Socialism: Cunning Seductress for Catholics but a Deadly Plague on the Body of Christ

Before the cheerleaders of this dangerous ideology take another step, we need to look them in the eye and denounce their ideas for the evils that they represent.

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Last Tuesday for the first time in the history of these United States, a president stood before both houses of Congress and declared, “The United States will never be a socialist country.” This was a monumental moment. As recently as three years ago, that would have been like saying, “A springer spaniel will never be president.” It would have been so ridiculous that no one would have thought it worth mentioning. That just goes to show you how fast things are moving to the left. The pace of this drive toward central control is almost mind-blowing.

But is it really? There has been a drum beat in this country that has consistently pounded the words universal health care, income equality, social justice, economic security and more, a persistent pounding against the backdrop of all public discussion that first resonated in the halls of discourse and moved on to the public square. So constant and so echoed are these terms that they have come to represent ends in themselves, mantras of moral absolutes which actually lower the dignity of man to a mere material being — one that can be adequately served by shifting a decimal point or passing a bill. 

And who are the drum majors behind this movement? Given that socialists proclaim compassion, promise to answer domestic problems with financial commitments, and appeal to the Catholic desire to love our neighbor by pledging to “lift up the poor” and by promoting “social justice” and the “common good,”  it shouldn’t be a surprise that many of the band leaders have been Catholics. Of course, there is the old guard of Catholics, like Andrew Cuomo, Joe Biden, and probably the most powerful woman in America – Nancy Pelosi – and so many others who have used their public pulpits to seduce the hearts and minds of poorly catechized Catholics into following the pied piper issues of human rights, economic ‘fairness’ and ‘affordable’ education, universal healthcare and more – which really means expanding the government by exponential numbers. At this moment nearly 1/3 of Congress is Catholic. (141 House/22 Senate) Imagine how those souls could work together to build up the Body of Christ!

But not only do more than half of the Catholics in Congress tout a socialist agenda, recently they seem to have made a decision to proudly bear the standard of socialism. Those on the left have found a new, fresh young face with radical ideas to offer as a mouthpiece for the future. Oh. And by the way – she’s a Catholic.

Like many radicals before her, Freshman US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) was inspired to run for public office by her Catholic faith, sharing that she was raised to serve the less fortunate. She claims that now she is merely taking that sentiment to the public square. She comes by her misguided ideas honestly. The Democratic Socialists of America, of which she is a proud member, was started by a once devout Catholic — Michael Harrington —  who left Princeton to join Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker Movement. Eventually he left the Catholic Church (Perhaps he realized Catholicism and socialism don’t mix?); but it was his commitment to Catholic social teaching that first inspired him.

Last week AOC ushered out her Green New Deal to the praise and adulation of the media (and her three million Twitter followers). Never mind the fact that actually passing this deal — or virtually anything on her agenda – would be a tipping point toward socialism from which we might never be able to recover. According to the Green New Deal, Cortez wants to extend the public dole for — among other things — “guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.” Notice the word all. Just read this statement closely, and you will see the utopian ideas that lie beneath the surface of this massive government overhaul of the economy and our freedoms.

Young adults that have been indoctrinated through the education system and have been groomed to think in terms of punchy one-liners, banners and headlines have been flocking to join the band. That constant thumping, ever pressing drumbeat reverberating through the chambers of media and in the halls of education throughout this country has had a powerful effect. In 2017 the Victims of Communism conducted their second annual survey on American attitudes toward socialism and learned that over half (51%) of Millennials would prefer socialism or communism to capitalism (even though most don’t really know what socialism means). Not just the terms but the ideas are gaining ground. A poll released this past week shows that Americans (not just Millennials) favor increasing domestic spending and increasing taxes on the rich more than they favor lowering taxes on everyone. By domestic spending they mean increasing the size of the government safety net – healthcare for all, education for all, affordable housing and so on.

Unfortunately, many Catholics seem to be so caught up on the feel-good, emotional advocacy of the left that they cannot see the inherent dangers of the socialist agenda. To many generous hearts,  the hype sounds deceptively attractive. Sure we want to take care of every American. This is exactly what Christ meant when he said we should love our neighbor. Based on the big hearted extension of handouts to all, one might think the Catholic Church would be inherently supportive of such proposals. But one would be wrong. 

Socialism is NOT in line with Catholic teaching. 

Pope Leo XIII condemned socialism as far back as 1878 when he called it “the deadly plague that is creeping into the very fibers of human society and leading it on to the verge of destruction…”  In Quod Apostolici Muneris (On Socialism), he explains what is so deadly about these ideas on several levels.

First of all, this massive plan for the redistribution of wealth to pay for universal health care, education, a guaranteed income and more is thievery and it is wrong.

In response to the notion of taking from the rich and giving to the poor, Leo XIII said,

…while the socialists would destroy the “right” of property, alleging it to be a human invention altogether opposed to the inborn equality of man, and, claiming a community of goods, argue that property should not be peaceably endured, and that the property and privileges of the rich might be rightly invaded, the Church, with much greater wisdom and good sense, recognizes the inequality among men, who are born with different powers of body and mind, inequality in actual possession, also, and holds that the right of property and of ownership, which springs from nature itself, must not be touched and stands inviolate.

For she knows that stealing and robbery were forbidden in so special a manner by God, the Author and Defender of right, that He would not allow man even to desire what belonged to another, and that thieves and despoilers, no less than adulterers and idolaters, are shut out from the Kingdom of Heaven. (#9)

Does it matter whether the rich have millions or even billions? No. stealing and coveting are forbidden by the 7th and 10th Commandments. And man has the right to the fruits of his labor. Certainly he is compelled to share. But this proscription comes from his God, and should not come from the government. Man will be held to account by His Creator, should he refuse to open his heart and his checkbook to serve those less fortunate.  

Rather than apply (or extend) the Robin Hood philosophy of stealing from the rich to give to the poor, the Church desires, as Christ desires, that the human soul give from the heart. We are all called to sacrifice. And this gesture to care for those in need is one that should be extended in love and not compelled by the government. Given the chance, throughout history Americans have done an amazing job of serving the poor, both body and soul, performing corporal works of mercy with a gracious hand and a discerning eye, having such close contact as to evaluate the fruits of such service – whether their generosity is helping to lift a man from the depths or enabling him to wallow in misery by his own choice. When it comes to works of mercy, the Catholic Church has been at the forefront of the action. By no means has the Church ever abandoned the poor, but rather has extended in love the beautiful gifts offered by the Body of Christ. She knows that while God has commissioned His people with the Two Great Commandments, He has also given them free will. And in order for Him to truly love, His gift must be offered freely:

But not the less on this account does our holy Mother not neglect the care of the poor or omit to provide for their necessities; but rather, drawing them to her with a mother’s embrace, and knowing that they bear the person of Christ Himself, who regards the smallest gift to the poor as a benefit conferred on Himself, holds them in great honor. She does all she can to help them; she provides homes and hospitals where they may be received, nourished, and cared for all the world over and watches over these. She is constantly pressing on the rich that most grave precept to give what remains to the poor; and she holds over their heads the divine sentence that unless they succor the needy they will be repaid by eternal torments.

There is great danger both to the souls of those in need and to the souls of those with means, should the government step in and demand that all men be made equal. The Church has been shouting this from the rooftops; but somewhere along the line, our obligation to the poor has been reduced to an economic obligation, and his soul has been forgotten. Likewise with the giver. His gift has been reduced to a mere economic transaction. There is no relationship between the two. Their eyes do not meet; their souls do not connect. As a result, each suffers greatly. This material driven world has demeaned man by reducing him to a mere material being. Headlines and taglines and hapless phrases have lost the notion of our fallen nature, of the soul, of our need for affiliation, bonding, freedom — our need to be touched by the hand of God through His Body, the Church.

