Tag Archives: theology

Not sure America had a mind to lose…

In a long article in this week’s Atlantic, Kurt Andersen builds the argument that America’s teetering march toward extreme individualism and non-rational thinking were pushed over the edge by the relativism of the 60s, and here we are now as a result.
“How America Lost Its Mind” (The Atlantic)

“In America nowadays, those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts. Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation—small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become.”

I always raise an eyebrow at arguments like this. For every Thomas Jefferson who was cutting the miracles out of his Bible because they didn’t make sense to his rational mind, weren’t there a ton of other 1700s-era Americans who got off the boat and headed straight into the wild Appalachians so they could get away from the long arm of the law and being told what to do in a structured, reasoned society?

Andersen seems to argue that the 60s injected a dose of relativism so extreme that the American experiment hasn’t been able to recover. Coupled with the rise of the Internet to amplify the craziness, we now find ourselves in a “post-truth” society.

While the breakdown of our political discourse seems to be new compared to the past 75 years, should we forget McCarthyism and the Red Scare that threw America into a frenzy in the 50s? I’m reading a biography of Oppenheimer which discusses how one of the greatest physicists who ever lived was destroyed and defamed based on zero evidence and a lot of terror about Communists taking over. The rhetoric of his trial could easily fill a Trump speech; just swap out some of the names.

I’m more and more convinced that the vitriol and racism and lack of compromise that we’re seeing isn’t new. It’s not like we’ve regressed to lower life forms in the past 24 months from a state of enlightenment. As a people, we never really changed. Certain legislation drags us forward into being less ugly about it (e.g.: Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Brown vs Board of Education) but Americans have been like this in many ways since our founding. We’ve always been about “doing our own thing,” though perhaps more people agreed on what “that thing” should be on the national scale at certain times more than others.

Andersen seems to write from the center-left position but he does so smugly, in a way that grates on me a bit.  Most of the time, I feel like he’s grinding an axe and proud of himself for letting you tag along.

I did appreciate this part of his critique of the GOP:

Another way the GOP got loopy was by overdoing libertarianism. I have some libertarian tendencies, but at full-strength purity it’s an ideology most boys grow out of. On the American right since the ’80s, however, they have not. Republicans are very selective, cherry-picking libertarians: Let business do whatever it wants and don’t spoil poor people with government handouts; let individuals have gun arsenals but not abortions or recreational drugs or marriage with whomever they wish; and don’t mention Ayn Rand’s atheism. Libertarianism, remember, is an ideology whose most widely read and influential texts are explicitly fiction.

Perhaps our politicians were better men at one time, but I don’t think history is going to support that thesis either, really. Corruption comes and goes at all levels of government; I think at times it’s more obnoxious than others, but there’s no way to escape the truth that money is power, and power is the key currency within politics.

I’m not a pessimist; I do think our nation can choose to be better than this. But it’s not just a political discussion. Many of the fears driving people to support men like Trump (even when Trump’s policies work against the best interests of poor and middle-class whites) stem from a coming economic disaster that will hit the less-educated very hard, especially men who have formed the bulk of the blue-collar work force.  Very few people are writing enough about this.

It would help if our pulpits emphasized loving God and neighbor above pursuing culture wars in Jesus’ name.  But that’s a rant I’ll leave for another day.

Why all the fuss over RHE?

The amount of controversy kicked up by Rachel Held Evans never fails to amaze me. She says stuff I disagree with, stuff I agree with, and a lot of stuff in between that just represents …. ideas. Not brilliant or heretical or life-altering. Occasionally perceptive, deep, and moving.

So it was with when I sat down to read one of her more famous books. After noticing how the mere mention of RHE turns many of my (otherwise nice, kind, normal) male Christian friends into raging assholes, I started reading more of her works in an attempt to make sense of what kept happening on my Facebook feed.

51T8OyRMLiL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_A Year of Biblical Womanhood punches all the buttons of someone who wants to hate RHE’s books: She’s happy to pick and choose theological and religious experiences in her pursuit of living for a year like a “biblical woman.” She rejects several standard, beloved Evangelical positions. The whole book is written as if it should be a Big Deal… when it really isn’t.  But hey, I remember being 30 and uncertain and searching.

