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THE PULPIT: Paul Ryan, Apology Not Accepted

U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Dearest Christian Paul Ryan:

Speaker. Congressman. Paul. I hesitated writing this letter to you at all. I hesitated because we are ultimately from the same state, and I wanted to give you some latitude to find your way on the national stage.

I hesitated because while you’re clearly feeling yourself right now with your promotion and larger platform, I didn’t want to dash off what would be characterized as a hasty, knee-jerk missive from a liberal pastor before you had a chance to explain yourself.

After all, in your Capitol Hill address last week, the impetus for this letter to you, you did apologize for calling the poor of this nation “takers.”

You did also apologize for calling poverty, a “culture problem,” of “inner city” people where “generations of men who are not even thinking about working.”

I’m not here to question your expertise in dealing with either the impoverished or people of color. In your youth, you dated a black girl, and it looks like you took an Afro-Am course or two in college. So, naturally, you are an expert.

And, I’m not even here to challenge the authenticity of your apology. You are clearly sorry for something. Someone would have to be a real piece of work to call you out after you’ve apologized.

But, congressman, your apology is not accepted.

You see, we in Wisconsin know that you are a very strategic man. In fact, you are perhaps one of the most strategic men in politics.

When you made those comments, repeatedly, about the poor and about people of color, you were appealing to a base that you believed could help you in your national political endeavors.

You introduced budgets, put forth legislation, and advanced an agenda consistent with your statement about the poor and people of color.

You even battled with leaders of your own Catholic faith who said that some of your budgets were contrary to the teachings of Jesus. In response, you made a calculated decision to tell them that your budgets and proposals were right in line with Jesus’ teachings.

And while on one hand you have used Jesus to push your budgets and proposals, you’ve indicated that your single greatest political influence is Ayn Rand, who incidentally believed that Jesus and all religion was for the unevolved, and that the concepts of charity and philanthropy were laughable.

In the time between your last public statement disparaging the poor and people of color, what has changed?

Have you, like Paul the Apostle, had some sort of conversion on the way to Damascus where you now see the marginalized as humans and not simply “takers”?

It doesn’t appear that way. You still ardently believe in the philosophies of Ayn Rand. You still believe in marginalizing the elderly, the poor, and the disenfranchised.

What has changed, is the political environment in which you work. The political base to whom you made those comments — he’s angry, shrinking, and currently following someone who doesn’t mind exploiting their fears and prejudices to get what he wants.

And clearly you want to be president someday. And to do that, you know that you have to distance yourself from your hateful remarks in any way that you can. You have to distance yourself from this hateful political movement that’s gripping your party right now.

But, unfortunately, you can’t. You are largely responsible for the hostile climate. Your words and your proposals and your budgets have gone a long way to fuel people’s negative perceptions of those who live on the margins and need a break.

So, you see, I don’t doubt that you are sorry for something. In fact, I don’t doubt that you’re sorry for making the remarks so that others could hear them in 2016.

But we can’t accept your apology for those words. You can accept them because you used Jesus as a cloak to wrap around your hateful words, when Jesus had nothing to do with your worldview.

And that’s never okay.


Reverend David