Second, closely tied to the above, the desire to ensure equality among all types of people – whether in terms of economics, gender, age, education, income, etc. – is immoral. It completely dispenses with the Body of Christ, by trying to make everyone the same, rather than celebrating and valuing our differences. As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Cor. 12:20)

When it comes to a desire to place everyone on equal footing, the Church would argue that socialists, 

“stealing the very Gospel itself with a view to deceive more easily the unwary, have been accustomed to distort it so as to suit their own purposes…” 

Not only are they wrong, but, Pope Leo XIII emphasizes, 

“…nevertheless so great is the difference between their depraved teachings and the most pure doctrine of Christ that none greater could exist: ‘for what participation hath justice with injustice or what fellowship hath light with darkness?’” (#5)

For socialists also attempt to take the notion of equality and stand it on its head. Rather than recognize that the equality of men rests in the their shared inherited nature, through which all are created in the image and likeness of God and will be judged according to the same law regardless of their status in life, socialists attempt to call all men equal by nature, denying inequality when it comes to authority, power or rights. 

Their habit, as we have so intimated, is always to maintain that nature has made all men equal, and that, therefore, neither honor nor respect is due to majesty, nor obedience to laws, unless, perhaps, to those sanctioned by their own good pleasure. (#5)

You may think this is untrue. That socialism is not about rejection of authority, only about promoting and ensuring equality; but in effect, it is. For in promoting equality, any differentiation based on uniqueness, authority or power is rejected. According to Jeff Stein, formerly of VOX and now a reporter for the Washington Post and supporter of socialism, 

“Socialism is about democratizing the family to get rid of patriarchal relations; democratizing the political sphere to get genuine participatory democracy; democratizing the schools by challenging the hierarchical relationship between the teachers of the school and the students of the school,” said Jared Abbott, a member of the DSA’s national steering committee. “Socialism is the democratization of all areas of life, including but not limited to the economy.”

These ideas have been seeping into the culture for years, with virtually every television show, movie, article, book,  upending relationships in the most precious institution in all of society — the family. Think about it. When is the last time you saw a television show where a father actually knew more than his children or was in any way a hero to his wife? Even in commercials, fathers are fools and mothers have all the power and authority. How many of us have been permanently affected by this constant beating of the “equality” drum?

This play on the idea of “equality” runs absolutely contrary to the Gospel. As Quod Apostolici Muneris explains,

But, on the contrary, in accordance with the teaching of the Gospel, the equality of men consists in this: that all, having inherited the same nature, are called to the same most high dignity of the sons of God, and that, as one and the same end is set before all, each one is to be judged by the same law and will receive punishment or reward according to his deserts. The inequality of rights and of power proceeds from the very Author of nature, ‘from whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named.’ 

For keep in mind,

…even in the kingdom of heaven He hath willed that the choirs of angels be distinct and some subject to others, and also in the Church has instituted various orders and a diversity of offices, so that all are not apostles or doctors or pastors, so also has he appointed that there should be various orders in civil society, differing in dignity, rights, and power, whereby the State, like the Church, should be one body, consisting of many members, some nobler than others, but all necessary to each other and solicitous for the common good.

Socialists have long been promoting a paradigm. And their first fully indoctrinated generation is now of age. If they get their way, they will compel a complete overhaul of the most critical institutions.Unless we come to realize the inherent dangers in socialistic thought and the disastrous results these policies would produce, we are bound to destroy what we value most:

…you know that the foundation of this society rests first of all in the indissoluble union of man and wife according to the necessity of natural law, and is completed in the mutual rights and duties of parents and children… You know also that the doctrines of socialism strive almost completely to dissolve this union; since, that stability which is imparted to it by religious wedlock being lost, it follows that the power of the father over his own children, and the duties of the children toward their parents, must be greatly weakened. But the Church, on the contrary, teaches that ‘marriage, honorable in all,’ which God himself instituted in the very beginning of the world, and made indissoluble for the propagation and preservation of the human species, has become still more binding and more holy through Christ, who raised it to the dignity of a sacrament, and chose to use it as the figure of His own union with the Church.