On the other hand, RHE always turns up (IMO)  ideas I find worthy of contemplation. Several moments of her yearlong experiment in living through loosely defined ‘biblical womanhood’ resulted in moving passages in the book. I nodded along and underlined sentences and starred words which encapsulated some of the same critiques I launch at the “evangelical establishment” – though usually only for the tiny audience of my husband.  Baptizing patriarchy and calling it holy through years of tradition and cultural syncretism is bad, even if challenging the status quo makes people uncomfortable.

Her ceremony to honor the female victims of the “Texts of Terror” is a good example of what makes her so infuriating to Evangelical men and endearing to me — a section both controversial and very touching. Rachel and her friend met in a modernized vigil similar to the commemoration of the Jephthah’s daughter mentioned in Judges 11:39-40 but lost in history. They lit candles in honor of the women who lived (and often died) in horrific circumstances, preserved for all time an eternity as “stories” in the Biblical text: Jephthah’s daughter. Tamar. The Levite’s concubine cut into pieces.

It pisses off Evangelicals to label as “texts of terror” the Old Testament accounts of brutal rape, murder, or mutilation of women. But RHE has a point: By normalizing these stories (or simply ignoring them – when’s the last time you heard a sermon from Judges 19?), we never force ourselves to come face-to-face with the difficult questions presented in the narratives of Scripture. Our world is seriously fucked up. Evil is really really really evil. Saying “it’s not so bad! God can make it good!” doesn’t make the evil less evil. But it’s way easier to ignore this than acknowledge it.

Or take Proverbs 31. A simple search for “Proverbs 31 woman” on Amazon brings up 100 pages of title results.  To say it in emoji:  O.O

This text is so revered as the sine qua non pattern of perfect womanhood, most of us won’t even speak out loud how deeply this text shames us:  The Proverbs 31 Woman, as archetype, is unattainable. Within the Evangelical Christianity of my upbringing, this woman may be prized as far above rubies, but the daily failure of any of us to live up to the standard makes it hard to smile through the Mother’s Day sermons. “She shall be praised,” yes, but the rest of us women live with the consequences.

RHE brought to light the fact that, within Judaism, Proverbs 31 is a blessing, not a command. How ironic. The “woman of valor” (eschet chayil) uses her gifts to bless her household, and within Judaism, it is the husband who memorizes this passage, that he may quote it for his wife in acknowledgment and gratitude.  Reading that section on Proverbs 31 in A Year of Biblical Womanhood released the passage from its status as oppressive overlord and gave me eyes to see instead beauty and grace. “Women of valor” exist everywhere in my life and they should be praised!

*   *   *   *

The conversation on “biblical womanhood” revolves around three fights:  1) equality vs submission within marriage; 3) women’s roles in the church, especially relating to the  pastorate; 3) modesty.

I appreciate RHE even when I disagree with her exegesis, hermeneutics, or conclusions because she reminds me that those fights are not as cut and dried as we insist on making them.

Good people – men and women with whom I will share the New Jerusalem – do not agree whether women can be pastors or whether the pursuit of egalitarian marriage is misguided or what makes something ‘modest.’ And when our response to an opposing viewpoint is to label it as dangerous liberal heresy and refuse to engage in the ideas or even acknowledge the writer herself as having a legitimate voice at the table, we fall into a blindness of our own making. 

RHE is a signpost for the changes in 21st Century American Christianity. A Millennial, she speaks for many who simply do not operate under the older “rules,” especially the tinge of Modernism that shaped the Christianity I grew up in. For postmodern Christians, story trumps propositions. Community triumphs over sectarianism and denominational divisions. Significance means seeing the Gospel heal the world in both tangible and spiritual realms, not ‘being right.’ Faith anchors in a living relationship with The Word (Christ).

Obviously many of my male theological friends disapprove (if Facebook is an accurate thermometer), but I happen to think the young’uns are headed in a better direction.

Faith UnraveledThis particular book of RHE’s will not move any mountains, and in some ways it’s as much an experiment to provide content for her blog/book than anything else. But others – like Faith Unraveled – are absolutely worth your time to read.

And I am glad that Rachel Held Evans (alongside many articular women) is writing, speaking, and provoking responses in the Church. We need her – and many more like her.



Article: Reconciling Christianity and Feminism // Dianna E. Anderson

I appreciate articles which offer us a glimpse of the tension between personal faith and historic Christian tradition. I’ve rarely found anyone who attempts to hold both feminism and Christianity as complementary worldviews rather than as enemies. Yet Dianna Anderson is living that dream. So to speak.

