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The faith of Paul Ryan

Mitt Romney introduces Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as his vice-presidential running mate during a campaign event at the retired battleship USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, Virginia, on August 11, 2012 (Credit: Reuters / Jason Reed)Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is the most talked-about politician in America this morning.  As you know, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced Saturday morning that he had selected Mr. Ryan to be his running mate.  Since that time we've heard a great deal about the congressman's family, his political positions, and especially his budgetary ideas.

What we haven't heard much about so far is his faith.  In previous essays we've explored the faith of Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama, and other political figures.  What do we know about the religious beliefs of Paul Ryan?

Paul Davis Ryan was born on January 29, 1970.  He was born and raised in Janesville, Wisconsin, where he still makes his home.  A seven-term congressman, he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1998.  Mr. Romney described him as a "faithful Catholic" during his Saturday presentation.  His government biography states that he is a member of St. John Vianney's Parish in Wisconsin; he describes himself as "a Catholic in politics."

On the issue of abortion, Ryan says, "Personally, I believe that life begins at conception, and it is for that reason that I feel we need to protect that life as we would protect other children."  He is opposed to the use of embryonic stem cells, but supports alternative stem cell therapies.  Regarding same-sex marriage, he states, "I believe that marriage should remain between a man and a woman."  He has also voted for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely the union of a man and a woman.  And he has made clear his position on Israel: "Real peace will require Palestinians to recognize that Israel has a right to exist, even as it will require two states for the two peoples."

Whether we agree with Paul Ryan's policy positions or not, we can learn a lesson from his commitment to public service.  I am grateful for those in both parties who are willing to answer this high and difficult calling.  Within minutes of Saturday's announcement, Ryan was already being attacked by critics.  The same happens when Democrats announce their candidates.  For men and women to endure such treatment in this day of vitriolic campaigns and poisonous rhetoric is a genuine sacrifice.  Scripture requires us to pray daily for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), a priority that was never more urgent than today.

You may not be called to public service (though I believe every Christian should pray about that possibility), but you have a Kingdom assignment that is eternally significant.  British statesman Edmund Burke was right: "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little."  What can you do today for God's Kingdom?



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