Socialism promises an end to all social ills. It plays on class envy and identity politics to promote scapegoats and division. This division allows for some to capitalize on the fruits of others, to deny authority and destroy boundaries. Archbishop Fulton Sheen shares some wise insight that you may find interesting. He said that pre-communist Russians were prophetic, believing that  

…the Antichrist would “come disguised as the Great Humanitarian; he will talk peace, prosperity and plenty not as means to lead us to God, but as ends in themselves…he will be so broad-minded as to identify tolerance with indifference to right and wrong, truth and error; he will spread the lie that men will never be better until they make society better and thus have selfishness to provide fuel for the next revolution…he will increase love for love and decrease love for person; he will invoke religion to destroy religion…his mission, he will say, will be to liberate men from the servitudes of superstition and Fascism, which he will never define…He will tempt Christians with the same three temptations with which he tempted Christ. The temptation to turn stones into bread as an earthly Messias will become the temptation to sell freedom for security, making bread a political weapon which only those who think his way may eat. The temptation to work a miracle by recklessly throwing himself from a steeple will become a plea to desert the lofty pinnacles of truth where faith and reason reign, for those lower depths where the masses live on slogans and propaganda…the temptation to have a new religion to destroy a religion or a politics which is religion — one that renders unto Caesar even the things that are God’s. (Communism and the Conscience of the West, p. 24)

In her motherly love, the Church calls for a halt to this ever-pounding drumbeat that simplifies the needs of men – those with and without means — before we meet the same demise that plagues every country that attempts to direct and plan for human success. Catholics must know that this is not humanitarianism. Socialism is evil. It is never coercion, but rather freedom that allows the pursuit of true happiness. Freedom to find common ground with our neighbor. Freedom to appreciate how our unique gifts can serve the Body of Christ and to use them appropriately. But ultimately, we must have the freedom to make our own way, freedom to distribute the spoils of our labor as we are called by God, freedom to serve and the freedom to love.

There are so many serious reasons popes have denounced socialism that all their rationale could not possibly fit into the length of one post. In this space I’ve had room to cover only two points. But please think about them. And consider sharing them with fellow parishioners over doughnuts after Mass this Sunday. Before the cheerleaders of this dangerous ideology take another step, we need to look them in the eye and denounce their ideas for the evils that they represent. Like President Trump, Catholics need to make a declaration. They must stand with the Body of Christ and say NO. Catholics will never be socialists.

Image: Adrian Lyttelton: Italian Culture and Society in the Age of Stile Floreale

Are We Sacrificing our Children’s Future to the Evils of the Past?

Rather than warn about the dangers of communism, the objective of these authors seems to be to show even brutal communist leader, Joseph Stalin, in a favorable light.

One of my children transferred into a public school for the first time this year, as a junior in high school. I’d heard rumors. I watch the news. I was somewhat prepared for the 120px-Hammer_and_sicklechallenges. And, of course, there were reasons that I chose homeschooling for his primary years. That said, I’ve been astonished at the overt jabs made in his textbooks – particularly history – toward all that I hold dear.

Here just two examples that demonstrate an antithetical understanding of faith in God, completely separating faith from rational thought:

Franklin never denied the existence of God. Rather, he pushed the Lord aside, making room for the free exercise of human reason. (p. 91, referring to Benjamin Franklin)

You may see this as flowery prose. But I’ve read Franklin’s autobiography. Anyone who has studied Benjamin Franklin at all knows that he never “pushed the Lord aside.” To even imply that he did is disingenuous, if not malicious. On the very first page of his autobiography, Franklin refers to the “blessings of God. And on the second page, he states,

And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all Humility to acknowledge, that I owe the mention’d Happiness of my past Life to his kind Providence, which led me to the Means I us’d & gave them Success. My belief of this, induces me to hope, tho’ I must not presume, that the same Goodness will still be exercis’d towards me in continuing that Happiness…

Does that sound like a man who would ever push the Lord aside? Read the book – there are plenty of passages that would directly dispute the textbook quote above.

Here is another example that again sets up a “rational vs. religious” disparity. This quote was taken from a packet the kids were given to study for the same class:

Despite the inroads of rationalism, nineteenth-century Americans remained a profoundly religious people – as they have been ever since.

Here is a quote that takes on religious conservatives. I found this among many in a completely degrading and dismissive article highlighted as a sidebar on p.301:

…the more recent evangelical engagement with politics that was labeled the New Christian Right sprung up in the 1980’s — epitomized by organizations such as the Moral Majority — mostly has been a conservative force of reaction against great changes in American society. The fundamentalist Moral Majority crystallized around the politcal issues of opposition to abortion and gay rights, as well as promotion of school prayer and vouchers for private schools. [emphases mine]

Not only did they demonstrate opposition to religious values, as seen above, but further on in the sidebar, they slammed religious motives by implying that Christians are bigots:

Unlike earlier evangelical reformers, they are motivated less by millennial perfectionism than by alarm at the growing diversity and secularization of American society, and they have joined with other religious conservatives in their political campaigns.

But along with a great challenge the writers have in seeing religious people as rational individuals with laudable motives, the book also appears to show unbelievable sympathy toward anti-religious political philosophies – particularly Communism – a belief system that Our Lady sought to halt by asking that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. Catholics have long sought to educate the public on the dangers inherent within communist ideology. Saint John Paul II , through the Hand of Divine Providence, played a key role in the ultimate demise of the Russian communist empire (USSR).

Even in secular circles, most adults who grew up during the cold war have some understanding of the dangers of Communism, which was responsible for the deaths of 100 million people in the 20th Century.

In an introduction to the Cold War, these authors seems to show communist leader, Joseph Stalin, in a favorable light, while they cast a shadow over President Truman (emphases below are mine):

“I am getting ready to go see Stalin and Churchill,” President Truman wrote to his mother in July 1945, “and it is a chore.” On board the cruiser Augusta, the new president continued to complain about the upcoming Potsdam Conference in his diary. “How I hate this trip!” he confided. “But I have to make it win, lose or draw, and we must win. I am giving nothing away except to save starving people, and even then I hope we can only help them to help themselves.”

Halfway around the world, Joseph Stalin left Moscow a day late because of a slight heart attack. The Russian leader hated to fly, so he traveled by rail. Moreover, he ordered the heavily guarded train to detour around Poland for fear of an ambush, further delaying his arrival. When he made his entrance into Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin miraculously spared the total destruction that his forces had created in the German capital, he was ready to claim the spoils of war.

These two men, one the veteran revolutionary who had been in power for two decades, the other an untested leader in office for barely three months, symbolized the enormous differences that now separated the wartime allies. Stalin was above all a realist. Brutal in securing total control at home, he was more flexible in his foreign policy, bent on exploiting Russia’s victory in World War II rather than aiming at world domination. Cunning and caution were the hallmarks of his diplomatic style. Small in stature, ungainly in build, he radiated a catlike quality as he waited behind his unassuming facade, ready to dazzle an opponent with hisbrilliant, terrifying tactical mastery.Truman, in contrast, personified traditional Wilsonian idealism. Lacking Roosevelt’s guile, the new president placed his faith in international cooperation. Like many Americans, he believed implicitly in his country’s innate goodness. Self-assured to the point of cockiness, he came to Potsdam clothed in the armor of self-righteousness. – p. 700 [emphases mine]

