ve been oddly reminded of the current climate of the church in America. There are some truly great thinkers that have emerged (ha!) onto the scene, bringing new perspectives about the scriptures, the message of Jesus and our purpose as His followers. At the same time, there are those whose sole purpose is to bring down these thinkers, encouraging people to dislike and distrust these new individuals on the very basis that they are new. This group spends its time looking back on “the good ol’ days,” when people went to church out of obligation and the church had, in their mind, some control over the culture. Rather than moving forward, they want to drag us back into that forgotten time.
And so we have a one-sided battle – the tenacious watchdogs against the uninterested emerging pastors. The tactics employed by the watchdogs are ruthless, hateful and based on misquotations and straw men arguments. They bite at the pastors, encouraging their readers to shun these evil, deceitful men, without actually investigating their claims.
What would happen if these forward-thinking pastors adopted the method of Rand’s characters? What if they said, “OK, have it your way. We’ll stop preaching. We’re going on strike. You guys make the church in your image”? What would it be like if the brightest and most passionate individuals withdrew their input, withdrew their influence and withdrew their minds?
Would the church go back to the good ol’ days? Would the message of God suddenly become clearer to the society? Would the will of God be more expediently done here on earth?
No, I don’t think so. I think in much the same way as Rand has depicted, the American church would be in shambles, just as our European brethren have experienced. Our empty, multi-million dollar buildings would stand as testimonies of our failure to adapt, to grow and to move. They would stand as testimonies of our obsession with comfort, familiarity and a distorted sense of orthodoxy.
I know that God moves in spite of how we move. I know that the will of God will be done, no matter how badly we muck it up. I know that it is only through His grace and His power that anything is good and successful. But I also know that He has chosen us to do this work; that for some reason, we humans are His tools for Will-bringing. That doesn’t speak to our power or our greatness, but the grace of our loving father, who laid His plans for us before we born.
May we be people who are united. May we move past the bickering, fighting and tearing down of other Christians who are doing the work of God. May we stand together – traditional and progressive; modern and postmodern; Evangelical and Emergent – to reach the world with a single message through various voices.
This is my prayer. I ask you to join me in this prayer. And I ask you to help bring about the realization of this prayer.