Now that presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has selected Paul Ryan as his running mate, people are talking more intensely about the religious aspects of the race. We are starting to hear not-Christian/ too-Christian accusations, and they are being met with a lot of "it's nobody's business", which, to a certain extent, is true. It is very difficult to live an always-conscious life of faith. Everyone who is trying to do it is stumbles, falls, and gets back up again on a daily basis. Nobody gets it right all the time. And yet, I believe there is good reason to consider Mr. Ryan's religion when weighing his merits or lack thereof (he is Catholic); he is the one who brings it into the conversation, as he has also done with his admiration of Ayn Rand's philosophy.
As I understand it, Catholic teaching stresses the importance of caring for the sick, the poor, tthe hungry, he immigrant, the prisoner, the oppressed, and the aged as a primary way one expresses one's love of God. Ayn Rand's philosophy says that the poor are poor by their own doing, and do not deserve assistance or care, that we are all on our own, and that the successful business person has more intrinsic value that the less successful one. Mr. Ryan is guided by Rand, yet claims his religion, too. Can one follow both these ways of thinking and being? Jesus said no: "No one can serve two masters… you cannot serve God and wealth". And so did Rand: "Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society". Jesus said "Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself." Ayn Rand wrote, "This God, this one word: I."
I picture Mr. Ryan, with The Bible in one hand and Atlas Shrugged in the other, as a matter/anti-matter event about to happen.
Which is his deeper allegiance? I would say, discerning from his recent statements, his political history, and the budget that bears his name, that he is more Randian in every issue except abortion (which she supported). So, it matters to me that he professes to be Catholic while seeming to not honor most of the tenets of the faith. That dissonance is important.
Same with Mr. Romney. I don't care that he is a Mormon. But, since he has brought it into the discussion, is he a good Mormon? Mormons place a very high value on community and on compassionate service. Does he personally serve in the network of mutual support and assistance that is a defining feature of that church, and that helps the community to prosper? Or does he simply have his accountant send a check? Do his proposals square with what he professes to believe, not one day, but every day?
Asking this kind of question does not constitute faith-bashing. It is looking for a standard upheld, a target at least aimed at, for more rather than less harmony between words and actions. Yes, one's religion is no one else's business. But if it's offered up as a reason one is the the better candidate for high office, it merits investigation. Ya gotta walk it like ya talk it, especially when you decide to walk in front of cameras, and talk into the microphone.