Please remember, Stalin is a man responsible for the deaths of over 20 million of his own people. But I didn’t find a word about his murder rate. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Granted, this is an American history book. But some back story may have been helpful as the writers describe our conflict with communists. Instead, the book explains that the Cold War was the result of land disputes in Europe after WWII, and American “distrust” of Russian motives. At the first mention of communism, here is the wording:

“After emerging victorious from World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union found themselves locked in a bitter rivalry that threatened to trigger nuclear destruction of the entire planet. At stake in this contest were not only national ambitions but also incompatible ideologies – capitalism and communism – that amplified popular suspicion and animosity. Americans feared that as agents of world communism, the leaders of the Soviet Union planned the destruction of the free market as well as individual liberty. Indeed, Americans became convinced, especially during the McCarthy “Red Scare” era of the early 1950’s, that the Soviet Union had organized an insidious conspiracy that reached into the State Department and Pentagon and compromised the interests of the United States. Playing on the fear of ordinary citizens, Senator Joseph McCarthy accused famous writers, filmmakers, and musicians of being Soviet spies and Communists intent on helping the enemy. Wars waged in far-off countries such as Vietnam aimed to halt the spread of communism, and a growing anxiety over imagined Soviet aggression served to heighten among the American people a sense of the United States having a special mission as defender of democracy and capitalism.” – 100 [emphases mine]

Communism isn’t the only philosophy looked kindly upon in this textbook. Socialism is painted not merely with sympathy, but positively. Just about everywhere I read the word socialism, it was juxtaposed with the “injustices” of capitalism. Beneath the photo of a campaign poster for “Eugene V. Debs” on the Socialist ticket, the caption reads:

Presidential campaign poster for Eugene V. Debs on the Socialist party of America ticket in 1904. The poster’s imagery appeals to industrial workers, miners, and farmers, and its slogan, “Workers of the world unite,” was a key call to action of the party to challenge the injustices of capitalism. – p. 573

When describing Debs, the book says that his party was never effectively organized to create change, but,

…he was eloquent, passionate, and visionary. An excellent speaker, he captivated audiences, attacking the injustices of capitalism and urging a workers’ republic. – p. 573


By 1911, there were socialist mayors in thirty-two cities, including Berkley, California, Butte, Montana; and Flint, Michigan….although torn by factions, the Socialist party doubled in membership between 1904 and 1908, then tripled in the four years after that. Running for president, Debs garnered 100,000 votes in 1900; 400,000 in 1904; and 900,000 in 1912, the party’s peak year. – p. 573

According to Vladimir Lenin, who led the Bolsheviks in the Communist Revolution of 1917, “The Goal of Socialism is Communism“. The tone of this book should be extremely concerning to all freedom-loving Americans. The most damning comment I found about socialism was that it didn’t gain much popularity. Otherwise, tenants seemed to be couched in rather idealistic terms.

But capitalism?

While some historians have argued that paternalism was part of a social system that was organized like a family hierarchy rather than a brutal, profit-making arrangement, there was no inconsistency between planter’s paternalism and capitalism. – p 269

Industrial capitalism — the world of factories and foremen and grimy machines — tested the immigrants and placed an enormous strain on their families. – p. 471

Many businesses used injunctions and “yellow-dog contracts” — which forbade employees to join unions – to establish open shops and deny workers the benefits of collective bargaining. Other employers wooed their workers away from unions using techniques of welfare capitalism – spending money to improve plant conditions and winning employee loyalty with pensions, paid vacations, and company cafeterias…. – p. 626

As I skimmed through this text, the distinct message was that religion and capitalism are bad. Communism and Socialism, on the other hand, seem to be held as superior alternatives to those values inherent in the fabric of our Republic.

