A few stories concerning faith in politics have made the news in the past week:
Will Mitt Romney speak about his Mormon faith? Jon Meacham at TIME tells us today that some in Republican circles and leaders of the LDS church see the questions about Romney’s tax returns and other areas of secrecy as a “coded shot” at the Mormon faith. Huh? It’s hard to follow that line of thought when President Obama’s team has made it clear that “attacking a candidate’s religion is out of bounds”, and it was conservative evangelicals that were the problem during the primaries. Even the president of the conservative group Concerned Women of America Penny Young Nance recently said, ”His religion isn’t the issue – he’s the issue… At some point you need to be honest about who you are. He has an authenticity problem. People don’t get him. They don’t feel that they know the guy.” So, tax returns don’t really have a thing to do with it now, do they?
Meacham also has a good point here: “It’s possible that the 2012 general-election race will be the least overtly religious one since 1972, the last campaign before Roe v. Wade and the rise of Jimmy Carter brought evangelicalism into the political mainstream. That’s because faith remains a complicated issue for Obama, who is still (wrongly) thought to be a Muslim in some quarters and for whom the subject remains linked in the public mind to the extreme sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s old pastor in Chicago. It’s possible that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will have much to gain from raising religion in any way.”
Paul Ryan set off something of a firestorm recently when he proclaimed that his draconian budget was built around his Catholic faith: “In a CBN interview, Ryan made a moral case for his budget, saying that the government shouldn’t be responsible for lifting its citizens out of poverty — rather, that it’s the obligation of the citizens themselves to be society’s caretakers.” Ryan believes that the church and community groups have the obligation to take care of the poor, and, even though we all pay into the government system, that money needs to be distributed upward. Apparently Ryan doesn’t care if the wealthy become “dependent on government” for the means to support their lifestyle.
Some Catholics said, “Hey, wait a minute,” to Ryan’s proclamation. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to Capitol Hill just yesterday. “Congress faces a difficult task to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices,” Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, CA, wrote to the House Agriculture Committee, “Just solutions, however, must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs. The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.”
John Boehner answered the Catholic letter “chastising” the bishops by saying, “What’s more of a concern to me is the fact that if we don’t begin to make some decisions about getting our fiscal house in order, there won’t be a safety net.” So, if we don’t cut the safety net, we won’t have a safety net. Or something like that.
Progressive Catholics also joined together to call out Representative Ryan. The group “Faith in Public Life” issued a letter from “nearly 60 prominent theologians, priests, nuns and national Catholic social justice leaders” to refute the Ryan budget as being reflective of Catholic teachings, and last night we had Sister Simone Campbell on the show to talk about Ryan and the budget: