Sunday, April 22, 2012

Paul Ryan is the Devil

Or: Don't knock Republican theocracy. It's sex with someone I love. (possibly obscure allusion explained here.)
The title of this post is lightly stolen from the movie Broadcast News. A favorite movie for me, and the source of the most important political monologue outside Orwell's Politics and the English Language. I'm talking, of course, about the Tom is the Devil speech:
Aaron Altman: I know you care about him. I've never seen you like this about anyone, so please don't take it wrong when I tell you that I believe that Tom, while a very nice guy, is the Devil.
Jane Craig: This isn't friendship.
Aaron Altman: What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing... he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance... Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he'll get all the great women.
That, to my ears, describes Paul Ryan. A good looking guy, and arguably one of the most slightly less-than-Hitler people on the planet. But, very polite, and as he reduces the more sensible teachings of Christianity to pablum, he does so with a certain élan: (my emphasis in the text)
Paul Ryan: A person’s faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private. So to me, using my Catholic faith, we call it the social magisterium, which is how do you apply the doctrine of your teaching into your everyday life as a lay person?
To me, the principle of subsidiarity, which is really federalism, meaning government closest to the people governs best, having a civil society of the principal of solidarity where we, through our civic organizations, through our churches, through our charities, through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community, that’s how we advance the common good. By not having big government crowd out civic society, but by having enough space in our communities so that we can interact with each other, and take care of people who are down and out in our communities.
Those principles are very very important, and the preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life. Help people get out of poverty out onto life of independence.
If you've never heard the phrase "preferential option for the poor", neither had I. That's why we have wikipedia. Thank you internets. Here's a choice phrase from the article on "preferential option for the poor":
According to said doctrine, through one's words, prayers and deeds one must show solidarity with, and compassion for, the poor. Therefore, when instituting public policy one must always keep the "preferential option for the poor" at the forefront of one's mind. Accordingly, this doctrine implies that the moral test of any society is "how it treats its most vulnerable members.
Here's what I notice. The canonical gospels are full of descriptions of nice things Jesus did to people who were poor, were lepers, were beggars, were in professions not entirely suitable for the politically well-connected. As far as I could tell, Christ hated the self-important, the powerful, and the politicians who used religious beliefs for profit. So, Paul Ryan reads this, and he comes away with the impression that Christ was telling us that the real problem is that the poor are too dependent on government. Dear Father who art in Heaven, lead us away from the safety net, and towards your blessed free market. At the very least, Ryan needs to work on his reading comprehension skills.
As it turns out, I wasn't the only person who noticed this. Not just Ryan's rhetoric, but that he proposed a budget that, in their words, sucks. They say something along the lines of: "failing to meet [the] moral criteria, of protecting human dignity, prioritizing the needs of the hungry and homeless and promoting the common good." Clearly, the bishops are trying to avoid using the word sucks. But, you know that's what they're thinking.
Here's Ryan's response. You have to love this:
“These are not all the Catholic bishops, and we respectfully disagree,” Ryan said.
I'm pretty sure the Catholic bishops, so Ryan seems to say, don't understand Catholicism as well as I do. Furthermore, Ryan posits, that he can find at least one bishop that has a different view on the matter, which negates the view of the conference of Catholic bishops as a whole.

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