in Kulturkampf

Rick Santorum is More Christian than You

Mitt Romney wants to undo Frank-Dodd, passed in 2010. Newt Gingrich wants to undo the child labor laws of the early 20th Century. Ron Paul’s Federal Reserve-bashing repeats the 18th Century Hamiltonian debate over central banking. But Rick Santorum, who would apparently like to re-fight the 16th Century Protestant Reformation battle, has them all beat for culture war regression:

If you can stand to listen to the audio posted above, you’ll find out that Satan has taken charge of America through the weaknesses of Protestant Christianity.

This is not a political war at all. This is not a cultural war. This is a spiritual war. And 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. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age. There is no one else to go after other than the United States and that has been the case now for almost two hundred years, once America’s preeminence was sown by our great Founding Fathers. (Emphasis mine)

Leaving aside the fact that America was not a leading power until 1945 — or even a major power until 1898 — culture warriors invariably ascribe ‘spiritual’ purposes to their culture wars. The culture and politics are always at risk because of unseen influence. Santorum again:

(Satan) understood pride of smart people. He attacked them at their weakest, that they were, in fact, smarter than everybody else and could come up with something new and different. Pursue new truths, deny the existence of truth, play with it because they’re smart. And so academia, a long time ago, fell.

Get that? Those binders full of notes, labs full of chemicals, racks of samples, and published empirical studies make smart people ‘prideful’ — and therefore dangerous. (Remember, Galileo was “dangerous” too.) Which brings me to Santorum’s bizarre accusation yesterday that President Obama is using “political science” in the climate change “debate” (it’s a ‘debate’ only in the minds of people who, like Santorum, prefer spiritual evidence to empirical). Tellingly, the candidate segued from climate change denial to denigrating Obama’s Christianity:

Obama’s agenda is “not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology,” Santorum told supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement at a Columbus hotel.

[…]

“He is imposing his values on the Christian church. He can categorize those values anyway he wants. I’m not going to,” Santorum told reporters.

Santorum was referring to the president’s decision on the birth control mandate. Requiring insurance plans to cover contraception may be popular, legal, rational, sensible, and ethical, but if you only care about ‘spiritual’ matters then all of those things can be dismissed as Satan working his evil on the world. Released by People For the American Way last Thursday, the four-year old audio above is key to unpacking what Santorum said on Saturday:

And so what we saw this domino effect, once the colleges fell and those who were being educated in our institutions, the next was the church. Now you’d say, ‘wait, the Catholic Church’? No. We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it. So they attacked mainline Protestantism, they attacked the Church, and what better way to go after smart people who also believe they’re pious to use both vanity and pride to also go after the Church.

After that, you start destroying the Church and you start destroying academia, the culture is where their next success was and I need not even go into the state of the popular culture today. Whether it’s sensuality of vanity of the famous in America, they are peacocks on display and they have taken their poor behavior and made it fashionable. The corruption of culture, the corruption of manners, the corruption of decency is now on display whether it’s the NBA or whether it’s a rock concert or whether it’s on a movie set. (Emphasis mine)

In real life, academe and religion always respond to culture: Luther’s books penetrated European society, then the pope called them heresies. Hip-hop appeared  on the streets before academics studied it and priests condemned its lyrics. So the real world does not work the way Santorum describes it, but empirical reality was never his chief concern anyway.

Rick’s primary interest is Satan, who is apparently Protestant. The Protestant Reformation was not a reaction to the excesses of a very human institution, you see, but the Father of Lies preparing the ground for his takeover of America centuries later. President Obama is merely the latest of Satan’s pawns.

And once you believe that, you are capable of anything. Where do you suppose birthers come from?

Santorum has been the last Republican candidate to surge, and in many ways he is the most complete culture warrior of this nominating field. His paranoid narrative goes back further than any of the others; his Christianity is more pure than anyone else’s. The evangelical doctrine of co-belligerency will prove stronger than his statements about Protestantism leaving the world of Christianity — for they mean to change the politics, and through the politics alter the culture, in order to defeat Satan in a spiritual conflict that only they can see.

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