Paul Ryan and the conservative case for social justice

by Ryan Streeter on December 23, 2013. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

I recommend reading this piece about Paul Ryan’s quiet journey into the intersection of faith and poverty over the past year, which includes this:

Until recently, Paul Ryan would have seemed like an improbable pick to lead the restoration of compassionate conservatism with a heartfelt mission to the poor. Of all the caricatures he has inspired — from heroic budget warrior to black-hearted Scrooge — “champion of the poor” has never been among them. And yet, Ryan has spent the past year quietly touring impoverished communities across the country with [Bob] Woodson, while his staff digs through center-right think tank papers in search of conservative policy proposals aimed at aiding the poor. Next spring, Ryan plans to introduce a new battle plan for the war on poverty — one he hopes will launch a renewed national debate on the issue.

The article recounts an especially spiritual moment Ryan experienced toward the end of the 2012 campaign, during a time of prayer with former inner-city addicts and felons whose lives had been changed through faith. The experience deeply affected Ryan, and now he wants to apply his experience to his public calling:

Like many conservative Catholics, Ryan uses the doctrine of subsidiarity — which favors individual freedom and local governance over the power of large, central authorities — to reconcile his concern for the poor with his general suspicion of federal welfare programs. In this, Ryan has found inspiration in the teachings of Pope Francis, who said in 2009, “We cannot respond with truth to the challenge of eradicating exclusion and poverty if the poor continue to be objects, targets of the action of the state and other organizations in a paternalistic and aid-based sense, instead of subjects, where the state and society create social conditions that promote and safeguard their rights and allow them to be builders of their own destiny.”