Perfectionists who have conformed to a strict rigid code usually have a tightly wound sense of morality that sees more evil in others than really exists and who have very little tolerance for behavior that does not come close to the center of their world view
Rick Santorum’s rise to the top of the GOP presidential candidates list appears to have resulted from his appeal to the Party’s conservative christian base, much like George W. Bush did in 2000. Viable policies and plans to deal with the critical issues our country faces have yet to materialize from the Santorum campaign. The strategy apparently, as is usually the case, is to identify with the emotional issues of your base then draw curious supporters into the fold. Allude to details that appear to encompass the moral high ground you are claiming but are not readily available for close scrutiny by the press and policy wonks.
What you are most likely to hear from the campaign stump is not unlike what one hears in most fundamentalist, evangelical churches on Sunday with emphasis on the “woe unto you …” forebodings. Santorum’s narrative leans heavily towards doomsday warnings for Americans, telling his audiences that the Obamaites are “crushing” religious values by “marginaliz[ing] faith in America, [through the removal of] the pillar of God-given rights”.
What follows then Santorum tells those who listen to him “is the French Revolution. What’s left in France became the guillotine. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re a long way from that, Santorum asserts, but if we … follow the path of President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America, then we are headed down that road.” SOURCE
President Obama’s “overt hostility to faith in America”? The White House’s recent decision to mandate that birth control products be made available in insurance coverage, including those provided by religious colleges and charities, at no charge to the policy holder may indeed be viewed as an “overt” action that sensitive christians could interpret as hostile to them. But was this part of a steady course of action by the Obama White House that can be construed as a path “we are headed down”? Is it not hyperbole to claim that a single action of this nature constitutes an ongoing plan of action?
The clever use of the biblical-sounding term, “Obamaites”, is intended to evoke the image of some adversarial, inferior human being. It is really nothing more than a demonization of those Americans who no longer see the “traditional definition of marriage” as the sole domain of one man and one woman. Citizen majorities in some states who have redefined this definition have apparently found that the claim that gay marriage threatens the traditional institution of marriage, is nothing more than a bumper sticker slogan without any basis in fact. Similar views by a national plurality on DADT also affirm that homophobic fears by religious fundamentalists hardly serves as the bellwether for moral decay.
Veiled Theocracy as Democracy
Santorum’s rigid catholicism is on display here. According to conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, Santorum’s worldview “stems from his allegiance to the Catholic Church’s teachings that every human life has equal value and dignity.”
The church’s objection to birth control is based on concerns that sex without consequences would lead to men reducing women “to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of (their) own desires,” as well as abuse of power by public authorities and a false sense of autonomy.
Within that framework, everything Santorum says and does makes sense, even if one doesn’t agree. SOURCE
This argument doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny in light of the fact that many Catholics like Santorum who hold “that every human life has equal value and dignity” do not seem to extend this to the lives of those executed within our penal system. Nor does this sentiment appear to extend to the innocent civilian elderly, women and children referred to as “collateral damage” by those who would wage war on an entire nation to punish that country’s leadership who are supposed to pose a threat to our national security and the security of our allies abroad.
And to presume as the Church apparently does “that sex without consequences” which leads men to subjugate women as mere instruments of male desires would not occur if contraception were forbidden is laughably naive. Do such believers not understand that rape has been around long before there were legal and inexpensive means of contraception and that apart from this forced sex women have been socially pressured throughout much of human history to use sex in a male-dominated world to attain some modicum of security and respectability.
The very scripture that the Church uses to condemn all contraception views a childless widow as having much less social value than a woman who bears children. Thus Judah insisted that after his oldest son, Er, is killed by God it fell on the second oldest, Onan, to impregnate Er’s wife. Not so much to her own glory but so Onan “could produce offspring for his brother.” (Gen 38: 6-10)
Despite protestations from Santorum and his more moderate supporters that he will not impose his orthodox Catholic views into presidential policy, it’s not all that clear yet that the presidential candidate from Pennsylvania won’t insist that this nation be led by his perception of biblical principles; principles that some may see are not in step with contemporary Americans, even if that comes into conflict with the Constitution.
