Philosophical arguments happen at Christmas time. It is one of those times when people ask questions about ultimate truth, the meaning of Christmas, and the meaning of life. Mark Gollom of CBC News recently interviewed Yaron Brook, a follower of Ayn Rand, to explore his thoughts on the true meaning of Christmas. Having read the interview I thought I would juxtapose two philosophies of life: Objectivism, as expressed by the Ayn Rand Institute, and the Christian Gospel, as described in the Gospel of Luke in the Bible (and as read by Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas). The reader may choose which philosophy seems most credible and then research that way of life more thoroughly.
Objectivism, as a philosophy, proposes a way of life in which one pursues “rational self-interest, in making your life the best life it can be and adhering to principles that will guide you in pursuing your own happiness, your own success and your own flourishing as a human being.”1 (Note the significant emphasis upon the self.) According to Yaron Brook, current executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, Christmas has become a non-Christian holiday which celebrates consumerism.
Brook: I don’t think it’s a celebration of materialism qua materialism. It’s a celebration of life. As such, the material or the materialism out there is part of life — how we make life better. We consume stuff but we consume stuff because it enhances our life and our life is not material, we experience life spirituality. But there’s no conflict, in my view, between spiritual and the material. The material enhances the spiritual — the function of consciousness is to make it possible for us to think and to produce and therefore to be able to enjoy the material world.
The material and spiritual go hand and hand, and I think Christmas illustrates that. You know you had to be productive and to make money all year to be able to have money to be able to spend it. All this is very non-Christian. And I think that’s what upsets people, that it isn’t linked to these ideas of sacrifice and self-denial, which I think are vices. I don’t think they’re virtues. So this is why I love Christmas so much, because it’s the celebration of the opposite of sacrifice, and the opposite of self-denial. It’s the celebration of success and prosperity.2
The traditional themes as expressed in the Gospel of Luke and in the soliloquy by Linus van Pelt are quite different from those expressed by Objectivism. Linus quotes Luke 2:8-14 as the true meaning of Christmas. Here it is in the King James translation used by Linus:
Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Some of the themes expressed in this version of the meaning of Christmas include, a saviour who saves humans from their own self-interest; a saviour who saves people from striving for happiness in materialism; angels and humans who praise God for the gift of self-sacrifice given by God to the world; and peace and good will brought about by the same God who took on human form to save human-kind.
The essence of each philosophy is diametrically opposed to the other. Objectivism encourages self-interest and struggling after the things of this world; the Gospel encourages acceptance of a gift of sacrifice and self-sacrifice for the sake of others. I ask the reader to consider which path will serve our world and our spirits best. Merry Christmas Charlie Brown.
1 “Why Yaron Brook likes Christmas consumerism,” By Mark Gollom, CBC News Posted: Dec 26, 2013 5:00 AM ET| Last Updated: Dec 25, 2013 3:47 PM ET; http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/why-yaron-brook-likes-christmas-consumerism-sorry-charlie-brown-1.2474906
2 “Why Yaron Brook likes Christmas consumerism,” By Mark Gollom, CBC News Posted: Dec 26, 2013 5:00 AM ET| Last Updated: Dec 25, 2013 3:47 PM ET; http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/why-yaron-brook-likes-christmas-consumerism-sorry-charlie-brown-1.2474906