This Week in God

First up from the God Machine this week is a little something Amy Sullivan describes as “Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand Problem.”

The right-wing House Budget Committee chairman is well known as a Rand acolyte — he demands his staffers read her novels — but what’s less well known is that Ayn Rand was actively hostile to Christianity. The problem was ideological, not theological — Jesus touted principles such as charity and compassion towards the less fortunate, concepts Rand and her followers strongly reject. Randians believe altruism is evil and those in poverty should wait for the hand of the free market to lift them up.

With this in mind, Ryan appeared at a major religious right gathering yesterday, Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Conference in D.C., and was confronted by a young man from Faithful America. The far-right Wisconsinite was asked a good question: why not base his budget plan on Biblical teachings on economic justice instead of Ayn Rand. The discussion didn’t go well:

You’ll notice in the clip that Ryan was offered a free Bible, which he didn’t want to accept. He was also urged to honor the Gospel of Luke, advice the congressman chose to ignore.

As Sullivan noted, “These days, when people question a politician’s ‘morality,’ they usually mean his or her personal behavior and choices. But an interesting thing is happening right now around the GOP budget proposal. A broad coalition of religious voices is criticizing the morality of the choices reflected in budget cuts and tax policy. And they’ve specifically targeted Ryan and his praise for Rand, the philosopher who once said she ‘promote[d] the ethic of selfishness.'”

To put it mildly, Paul Ryan doesn’t care for this discussion, which isn’t surprising. But in the bigger picture, when was the last time a Republican attended a religious right gathering and refused to accept a Bible?

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Eddie Long settles: “Georgia megachurch preacher Bishop Eddie Long has settled out of court with four young men who accused him of sexual misconduct, Long’s spokesman said Thursday.”

* “Faith-healing” parents go on trial in Oregon. I can only hope this serves as a deterrent to others.

* In Bahrain: “Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim government demolished or seriously damaged 43 Shiite Muslim mosques or religious structures during its crackdown on anti-government demonstrations, according to an official tally compiled by the state-supported endowment that oversees Shiite sacred buildings.” (thanks to R.P. for the tip)

* After some very sketchy financial mismanagement, Crystal Cathedral Ministries’ church and 40-acre campus are being sold as part of the Chapter 11 process. (thanks to J.P. for the tip)

* And Ted Haggard goes Hollywood.