The Atlantic did a short piece on her recent book Damaged Goods, where she writes as a committed Evangelical Christian about gender issues, sex, and womanhood. Though it sounds like her narrative doesn’t really marry these divergent viewpoints into a true harmony, I appreciate her willingness to live inside cognitive dissonance while she works it out.  It’s more honest than the “purity culture” narrative that Evangelicalism is trying to live with.

Anderson claims she has developed a whole new way of thinking about Christian sexual ethics, yet she refers to this casually as her “thing.” The personal quality of her argument doesn’t necessarily make it more persuasive; it would take more than 200 pages and a quick skip through history to reconcile two ideologies that have been defined almost wholly in opposition to one another.

But it is probably more honest. Anderson really wrote Damaged Goods because, as she puts it, “I felt like a freak because I was a feminist, a Christian, and a virgin.” For the next generation, this might be a useful framework for engaging with both Christianity and feminism, and one that will probably resonate: understanding the work of Jesus and the identities of women not in abstract political terms, but as glimpses of truth people use in shaping their own lives.

via Reconciling Christianity and Feminism in Dianna E. Anderson’s New Book, ‘Damaged Goods’ – The Atlantic.


Sometimes I pretend that disparate ideas can actually belong together in a post if I just throw them all in here….

Ecclesiastes tells us it’s better to go to a funeral than a party but that’s still a hard pill to swallow.

Attended the viewing on Friday of a man I’d not had the pleasure of meeting, though I’d heard a lot of wonderful about him. Cancer took this husband and father of 4 from the world much earlier than we would have wished.

Mused over the barbarous nature of forcing a grieving widow and children to see everyone in the town via a 4-hour marathon.  That’s something I with Southerners would change. My Northern family & friends tend to spread out their grief visitations over 2 -3 days and 4 sessions. Things are more neighborly that way.  As neighborly as you can get at a funeral parlor….

Love is the thing.  Of all the “change agents” that people try to shove into the lives of people around them, the only one that really counts is faith expressing itself through love (to echo Paul’s words in Galatians 5).

There is a sweetness in the life of people who choose to love the messy people around them instead of demanding change, imposing change, enforcing change. You can’t get to someone’s heart through rules, regardless of how destructive you think their behavior is.

There’s a man in my church who worked at Pratt & Whitney on the engines for the SR-71 Blackbird, one of the space vehicles, and the Joint Strike Fighter.  I think that’s pretty cool.  This photo is for him:

SR-71 Blackbird, which greets you when you enter the museum.
SR-71 Blackbird, which greets you when you enter the museum.

Airplanes are sexy. That one is, anyway.

859687_1_ftc_dpBlazed through a book today, Death by Suburb by David Goetz.  *shrugs*  It was pretty good. He attempted several good points about the materialism of American suburban life and the way Christians get distracted by their success-driven search for “immortality symbols.”

He correctly identifies that much we do in the name of Jesus is actually for our own benefit — to make ourselves feel better about the world and our place in it, to satisfy an internal need to avoid guilt by paying lip service to community service or mission work, to gain social advantage.  But his suggested solutions struck me as kind of equally kitschy. The chapters center on what he calls 8 spiritual disciplines …. but really the chapters are just full of anecdotes and what seem to me to be random quotes from either a medieval mystic or CS Lewis.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend the book, but if you know of someone who’s blithely living apart from any actual comprehension of how white suburban Christianity is tied to American materialism, maybe this is worth a read for them.

SupperMuch better reading comes in the form of Robert Farrar Capon’s delightful theology-cum-cookbook The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection. Delivered into my hands as a well-chosen Christmas gift by a friend, I have savored every word. (Pun intended.)

Capon loved cooking – in his Scandinavian-flavored way – and he grasped the sweeping narrative of Redemption history, seeing it in the bones of our existence.  I know it sounds strange, but you haven’t enjoyed the beauty of spiritual reflection until you’ve thrown in a recipe for roast lamb and read about how to pick a good cleaver.

I will leave you intrigued. 🙂

Visited the Due South Coffee Company – finally! – this Saturday, as part of a much-needed trek for rest and not-work. Check out this beautiful place:

An abandoned mill rescued for artistry & coffee - perfect!
An abandoned mill rescued for artistry & coffee – perfect!

Questions, Doubt, and Faith: Reading Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans

Faith UnraveledRachel Held Evans is a bit of a controversy in Evangelicalism these days.  She’s on Christian-world radar because of her posts that challenge commonly held opinions about gender roles in the church, Christian responses to homosexuality, the creation-evolution debates, and universalism.  I’m pretty sure I could go type her name into my status Facebook status bar right now and spawn about 15 comments.  I’d guess that at least half would be negative, and of those, 2 or 3 would be downright derogatory and dismissive without even considering whatever point I was bringing up.

RHE is a lightning rod.  No argument from me.  So I picked up her 2010 spiritual memoir Faith Unraveled and read it today. Straight through, one sitting.

I may not agree with everything Evans believes. I strongly doubt that I do.  But I applaud her journey through doubt, her willingness to ask hard questions without accepting pat answers, her desire to seek faith in the midst of ambiguity.

Faith Unraveled is a book about doubt and a book about faith.  Both-and, not one supplanting the other.  Her narrative about leaving the intellectually-driven Evangelical world-view Christianity and wandering in a desert of uncertainty doesn’t match my story, but it resonates with me.  We’ve asked many of the same questions; it’s just that mine came in a different order.

Rachel’s Christian faith unraveled when she smacked hard into the Problem of Evil but couldn’t swallow the easy answers — that we should overlook hard questions about genocide in the Old Testament, about hell and the afterlife, about the horrors of war or rape or abuse because God’s plan turns evil to good.   It’s easy to flip out that answer as if it makes rape not rape, or genocide not genocide, or Hurricane Katrina not horrible. (I created my own dust-up about this topic after reading N D Wilson’s book Notes from a Tilt-a-whirl.)

And Evans’s doubt-story centers in the heart of the painful, terrifying question — what kind of God does Evangelical Christianity offer if He destroys 200,000 humans in a tsunami or entire Canaanite cities without a pang of sorrow?  “They were going to Hell anyway” is hardly an appropriate response, but it’s what Evans heard from many of her Christian friends. And I’ve heard it too.

And all of my years of seminary coursework taught me there’s more nuance and ambiguity in the biblical texts than many of the hot Christian authors or preachers are willing to live with.

I could hand Rachel Held Evans’s book to my friends who are searching, doubting, agnostic, uncertain, wounded, or even hostile and I believe her words would open doors to good conversations about the difficult spaces within my Christian faith.

I’ll leave you with a few passages that stuck out to me, and a recommendation to read for yourself, whether the book or the controversial blog.

From Faith Unraveled (I read on Kindle, so I don’t have page numbers):

My friend Adele describes fundamentalism as holding so tightly to your beliefs that your fingernails leave imprints on the palm of your hand.

We would all like to believe that had we lived in the days of the early church or the Protestant Reformation, we would have chosen the side of truth, but in nearly every case, this would have required a deep questioning of the fundamental teachings of the time. It would have required a willingness to change. We must be wary of imitating the Pharisees, who bragged that had they lived during the time of the prophets, they would have protected the innocent (see Matt. 23:30), but who then plotted against Jesus and persecuted his disciples.

Evolution [as a believer] means letting go of our false fundamentals so that God can get into those shadowy places we’re not sure we want him to be. It means being okay with being wrong, okay with not having all the answers, okay with never being finished.

To Jesus, “by faith alone” did not mean “by belief alone.” To Jesus, faith was invariably linked to obedience.

Some Christians are more offended by the idea of everyone going to heaven than by the idea of everyone going to hell.

What if I’m wrong? It was a question loaded with uncertainty, possibility, and hope, and it was a question to which I often would return. To be wrong about God is the condition of humanity, for better or for worse.

In the end, it was doubt that saved my faith.

God’s ways are higher than our ways not because he is less compassionate than we are but because he is more compassionate than we can ever imagine.

I can never open my Bible without being aware of my own presence beside it. It reminds me that I’m always there, that I cannot read a word of this glorious, God-breathed book without bringing myself along, baggage and all.

Perhaps our love for the Bible should be measured not by how valiantly we fight to convince others of our interpretations but by how diligently we work to preserve a diversity of opinion.

I am convinced that what drives most people away from Christianity is not the cost of discipleship but rather the cost of false fundamentals.

Taking on the yoke of Jesus is not about signing a doctrinal statement or making an intellectual commitment to a set of propositions. It isn’t about being right or getting our facts straight. It is about loving God and loving other people.