For example, in order to condemn homosexual behavior, Santorum has tried to link it to adultery, polygamy, chid molestation, incest and bestiality, where the state has outlawed such acts. And where the 9th amendment may allow states to do this for such specific acts, it has not been stretched to other sensitive areas that many christians feel “violates the sanctity of marriage”.
Santorum told Bob Scheefer in a recent interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program that his rigid moral codes reflect what most Americans think. “I’ve repeatedly said I believe the president is a Christian. He’s says he’s a Christian. But I am talking about his world view and the way he approaches problems in this country, and I think they’re different than how most people do in America.“ That assumption has yet to be supported however.
The Supreme Court, …, beginning as early as 1923 and continuing through its recent decisions, has broadly read the “liberty” guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment to guarantee a fairly broad right of privacy that has come to encompass decisions about child rearing, procreation, marriage, and termination of medical treatment. Polls show most Americans support this broader reading of the Constitution. SOURCE
Who Is The “Good Steward”?
But not only are Santorum’s views sometimes in conflict with the Constitution, they are sometimes in conflict with the very biblical authority he purports to guide his world view. In that same interview on Face the Nation, Santorum tried to clear up some comments he made about a “phony theology “ he attributed to President Obama. “I was talking about the radical environmentalists,” Santorum said. “That’s why I was talking about energy. This idea that man is here to serve the earth, as opposed to husband its resources and being good stewards of the earth, and I think that is a phony ideal.”
When Santorum attacks radical environmentalists he is expressing what is common conservative parlance to attack anyone who opposes an energy policy not approved by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and that doesn’t have drilling for new oil wells anywhere and everywhere at the top of their list. It’s not clear how Santorum thinks that husbanding the Earth’s resources and being good stewards of those resources can be linked to an industry where extraction, transporting, production and dispensing of a toxic substance pollutes the air we breath and the water we drink.
How is the removal of finite, dirty fossil fuels from deep within the bowels of the earth using expensive and accident prone equipment more an action of husbanding our resources over using what’s easily and abundantly available in the form of wind, solar and thermal energy? This is not a biblical stance by any stretch of the imagination.
This is clearly an attempt to play into the fossil fuel industry’s exploitation of its alliance with conservative Christians to attack Obama’s energy policy. A policy that seeks to remove the federal tax subsidies to the highly profitable oil and coal industries and works more to develop clean, renewable energy sources that a truly “good steward” of the earth would promote.
This is a two-fer for Santorum. He get’s to play off of the animosities many conservatives have about man-made global warming while appealing to the money-interests of Big Oil; perhaps hoping their lucrative donations will fill his campaign coffers. Is it possible that the profits that come from a source of energy responsible for large numbers of individuals with lung diseases and threaten human and animal habitats can be sanctified through the prophets of scripture?
A Pretense of Contemporary Leadership
I see presidential leadership balanced on a three-legged stool that encompasses a broad and rich understanding of politics, science and religion. Santorum’s apparent animus toward government and science leaves his leadership skills off balance. And though one can’t help but admire the man’s personal convictions, this doesn’t automatically translate into political leadership skills that serves the varied interests of this nation. No more than the feeling that George W. Bush would make a good president because he was the type of guy you could have a beer with.
In a NY Times Op-ed piece last December Eric Weiner, author of Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine wrote, “Though religion contains large public components, it is at core a personal affair. It is the relationship we have with ourselves or, as the British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said, ‘What the individual does with his solitariness.’” It is this personal affair that Santorum would exploit for political gain that grates at me so much with its presumption that he has an advantage over those that don’t share the social context he wraps his religious experiences around.
The former GOP Pennsylvania Senator and his Republican/TeaParty cohorts may object to what they feel is a misguided approach by the man currently occupying the Oval office but would they not be substituting their own form of one man rule by inserting someone who narrows the human scope of what it means to be American in today’s world? Dragging us back to a time in history where only white, propertied christian men ruled may appeal to the likes of Rick Santorum but it doesn’t keep pace with the unalterable social and economic dynamics of the 21st century.