Friday, March 02, 2012

Santorum's political religion

Given that the Republican Party's factions are now most identifiable by their religious sectarian identities - Mormons, Catholic fundis, Protestant fundis, Pentecostal demon-chasers - it's not surprising that a contested Republican primary season would bring to light more and more about the operative theocratic values of today's Republican Party.

Our friend Brother Al Mohler, considered the leading Southern Baptist theologian, sympathizes with pore Rick Santorum, being persecuted by the mean libruls, as he explains in The Santorum Predicament: A Sign of the Times 02/27/02012.

Consistent with his Catholic faith, Santorum believes that contraception is harmful to women, and that the birth control revolution has been very harmful to society at large.

He has questioned President Obama’s worldview, suggesting that the President's brand of environmentalism is based in a "phoney theology" and not a "biblical theology," since it fails to recognize the central importance of human beings. Mainline Protestantism "is in shambles” he explains, destroyed by liberal theology. "It’s gone from the world of Christianity as I see it," he said.

Back in 2008, Santorum spoke at Ave Maria University in Florida, and told the students that their generation is engaged in "a spiritual war." Referring to Satan, he said: "The Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country - the United States of America."
Brother Al is skilled at mealy-mouthing, but it is clear that he is defending Santorum's positions on these things. He mealy-mouths it by writing, "You do not have to agree with the way Rick Santorum chooses to argue on all issues to recognize the central predicament he represents," without getting around to name any on which he disagrees. He also writes:

Santorum is a Catholic who often sounds, perhaps by intention, like an Evangelical. In any event, his positions on moral issues like marriage and his use of theological language are recognizable to Evangelicals. In terms of the political context, we share a common space.

... The moral convictions Santorum articulates are deeply rooted in the Christian inheritance of Western civilization, but the denial of that inheritance has been a central aim of moral progressives for years. Even many who style themselves as moral conservatives live like moral liberals, with the rules intended to regulate the lives of others, rather than their own.

When moral conservatives reveal their reasoning, the elites hear the launch of a new Inquisition. It is simply incomprehensible to them that sane, rational, educated people might still believe in the Father of Lies. When Catholic Rick Santorum speaks theologically at Catholic Ave Maria University, the secular elites go into toxic shock. The same would be true of an Evangelical politician who would speak theologically of such issues at a truly evangelical college. Speak on love and you will not be in much trouble, but admit that you believe in the Devil and the press corps will go into apoplexy. ...

Well, my guess is that Rick Santorum does indeed sit in critical judgment of the lifestyle of most Americans. [my emphasis]
I've quoted Brother Al at some length because those passages point out a couple of common features of the Christian Right. Santorum may not believe that Protestants are really Christians, and Brother Al may not believe that Catholics and non-fundamentalist Protestants are really Christians. But they are united in opposing the librul Muslim atheist Kenyan President. "In terms of the political context, we share a common space," Brother Al writes.

Brother Al's piece also is drenched through and through with whining about how Christians in America are supposedly terribly persecuted and ridiculed. This a common feature of fundamentalist theocratic thinking. The religious basis of it is that they see themselves as God's faithful remnant, witnessing to a sinful world and protecting themselves from being corrupted by The World.

This self-image contrasts with the idea that they and their Republican Party also represent the Real Americans, some of whom are part of the sinful world. Brother Al says with approval, "my guess is that Rick Santorum does indeed sit in critical judgment of the lifestyle of most Americans."

Authoritarians can hold screaming contradictions like this in the heads without outwardly appearing troubled by them. But in a democratic election that's about winning a majority of votes, it's obviously somewhat problematic to have a candidate and a Party that "indeed sit in critical judgment of the lifestyle of most Americans."

That's part of why Christian Right candidates have to project that "critical judgment of the lifestyle of most Americans" by accusing the America-hatin' libruls of being the ones sitting in passing unfavorable judgment on the way Real Americans live. As in Santorum's now-notorious suggestion that only snobs aspire to attend college, where they are sure to be indoctrinated into atheism by socialistic perfessers.

Aaron Bady has a good analysis of how Santorum synthesizes his narrow fundamentalism with the need to sound like a friend of workers in Santorum's gift Berkeley Blog 02/28/2012. He describes Santorum's worldview this way:

Obama is a "snob," therefore, in the same way Faust was a snob: he thought he could make his own truth, believed he could "pursue new truths, deny the existence of truth, play with it because they're smart." It's a little bit about class, maybe, but it's much more about religious piety, about the kind of pride that goeth before a fall because modernity makes us too free. His jab at Obama, then, is that Obama is this kind of Faust: the phrase "he wants to remake you into his image" has to be heard through Genesis 1:26 ("Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness["]). But this shot at Obama is not only that Obama is a false god and false father — though it is this — but also that he represents, as such, a permissive society’s too-modern sense of the parent and authority, in which the purpose of higher education is not to make you a better worker, but precisely to free the individual from social obligations, and in which parents enable their children to be led astray by the kind of self-gratification (and self-determination) that will lead them to hell. Too much freedom.

When liberation is the problem — and when a "permissive society" becomes a bad thing — indoctrination ceases to be the problem, and becomes the solution. The problem with Obama is that his is the wrong indoctrination: since state-run education takes the power to shape and educate away from parents, Santorum's solution is for parents to take their power back, and this leads him to argue — quite distinctly — that it should be parents who (metaphorically) play God with their children: "I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image not his." The idea of people making themselves in the image of their own dreams and desires is not — and cannot be — on the agenda. New truths will get in the way of The Truth. [my emphasis in bold]
Santorum has manifested several others of the most problematic aspects of the fundamentalist outlook: hostility to science; opposition to birth control and sexuality in general; rejection of women's rights; the crackpot revisionist view of American history associated with David Barton and the Christian homeschooling movement; "Biblical capitalism" that adopts the views of the Great God Free Market as being those of Jesus.

Another one that struck many people are bizarre - and rightly so! - was his view that environmentalism in general is an false and therefore evil theology in itself. Like "Biblical capitalism," this view of environmentalism shows the heavy influence of Christian dominionism. Rachel Tabachnick gives some background on this view in Santorum not Source of 'Phony Theology' Idea, Origins in 'Biblical Economics' Partnership Talk to Action 02/21/2012. Julie Ingersoll has an analysis of it in Obama's 'Phony Religion' is Environmentalism, Santorum Explains Religion Dispatches 02/27/2012.
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