Here we are on a beautiful Monday morning (my best day of the week, by the way) and I’ve had the weekend to put together some thoughts on today’s subject. If you are following along, I posted 3 questions in an earlier blog that if you can answer, you might be well on your way to finding your passion. Those 3 questions are:
- What makes you mad?
- What makes you sad?
- What makes you glad?
Today, I am going to work on the second question.
What Makes Me Sad
Ayn Rand, in her book The Fountainhead talks about a group of people called “second handers”. I read this book a few years back and for some reason when she talked about it, it resonated with me in a very deep, personal way. If you have never read anything by Ms. Rand, you need to be forewarned as her books are not from a Christian perspective. I have read several of her books and each time, it literally felt like my brain was being stretched by the concepts she was bringing forth.
Let’s do a little background on this book:
Ayn Rand is perhaps the most famous and greatest female philosopher of the Twentieth Century, perhaps even of all times. She is the most widely read. Rands brand of conservative philosophy’s ideology and principles can be found in her novel The Fountainhead, which serves as a type of conservative treatise. Rand expresses her views through a series of characters. By comparing and contrasting the approach to life and basic motivations of the characters Howard Roark and Henry Cameron, B. Peter Keating and Ellsworth Toohey, C. Gail Wynand and Dominique Francon, we get a clear picture of Rand’s philosophical view.
Howard Roark is the hero and main character of the novel. After being fired from his job at the Stanton Institute of Technology over a disagreement about architecture with the administration, Roark refuses to give in to life and quit. Roark is motivated by the goal of perfectionism. He wishes to be the best he can be, and refuses to allow life’s trials and pitfalls to interfere with his goal. He is not motivated by money, but is rewarded with wealth for his hard work. Just like Roark, Henry Cameron is motivated by perfection. He abhors shoddy work, and like Roark, tries to create buildings of the highest quality. The two work together on numerous failed projects. However, unlike Roark, Cameron’s approach to life does not allow him to roll with the punches of failure. The failures eat inside him. He is not as strong as Roark. The contrast between the two reveals Roark’s admirable qualities, and shows Rand’s philosophical view. She believes a person should strive for excellence and not fear failure for doing so.
Ellsworth Toohey, oh the other hand, is a conniving newspaper journalist who conspires to paralyze society by preaching the vicious doctrine of self-abnegation (the renunciation of your own interests in favor of the interests of others) and by deliberately enshrining mediocrity. Toohey pulls down genius, exalts “the second handers” (Ms Rands term for the timid, second-rate group of men) and almost perverts America with his gospel of sentimental altruism. Toohey is the type of man that exalts the lazy B. Peter Keating’s of the world instead of the strong, stand-up type of men like Roark. Keating is a lazy man, who would prefer to have others do his work for him. He is unmotivated, except by greed. Toohey is motivated by the goal to promote inferior work. He wants the masses to be equal, no matter who works the hardest and produces the best work. It is the Toohey’s of the world that create and give hope to the Keating’s of the world by exalting the “second handers” instead of praising and rewarding the intricate and hard work of people like Roark and Cameron.
Ms. Rand pushes the idea, through her character Howard Roark, that “…Roark represents the type of person Rand believes society should emanate. He works hard, and strives for altruism through his dedication to the perfection of his work. Roark refuses to accept shoddy work. Rand is suggesting that shoddy work is what is wrong with society. People need to take pride in their work, and for this behavior and attitude they will be rewarded. Greed and wealth are not the goals society should seek. Wealth is important, but wealth comes from the production of good work. Rand is offering her view of an altruistic utopian society, a society that is best for all, not the few.”
The above 4 paragraphs were gleaned from this website if you are interested in reading more.
Now, I realize that we have taken a very circuitous route here, but I promise that I will bring it back on point. I’ve learned over the years that you can learn Godly principals from just about anywhere if you just open your eyes. I have absolutely no illusions that living a life like the one Ms. Rand espouses will lead to a utopian society. As long as there is sin in the world, there will be no utopia. But, what makes me sad is the notion that she brings forth that, for the most part, we as a people settle for second best. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, and countless people before us and those who will come after us have done it or will continue to do it. We seem to settle for second best.
The Bible says in John 10:10 that “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (KJV) Jesus came to give us an abundant life and so often we settle for mediocrity. How sad is that? Let’s say that during one of Jesus’ appearances to his disciples after his resurrection he said something like this, “Guys I just want you to know that what I went through on the cross was pretty bad. Matter of fact it was excruciatingly painful! But I did it so that you could enjoy a mediocre life.” I have to say, I would not be inclined to follow someone who promised a mediocre life. According to church tradition, John the Beloved, was the only Apostle who died a natural death. All the others died at the hands of the religious or secular leaders of their day. Would those 11 men have done that if all they were promised was a mediocre life?
1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” That, to me, sounds a little more than just mediocre. To me that sounds like God has prepared so much more than we could ever think or imagine. We just don’t seem to have that kind of vision in the church or in our lives today. We have our eyes on the world and not on God and because of that, we settle for less than the best.
Who is to blame for this? You and I are! Sure, it would be easy to blame those in positions of leadership over us, and yes, they will share some of the blame, but Hebrews 5:11-14 states, “There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.” We are responsible for immersing ourselves in the Word of God and being able to “eat the spiritual meat”.
One section of the statement above from the information on Ayn Rand really stood out to me. “Roark refuses to accept shoddy work. Rand is suggesting that shoddy work is what is wrong with society. People need to take pride in their work, and for this behavior and attitude they will be rewarded.” Let me rephrase that section a bit and see if you don’t agree with me. “Christians should refuse to accept a shoddy, second rate gospel. While we aren’t perfect, we should strive for a deeper understanding and walk with Christ so that we will show the society around us who Christ really is. We need to take a reverant pride in Jesus and who we are in Him because we know that by doing that, He will reward us.”
So, to answer my initial question, what makes me sad is the fact that the church settles for so much less than we ought to.
Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to share!