Tim Tebow taking a knee in prayer on the football field has occasioned much comment, some of it impassioned. One cause, according to Sally Jenkins, is that some people feel threatened by persons who emphasize the aspect of talent that a person is given rather than learns, develops, or earns (“Bill Maher and Tim Tebow: Why are so many offended by the quarterback’s faith?” Washington Post, December 30, 2011).
Ayn Rand in works like Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead argued for a philosophy that she called objectivism. Objectivism teaches that each individual rightly pursues self-interest and only self-interest. Doing otherwise results in diminishing the wellbeing of the individual and of society. For more about objectivism, watch this 1959 Mike Wallace with Ayn Rand:
Objectivism contradicts Christianity. Jesus, along with the other great religious leaders, taught people to love their neighbors.
Philosophically, objectivism presumes that people are equal. People have equal moral worth because people, all created by God, have equal dignity. However, moral equality is not synonymous with equal abilities. DNA determines a large part of a person’s abilities. The fetus’ environment in the womb and first few years of life determine another large part of a person’s abilities. For example, DNA determines who is born with Down’s syndrome; the mother’s alcohol or drug use determines who is born with certain birth defects; living undernourished and without love for the first two years after birth has major negative consequences that no individual chooses. Other examples would illustrate the opposite: specific combinations of genes and environment that give an individual the basis for outsize success in life.
Anglican cleric John Donne was correct: no person is an island. Interpreted usually to mean that no person lives alone, Donne’s observation also reminds us that no person can claim all or even most of the credit for being who she/he is or for what he/she accomplishes in life.
Even though I do not agree with all of his theology, Tim Tebow understands this basic truth. Persons who would take credit for all of their accomplishments in any field, and persons who feel that the 99% could become the 1% if only they worked harder and smarter, do not understand this truth.