Liberals often suffer the prefix ‘godless’ and never more so than during the holiday season when they’re accused of trying to take Christ out of Christmas. Liberals, we are told, have turned their back on God; they are in rebellion against God, and because of liberal and progressive actions God will remove his protection from America or even visit his wrath upon it. Democrats are accused of worshiping false gods, like government, or the earth itself. Liberalism has been called a religion – a false religion.
Righteous talk. But where is righteousness when a poor-hating snake-oil salesman like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), whose infamous budget drew criticism from Catholic bishops – hardly a cheering section for liberal politics – is called “The Jesus of our conference”?
Imagine if a Democratic aide called Barack Obama the Jesus of anything. Blasphemy, to say the least.
It was just last year when, as The Washington Post reported, “a group of Jesuit scholars and other Georgetown University faculty members wrote to Ryan that,
Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love.
Yet BuzzFeed reported yesterday a “senior Republican leadership aide” called Ryan “the Jesus of our conference” because of the budget deal announced Tuesday by Ryan and Senator Patty Murray (R-WA):
“Paul Ryan is the Jesus of our conference. If Paul gives something his blessing, it brings the votes,” said a senior Republican leadership aide.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) said, “There’s nobody better than Paul Ryan. There’s nobody more knowledgeable and nobody more principled that Paul Ryan. So that gives me a lot of confidence just knowing that it’s him. The trust is high. I think everybody knows him and he’s one of the most respected individuals in Congress period. By both sides.”
How did this manifestly un-Jesus-like man, who makes war on the poor upon whom Jesus bestowed his blessings and his love, get promoted to the rabbi from Galilee’s right hand?
Would it not be more correct to hail him as “the Ayn Rand of our conference?” It would at least have the virtue of being accurate.
Yes, in these days of Republican obstructionism, any deal is a big deal. USAToday is even calling this deal “a career turning point” and US News & World Report says the deal “could help him win in 2016.” Lindsey Graham agreed, saying,
He’s showing leadership. If you want to become president, maybe instead of trying to please every faction of your party, maybe you should show the country as a whole ‘I can work with the other side on something important. It’s a unique way to become president but I think it might actually work.
And sure, as BuzzFeed points out, “Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell… have tried, and failed, to cut agreements large and small to avoid another round of legislating by crisis.” And yes, we did just see John Boehner get humiliated by his own party again.
But Jesus? Really?
Well, hold on there, Paul, not so fast, some Republicans are saying. Marco Rubio has criticized the deal as has Rand Paul. Religious extremist Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) is also against it. But Ryan says he is just being a realist, dealing with the facts on the ground. During the announcement Tuesday Ryan said,
As a conservative, I deal with the situation as it exists. I deal with the way things are, not necessarily the way I want them to be. I’ve passed three budgets in a row that reflect my priorities and my principles and everything I wanted to accomplish. We’re in divided government. I realize I’m not going to get that.
He also, though he does not say so, cleverly stayed out of the shut-down controversy so he could position himself to be the savior when one was needed, if, by savior, we mean somebody at least pretending to be an adult – something unheard of in the conservative ranks since 2008.
And pragmatism (if not self-serving cunning) is refreshing but it is not divine, not even from Republicans in the wake of the tea party engineered government shut down. Speaking of which, both Boehner and Cantor have expressed support for the new budget deal even if Rubio and Paul have not.
Murray, for her part, for all the deal’s manifest failings (the deal does not extend unemployment insurance, for example) seems to think anything is better than nothing, and given Republican obstructionism, she has a point: “Many of these same people would be facing furloughs, layoffs and uncertainty. We have brought back certainty.”
Certainty? Maybe. At least a Republican has finally acknowledged our shared reality. That’s something.
So we can express surprise that any Republican, but particularly this Republican, is willing to compromise, but that hardly makes him Jesus (more of a cunning snake-oil salesman).
If you’re looking for false gods, you need look no farther than the Republican Party and Paul Ryan, who, together, have rejected the teachings of the only God they say exists.