According to Paul Kengor in his recently released book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism,

We won the Cold War in the political arena, but lost it in the classroom. If and when communism is taught at all in American schools, the communists are lauded for their idealism, their devotion to equality for women and minorities. Their actual track record – the politically created famines, the wars of aggression, the body count in the tens of millions – is too frequently passed over in silence. – p. 3

That has been my experience with my son’s text. While I merely skimmed the book, I could not possibly find room in this post to share all the mud slinging I found – whether directly or by insinuation – directed toward our Catholic values.

Communism is dangerous. Socialism is a leap in that direction and gaining in popularity among the young in America, as demonstrated by the huge popularity of Bernie Sanders, self-proclaimed democratic socialist, who ran against Hilary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primary.

Recently, a poll conducted by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that 58% of Millennials would rather live in a Socialist, Communist or Fascist nation than a Capitalist one. After surveying this book, I must say that I am not surprised. Sadly, few of those who responded to the poll could properly define socialism, communism or fascism.

My aim here is merely to shed a light on my own experience and suggest that you take a closer look at your children’s texts. You may be surprised.

I did meet with my son’s principal to discuss my concerns. He was very kind, and frankly, surprised by some of what I showed him. But do you know what he said? He told me that I was the first parent to speak out since they began using this book four years ago. Do you know what that tells me?

I was right to SPEAK OUT.

And YOU should SPEAK OUT too.

We should not stand idly by and roll our eyes at the anti-Christian, anti-capitalist, anti-American propaganda being imposed upon our children. Speaking out is the only way we can take back our schools. Action is critical. For if we allow our schools to mislead and even fail to educate our children about key events in the past, aren’t we dooming them to repeat it?








Three Books and a Revelation: What Ayn Rand Got Wrong

There is no love without sacrifice. And in a political system, sacrifice without love becomes a distorted perversion of the sacred, used by the few to control the many. 

Book Number One

Not too long ago, I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand for the first time. A heroin of many conservatives, Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged specifically to demonstrate the foolishness of any political system where the Atlas_Shrugged_4887943033means of production are managed by the state. As a freedom-loving, American capitalist, I have to say that through most of it I was riveted and cheering Rand on as she masterfully illustrated that capitalism is by far the best economic and political system around. It’s not that I thought her book was perfect, but she definitely made her point.

A staunch advocate for capitalism, Rand, herself, escaped communism as a young adult and was determined never to return. Her mission as a writer was to decry the evils of government control and to extol the virtues of capitalism as well as the importance of individual freedom. Having experienced the former in the early 1900’s – she was a high school student in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 – Rand considered the resulting state power to be absolute evil.

Lately it seems the political climate in the United States is not completely alien from that of Russia in the early twentieth century. Governmental corruption is rampant, as is the inefficiency of the huge bureaucracy which is the federal government. Like the Russians on the cusp of 1917, Americans are war weary and there has been great unrest regarding a lack of opportunity, low wages and disparate conditions.

Over the last eight years these problems seem to have intensified and multiplied or, if nothing else, have been magnified to the nth degree. Issues of race, creed and economic disparity are more paramount today than at any time since the Civil Rights Movement reached its height in the 50’s and 60’s. Daily demonstrations receive massive media attention. Just this week over 400 protesters were arrested at the capital building – civil disobedience is on the rise and tensions are high.

Needless to say, in this climate a shout-out for capitalism in the form of a novel was for me a light in the darkness. A herald to a truth that has been rabidly twisted and distorted over the past generation. Particularly in our country, as concerned citizens seek answers to the problems they witness all around them. Many, especially the young, are willing to try an alternative to the capitalism they’ve long been taught is the source of our deepest cultural and economic problems.

So roughly 800 pages into it, I was all-in for a book illustrating the virtues of capitalism. And then I reached the last, roughly 70 pages. This was where things got crazy, as Rand presents the reader with a complete diatribe of her belief system through a speech given by one of the main characters of the book. During that speech, Rand (through the voice of John Galt) throws religion out with big government.

