One proclaims to be a dedicated member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the other professes to be a devoted Roman Catholic. If true, both should embrace the theological centerpiece of their denominations, the teachings of Jesus Christ.
So it was surprising to hear devastating criticism leveled at both GOP nominees from their coreligionists.
In Romney’s case, he fallaciously dismissed the 47 percent of Americans that don’t pay income taxes as parasites who believe they are “entitled” to free food, housing and healthcare.
Ryan is on the ticket due in large part to his budget proposal that would, if enacted, strip away or severely diminish many of the humanitarian services the government now provides such as food stamps, meals for disadvantaged schoolchildren, and Medicare for the elderly.
Romney’s statement and Ryan’s bill are directed at delivering tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the poor and sick. So I wondered what Jesus Christ had to say about this.
“Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” (Mark 10:21)
“We have pure love when, from the heart, we show genuine concern and compassion for all our brothers and sisters,” adds the Mormon Gospel Principles.
Mormon author and former Romney supporter Gregory A. Prince must have been thinking about these teachings when he ripped into the GOP presidential candidate in a recent blog:
“His arrogant and out-of-hand dismissal of half the population of this country struck me at a visceral level, for it sullied the religion that he and I share — the religion whose official mantra is ‘to take care of the poor and needy throughout the world,’” Prince wrote.
“I agree with him,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Mormon, told a Utah interviewer. “(Romney) is coming to a state where there are a lot of members of the LDS Church ... They understand that he is not the face of Mormonism.”
Paul Ryan’s Catholic faith likewise instructs parishioners to embrace the poor and sick, not turn their backs on them.
“Our budget offers a better path,” says Ryan, “consistent with the timeless principles of our nation’s founding and, frankly, consistent with how I understand my Catholic faith.”
“Many politicians offer deeply flawed theological justifications for the federal budget. They ought to get some theological help,” replies Sister Simone Campbell of the National Catholic Social Justice Lobby.
Sister Simone, who recently led the Nuns on the Bus tour to spotlight America’s impoverished, says Ryan’s budget would push the poor and sick into even more desperate straits: “Ryan thinks churches can pick up the tab. That’s ridiculous. The magnitude of the need is so great.”
Pope Benedict agrees with Sister, not Ryan. “Charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as social charity,” he said in 2008.
This teaching seems to transcend denominations. The Christian Left, a group of evangelicals, “...think(s) the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong... (We) left hate behind; left prejudice; left callous attitudes; and followed Jesus as he left the 99 in the fold, to go find the ones who were lost, ignored, excluded, overlooked, abandoned, uncared-for — all ‘the least of these.’”
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.