First up from the God Machine this week is the end of the extraordinary Nuns On The Bus tour, which wrapped up in Washington this week, after a series of well-received events in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. Suzy Khimm reported this week on the culmination of the successful tour.
"It's immoral!" [Sister Diane Donohue, an] 81-year-old Catholic nun said of [Paul Ryan's] fiscal plan, as the crowd gathered on Capitol Hill erupted in cheers. Another nun, Sister Simone Campbell, denounced the proposed cuts to food stamps, child care, and other programs for the needy. "That's not Christian," said Campbell, who leads a Catholic social justice lobby called NETWORK. [...]
The nuns were concluding a two-week bus tour through nine swing states to protest the Ryan budget proposal, contending that it undermined Catholic teachings to serve the poor and vulnerable. Their rally on Monday outside the United Methodist Church's D.C. offices was peppered with prayers, gospel songs, and Bible verses (Isaiah 58:7: "Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless.")
But the Catholic nuns also understand that Kumbaya moments aren't enough to change votes in Washington: They have a full-fledged lobbying campaign, complete with a 53-page "faithful budget" that outlines their own fiscal priorities in considerable detail, backed by an interfaith coalition of social justice groups.
There can be no doubt that the nuns have been noticed on Capitol Hill. Indeed, Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced a resolution this week, coinciding with the end of the tour, honoring nuns. They said in a statement that the resolution "recognizes the Catholic Sisters' fulfillment of their vital missions to teach our children, care for the sick, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, lead major institutions, demand corporate responsibility and fight for policies that promote human dignity."
The priorities of the Nuns On The Bus are non-partisan, but given their proposed policies -- a rejection of austerity, coupled with higher taxes on the wealthy -- Republicans, especially the right-wing chairman of the House Budget Committee who inspired the tour in the first place, are generally dismissive of their pleas.
When Democrats disagree with Catholic leaders on contraception, it's billed as proof of a war on faith. When Republicans disagree with Catholic leaders on social justice, it's proof that the right is fiscally responsible.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* A Republican state senator this week recommended a proposal that would prevent Muslims in the state from building houses of worship. Other faiths would not be affected.
* A Christian minister in Alabama is hosting a pastor's conference this weekend, and "all White Christians" are invited. Asked about the discrimination, the Rev. William Collier said, "We don't have the facilities to accommodate" those who are not "part of the chosen race."
* The Vatican is running its largest budget deficit in years. After briefly running a profit, the Vatican ran a $19 million deficit last year.
* And a growing number of American Mormons are going high-tech in the hopes of boosting Mitt Romney's Republican presidential campaign. Romney, of course, would be the nation's first Mormon president (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).