'On Faith' Contributor Calls Paul Ryan Budget Supporters to Repentance This Holy Week

Are you a Christian who also is supportive of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan? Then you'd best repent of your sin and be renew your mind with the social gospel.

That's the pronouncement of liberal theologian Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite in an April 18 post at the Washington Post/Newsweek "On Faith" website.

Brooks Thistlethwaite -- who previously hit Tea Party conservatives as tribalistic -- apparently believes that politically conservative Christians are trying to serve two masters, Jesus and Ayn Rand (emphasis mine):


Ever since Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) put out his draconian budget proposal that slashes essential programs for the poor and gives big tax breaks to the rich, Ryan’s attachment to the works of Ayn Rand has been in the spotlight. Jonathan Chait, in the pages of Newsweek, calls out Ryan for launching a “War on the Weak” and explains “How the GOP came to view the poor as parasites –and the rich as our rightful rulers.” The success of this idea that the rich have the right to rule and the poor don’t have any right to their help, is due to the popularity of the philosophy of Ayn Rand on the far right. According to Chait, Ryan is “a Rand nut…Ryan once appeared at a gathering to honor her philosophy, where he announced, ‘The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.’ He continues to view Rand as a lodestar, requiring his staffers to digest her creepy tracts.”

 

[...]

 

Conservative Christians who support the Ryan version of radical conservatism based on the atheist individualist philosophy of Ayn Rand have some serious questions to ask themselves and these questions are long overdue. The political alliance between Christian evangelicals and the tea party has already been analyzed by pollster Robert Jones as a “shotgun marriage.”

 

It’s worse than that. Today’s radical conservatism is an unholy and unstable hodgepodge of ideas that are fundamentally alien to each other. This marriage is doomed.

 

[...]

 

While I do not agree on certain theological doctrines with many evangelicals, I respect many of them for their on-the-ground commitment to the poor and the vulnerable. Evangelical Christians have read Isaiah, they have read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and they know that Jesus was not mistaken about the ethics of loving one’s neighbor. It is the whole law and the whole gospel.

 

Christian evangelicals who support the Ryan budget that hurts the poor and rewards the rich as the ‘Gospel according to Ayn Rand’ have some soul searching to do and Holy Week is a good time to do that.

There are, of course, a few problems with her argument. For one, you don't have to be a devotee or even influenced by Randian objectivism to support a serious effort at trimming the size and scope of government. Secondly, nowhere in her post does the Chicago Theological Seminary professor explain exactly how, in her view, Jesus advocated let alone mandated a large taxpayer-funded welfare state.

She's right to laud the "on-the-ground commitment to the poor and vulnerable" that evangelicals have displayed, but confuses supporting hefty taxation and government spending with "loving one's neighbor."

But at the end of the day, Brooks Thistlethwaite's is exactly the sort of sermon the editors at "On Faith" love to preach to their devout choir.

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Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters