I have seen a lot in my years working on campaigns. Crazy signs. Crazier costumes. Lots of hecklers. I was even called a communist by "El Pescador", the fisherman who found Elian Gonzalez, during the Florida Recount in 2000.
But protesting nuns bussing across the heartland of America. That is a new one.
A group of politically active Catholic nuns have decided to make their case on the road. The "Nuns on the Bus" tour is meant to clearly communicate to the public that nuns, people of the front lines of dealing with the most impoverished among us, oppose the Republican budget plan because they say it does not represent their Catholic values.
The architect and chief spokesperson for the Republican budget plan is Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI). He invited this challenge when he credited Catholic social teaching as a philosophical basis for his budget, which guts social programs.
That is not how the nuns see it. The statement announcing the tour said, in part, "because of their work, Sisters see the suffering of people in poverty on a daily basis. As a result, they recognize the harm that the Ryan budget will cause."
It isn't just these nuns who are challenging Ryan.
Ryan has been taken to task by a host of prominent Catholics for his statement. Criticism has come from the U.S. Conference of Bishops as well as the nuns that work on the front lines of poverty in America.
Additionally, more than 80 Georgetown faculty and administrators challenged Ryan. In a letter they said they wished "to join the Catholic bishops in pointing out that his budget has a devastating impact on programs for the poor. 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."
In an odd twist, Ryan's statement about Catholic social values exposed the Congressman's deep affection for a decidedly not Catholic philosophy: that of the atheist and Social Darwinist Ayn Rand.
When challenged about these conflicting beliefs, Ryan claimed he had no affection for Rand's teachings. Which was followed by the release of video of Ryan heaping praise on Rand, calling her required reading in his office.
In that speech, Ryan gave his audience a more honest idea of where his philosophy is based. He said, "there is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works."
Ayn Rand is not the reading Catholic nuns, and many Christians, look to for social teachings. So Network, a Washington-based Catholic social justice group, organized the Nuns' Bus Tour of nine states and the District of Columbia. The nuns' itinerary also has them paying a visit to Steve King (R-IA), House Speaker John Boehner (R-On) and Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) along the way.
Ask around. Anyone who went to Catholic school knows that it is not wise to cross the nuns. And the nuns did not just issue a statement or write a letter. They got on a bus to send a message. This is important.
Paul Ryan, with his comments about the Republican budget plan and Catholic theology and his lies about Ayn Rand, has riled up the nuns. This year, don't be surprised if you see some motivated nuns looking after low-income Americans in ways that shine a bright spotlight on the struggles that they see on a daily basis and the pain the Ryan Republican budget would inflict on the most vulnerable among us.
About Bill Buck
Bill Buck is a Democratic strategist, President of the Buck Communications Group, a media relations and new media strategies consulting business based in Washington, DC, and Managing Director of the online ad firm Influence DSP. He has over twenty years of international and national communications experience. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.
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