The word “maverick” comes from the American West, referring to escaped cattle being branded. Today the word has a larger meaning as a descriptor of independent thinkers. People who remain part of the herd but are not swayed by popular opinion. Alternate points-of-view about beliefs and the organization’s mission. 

While mavericks do not avoid joining groups, they make it clear that mindless allegiance or compliance is not part of their persona. A maverick is rarely someone who rejects an organization’s purposes. Instead, s/he sees a different path with thought-provoking reasons  expressed articulately.

Mavericks can be annoying and sometimes disruptive. Their kind of life requires thick skins. They are regularly criticized for not going along with the group’s plans or decisions. But they believe in themselves and their message, often a powerful service to humankind.

Writer Ayn Rand (a Russian/American born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum in 1905) was a prototype maverick. She moved to the United States in 1926 and became a prolific writer of plays, novels, philosophical essays, and other pieces. She created and produced her own periodicals. Probably best known as the author of The Fountainhead, which was later made into a moving picture, Rand also wrote the famous novel Atlas Shrugged

Rand wrote books, essays, plays, and other publications from strong biases about human behavior, governmental philosophy, and religion. Her philosophical system, Objectivism, promoted reason as the basis for knowledge, what she called rational and ethical egoism. Laissez-faire capitalism, including individual and private property rights. She rejected altruism, collectivism, statism, anarchism, and religion.

As a maverick widely admired by many Americans, the admiration of Rand continues today among some politicians and other societal leaders. Those especially proud of America’s successes in meeting its Manifest Destiny through intrepid explorers, entrepreneurs, and enlightened risk takers.

Ayn Rand created and advocated such a radical philosophy. For twelve years, she lived in Russia’s oppressive society dominated completely by the Czar and Orthodox Russian Church. In 1917, the Communist Revolution overthrew both suffocating systems and replaced them with its own. For nine years, Rand and her family lived under the rule of Vladimir Lenin and cohorts like Joseph Stalin.

In 1926 post World War I brought to the United States an era of astonishing technical, industrial, and economic accomplishments. Quality of life advanced by materialism. The quest for greater riches and comfortable lifestyles. For over a decade Americans were inundated with images of wealth and the good life, much of it based on borrowed money or risky investments. A time of great literary contributions, some of which warned that the concentration on acquiring wealth could result in a social and personal disaster. That happened in 1929, but not for Ayn Rand.

Rand advocated unrestrained capitalism as a way to achieve happiness and success. She succeeded in maintaining that idea during the prosperous 1950s.

The maverick and her followers provided a service. They made people think and often act in ways that improved the quality of American life, albeit with serious and sometimes devastating bumps in the road. Rand’s influence continues in American politics and economic thinking today.

My favorite maverick was Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. During his life he was considered a dangerous maverick by the Romans and Jewish cultures that collaborated for their own benefit. Like Rand, Jesus rejected control of people by a political or religiously affiliated authority. Like Rand, Jesus valued each individual and the power of reason. 

Jesus was an advocate of individual accomplishment, but not in the material sense. He believed in taking the initiative. Finding creative ways to improve the quality of human life. Not through nurturing greed and competitive skills, but through building up others through unconditional love.

Jesus asked people to seek a more satisfying life. Not by acquiring more money, power and status. Instead, to fulfill God’s will by spreading his good news about the real purpose of earthly life. To love one another and demonstrate that love through teaching and service.

Many present-day Christians disdain the maverick as being detrimental to faithful allegiance to Biblical teachings and admonitions. Only people who obey God’s word and follow the tenets of the faith are genuine believers, therefore qualified to be part of his kingdom.

Mavericks need not apply. They are not acceptable.

But Christianity has long valued mavericks and benefited from their alternate points of view. The Apostle Thomas, Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul), C. S. Lewis, and hundreds of others. All mavericks with truly moral motives who became powerful advocates for God’s will. Through incisive discernment. Logic and reason.  Some, like Saint Thomas Aquinas, reshaped and upgraded the church.

Mavericks like Rand leave life unconvinced and unrepentant. But they nevertheless make us think and therefore become stronger within our Christian faith and convictions.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved


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