“Selfishness – say both – is man’s evil. Man’s good – say both – is to give up his personal desires, to deny himself, renounce himself, surrender; man’s good is to negate the life he lives. Sacrifice – cry both – is the essence of morality, the highest virtue within man’s reach…

…”It is your mind that they want you to surrender – all those who preach the creed of sacrifice, whatever their tags or their motives, whether they promise you another life in heaven or a full stomach on this earth.”

Whoa!! So this is why I’d vaguely remembered hearing that Rand’s views are not compatible with the Catholic church. Religion is nothing like communism or socialism. While those systems strive to serve the lowest common denominator by denouncing individual aspirations and self-determination, our Faith asks that we take advantage of our God-given freedom to serve all with love – through our own will, not by mandate. Being asked to serve by our Heavenly Father is not at all comparable to being obligated by law. When I reached the end of the book, I was deeply disturbed that after 800 pages of getting it (for the most part) right, Rand could end on such a horribly depraved note.

But shortly after reading Atlas Shrugged, I realized that Rand’s distorted view of religion had germinated through seeds of deception planted in the poisonous soil of her youth. A riveting book about the lives of citizens in North Korea both helped me to understand Rand’s confusion, and spurred some of my own.

Book Number Two

The book was Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. Written by a journalist who captured in minute detail the day to day lives of six North Korean citizens who eventually escaped to freedom in South Korea, the book illustrates the horrid conditions of many in a country that strains to present itself as a utopian society. Ordinary citizens watched loved ones tortured and killed. They ate rats in order to stay alive. Daily lives were nightmares from which citizens could find no escape.  Oppressed and desperate, each of these individuals risked life and limb just to get out from under the incredible burden of communism.

The most disturbing and discomforting part of this book was the sacrifice lauded by the government. The talk from their leaders sounded startlingly familiar. These were the themes I hear in Mass every Sunday. That I read in Sacred Scripture every day. They were the profound ideals offered by the saints that have gone before us. Here’s just one small example of the themes saturating North Korean culture through the hand of their omnipotent leader:

Every town in North Korea, no matter how small, has a movie theater, thanks to Kim Jong-il’s conviction that film is an indispensable tool for instilling loyalty in the masses…The films were mostly dramas with the same themes: The path to happiness was self-sacrifice and suppression of the individual for the good of the collective. (emphasis mine)

Sacrifice? Suppression of self? These are things I’d read for years in the great classics of our Faith. This is what we teach our children. And yet, these sentiments came from an evil, communist dictator. As someone who escaped the USSR, no wonder Ayn Rand did not believe in God. If USSR was anything like North Korea, the government presented itself as a god-like figure. Trusting in THE God would become a an almost insurmountable hurdle once a counterfeit had been exposed for the corrupt, self-serving charlatan that he is. There could be no greater impediment to faith in the One True God than the fraudulent benevolence claimed by the powers that be in those godforsaken countries.

I must admit. When I finished Nothing to Envy, I was perplexed. I was confused. While I didn’t doubt the existence of God, I did wonder how something so good and something so terribly evil could sound so similar? What was I missing?

Book Number Three

Enter Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen (which we just began reading in our book club at spiritual – check it out). In the first couple of pages, Sheen addresses this very subject. In a few sentences he brings clarity to my confusion. His comments illustrate the error inherent in Rand’s philosophy:

“Communism has chosen the Cross in the sense that it has brought back to an egotistic world a sense of discipline, self-abnegation, surrender, hard work, study, and dedication to supra individual goals. But the Cross without Christ is sacrifice without love. Hence, Communism has produced a society that is authoritarian, cruel, oppressive of human freedom, filled with concentration camps, firing squads, and brain-washings.” – Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ (p. xxv)

There is no love without sacrifice. But in a political system, sacrifice without love becomes a distorted perversion of the sacred, used by the few to control the many. No version of this is the solution to our nation’s problems. True love offered as true sacrifice is the only real solution to what ails us. And it cannot be found in any law, mandate or government system.

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