Doubt is a difficult animal to master because it requires that we learn the difference between doubting God and doubting what we believe about God. The former has the potential to destroy faith; the latter has the power to enrich and refine it. The former is a vice; the latter a virtue

Sometimes Christians worry that if we don’t provide bullet-point answers to all of life’s questions, people will assume that our faith is unreasonable. In reaction to very loud atheists like Richard Dawkins, we have become a bit too loud ourselves. Faith in Jesus has been recast as a position in a debate, not a way of life.

Most of the people I’ve encountered are looking not for a religion to answer all their questions but for a community of faith in which they can feel safe asking them.

Yes.  The Truth is big enough to handle your questions. Your hard, agonizing, terrifying doubts and what-if’s about God and the Universe and How Things Work.

Article: Christians should not be marked by pessimism

This is such a great article by Os Guinness that I wish I could go back in time to post it again and then like my own post.

Christians should not be marked by pessimism

My only gripe: CCCU didn’t offer this article in a web version. You have to open up their PDF reader thing.  Totally annoying. :/  But it’s worth it.  I promise!

You can read a quick summary of the main points of the speech here and listen to the audio file of the address.

Guinness hammers home the point that if the Gospel means anything, it certainly means that the pessimism that marks so much popular discourse in Christian circles needs to stop.

Why I can’t buy into Ayn Rand (Part 2)

Yesterday I began a discussion of the recent uptick in interest in Ayn Rand’s economic ideas among conservatives.  With half of my friends reading Rand’s novels and discussing how awesome her ideas of individualism are and how well that fits into their libertarian or highly-conservative political views, I felt like it was time for me to do a little more thinking on the topic.

Honestly, I’m rather bothered by the numbers of Christians who are racing to embrace Rand’s economics while supposedly bypassing her philosophy.  I don’t think we can really separate the two.
Let me tackle just a few of her ideas that I find unbiblical….. or at least “sketchy”:
Ardent Individualism
America was built on individualistic pioneers who said “Piss off!” to the British (or Irish or Germans or French or whatever) and came to these shores to build a new life for themselves and — especially — to be left alone.  The Puritans touted a work ethic to make oneself holy; the Scots-Irish fled into the Appalachian hills to find solitude; the wagon trains took hearty adventurers and those hungry for ownership into the West where land was nearly free.
No wonder Ayn Rand found America a balm after she watched communism and socialism eat up her family’s wealth in Russia.  Her Objectivism, steeped in Enlightenment rationalism and ideals, fits here perfectly alongside our Declaration of Independence, social-contract theory of government, and Deistic perspective on man’s “natural” rights.
I’m proud of my American heritage ….  of my Italian grandfather who came through Ellis Island as a boy in the early 1900s to suffer in poverty until he scraped enough to get by …. of my childhood in the Pennsylvania mountains surrounded by people whose ancestors came to the hills in the 1780s and still shot anyone who tried to worm their way into those closed communities.  Well, I’m not “proud of” the mountain people; they were weird. lol  But my point isn’t to be un-American.
However, Americanism =/= biblical morality.  We Americans think the individual is king.
Biblically speaking, that’s just crap.
The Church, the family, the government — these institutions founded by God in the early days of the human race are entirely build on community.  I’m nothing in isolation.  As a Christian, my place in the Body is what helps give my life direction.  As an image-bearer, my humanity is unpacked and expanded only when I am in community with other image-bearers.  A solitary human being is a sad soul. Don’t believe me? Read Into the Wild (or watch the film).
Americans lose so much because we throw our old people into homes to die alone; we move billions of miles away from anyone who matters to us; we live in disconnected little boxes in subdivisions where nobody knows their neighbors anymore.  I remember hearing some Germans describe how sad they were that no one in their Greenville neighborhood would make friends with them.  All we could say was, “Well, that’s America. Everybody drives home from work, straight into the garage, shuts the door, and cuts off the world.”
Make It On Your Own
Self-success is the natural corollary of individualism.  If I’m selfishly looking out for myself above all (as Rand suggests), then I’m going to be able to put all of my resources into making myself successful. Self-development becomes THE goal.
People who latch on to individualism as a core economic principle want to use it for some pretty nasty ends when it comes to economic theory: They beat down those who do not succeed by blaming them for that failure (“If you’d worked harder, you would have made it!”). They condemn those who are poor for being moral failures (“Poverty is the result of indigence, laziness, or maybe bad luck….but mostly laziness.”)
And they violently oppose anyone who tries to make a claim on their economic success.  Some will be generous, but few are willing to have generosity thrust upon them.
Looking at Christ’s intensification of the Law in the Gospels and Paul’s expansion of that theme in his Epistles, generosity should be a hallmark of Christian living. Where God demanded 10% of the Israelite’s harvests in order to support the Old Testament temple system, He now seems to expect that we use all of our wealth and talents for Kingdom living!  Shocking.
Because we are blinded by American values rather than biblical ones, we compartmentalize “ministry” into a little box that fits into Sunday morning (when we work a nursery room) and Thursday afternoons (when we take food to a local charity).  The rest of our lives are “ours”; as long as God gets His tithe check on Sundays we’re home free.
The dust-up about Obama’s “You didn’t build that” speech reveals the bitter truth about our hearts.  If I truly see my wealth and my job and my paycheck and even my ability to earn money in this capitalistic system as gifts from God to be used entirely for making this planet a better place to live in, why would I so violently spit out curses when someone suggests that I didn’t do this on my own?
This is what King David prayed to the Lord after the people opened their hearts (and proverbial wallets) to bring offerings for use in the building of the Temple:

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. I Chron 27:14

The whole passage is powerful. NOTHING I own is mine. I can’t give away a single thing (or pay taxes on it, or invest it, or waste it on hamburgers) that God hasn’t already given to me first.
The idea that I build my own wealth by the sweat of my brow is true to the extent that this sin-cursed world yields profit only by the sweat of my brow. But that’s not the whole story.
Any attitude toward my personal wealth which resembles a toddler hoarding candy and throwing a tantrum on the floor “It’s mine! I don’t have to share!” is an ugly and debased view of economics.  Sharing, charity, and economic aid for those who are in need must be components of any biblical economic system — which directly contradicts Ayn Rand’s worship of the self as highest good.
No-Rules Capitalism is a Good Thing!
I keep saying “no-rules-capitalism” because I can’t spell liaissaiz-faire. lol
We are greedy people at heart.  I can feel the selfishness rising up in my throat anytime someone starts cutting cake and I start watching the size of the slices.
Unbridled capitalism in the 1800s and poorly-regulated in the 1900s gave us environmental disasters, needless destruction of usable land or beautiful places, extinct species, chemical and other byproducts polluting water and air, oppressive labor conditions, no sympathy for people injured at work, virtual enslavement of women and children in Northern factories, actual enslavement of blacks to work Southern plantations followed by a horrific sharecropping system of similar effect, violent clashes between poor and underpaid workers and rich bosses/company owners.  Those abuses were correctly only through anti-trust laws, government agencies like the FDA and EPA, unions, and consumer watchdog groups.  Some of those reactions have now outlived their own usefulness and become problematic too, but the point remains.
I grew up near Pittsburgh; I saw the photos of the smoky city with its black atmosphere in the 60s. I’ve had my lungs burned by breathing polluted air around Moscow, Russia. My dad remembered the union strikes at the Pittsburgh steel mills in the 30s and 50s when workers couldn’t stand the wage differences between the guys doing the work and the managers at the top. He lost his job when he went blind in one eye in 1981 and overnight my family was plunged into economic hardship that never really let up. My parents were born into abject poverty during the Depression and they died only a little better off.
People with power (whether economic, political, military) do not just “give up” that power. It must be taken from them — usually through legislation or policy changes.  Obamacare isn’t just “socialized medicine”; it’s an attempt to staunch the bleeding of billions of dollars of unpaid medical care dumped into insurance premium hikes because people can’t afford to buy insurance.
Right now a tiny fraction of people control the overwhelming portion of wealth and investments. I’m not a fan of wealth redistribution. But historically speaking, things don’t turn out well once the scales get too imbalanced.  Rich people have no incentive to make the poor better off, as this article suggests:
Rand suggests that humans live to please themselves, work to stuff themselves, and become prosperous for their own enjoyment.
Christ said, “If any man would follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  That doesn’t mean I am not allowed to own anything.  But it sure does mean that loving God with my money and loving others with my wealth is the hallmark of a biblical economic system.
…and I’m not hearing that in Ayn Rand.
Combine her selfish economics with basic social Darwinism and you get the same attitude that many have toward the poor, needy, or immigrant:  “It’s your own damn fault. Sucks to be you.”