Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Staying In The Hole

Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:06 pm, February 19th 2012     —    3 Comments »

I like  Rick Santorum, I really do – but….  This morning I tried to ease up on him a bit, even give him some advice:

One, he was confused about  the words “theology” and “moral values.”  Secondly, he was really trying to make a point about the HHS ruling (“oppressing religious freedom”) not attack Obama on theological grounds.  I can see this.  A devout Roman Catholic, confronted with an Evangelical audience, might stumble over “Evangospeak,” the word he was probably wanting is “worldview.”

If his appearance on “Face The Nation” not too long after publication of that advice is any measure, he tried to take said advice.  Here is the total exchange on religion:

BOB SCHIEFFER: So, Senator, I’ve got to ask you. What– what in the world were you talking about, Sir?

RICK SANTORUM: Well, I was talking about the– the radical environmentalists. That’s why I was talking about energy, this– this idea that– that man is– is not– is here to serve the Earth as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth. And I think that is a– a– is a phony ideal. I don’t believe that that’s what– that’s what we’re here to do. That– we– that– that man is here to– to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the Earth, to be a steward of the Earth. But we’re not here to serve the Earth. The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. And– and I think a lot of radical– a– a– a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside down.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, how does that translate into some sort of theology that the President’s theology–

RICK SANTORUM (voice overlapping): Well, it’s– it’s a world view.

BOB SCHIEFFER: –is not based on the Bible. I mean that suggests that he’s not a Christian.

RICK SANTORUM: No, I wasn’t suggesting that President’s not a Christian. I accept the fact that the President is a Christian. I– I just said that when you have a– a– a world view that– that elevates the Earth above man and– and– and says that, you know, we can’t take those resources because we’re going to harm the Earth by– by things that are– that– that frankly are just not scientifically proven, for example, that politicization of the whole global warming debate, I mean, this is just all– all– all an attempt to, you know, to centralize power and to give more power to the government. And– and it’s not questioning the President’s beliefs in– in Christianity. I’m talking about, you know, his– the– the belief that– that man is– should be in charge of the earth and should have–

BOB SCHIEFFER (voice overlapping): No, but once–

RICK SANTORUM: –dominion over it and should be good stewards of it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I– I don’t want to just spend the whole program on this, but was your–

RICK SANTORUM (voice overlapping): Good.

BOB SCHIEFFER: –use of the word theology, perhaps, you could have had a better word than that? I mean, don’t you know that– that–

RICK SANTORUM (voice overlapping): It–

BOB SCHIEFFER: –or do you wonder that– that might lead some people to suggest that you were questioning the President’s faith?

RICK SANTORUM: Well– no, because I’ve repeatedly said I don’t question the President’s faith. I’ve– I’ve repeatedly said that I believe the President is a Christian. He says he is a Christian. But I’m talking about his world view or his– the– the way he approaches problems in this country and I think they’re– they’re different than how most people do in America.

Imagine that – he used the word “worldview”  Too bad he could not get it right.  More on this momentarily.

I have to confess to not getting the mention of environmentalism at all.  The full transcript of his remarks yesterday has not been released, but what has, including what was released by the Santorum campaign itself, makes no mention of environmentalism or energy policy at all.  I honestly cannot tell if he is trying to establish some context or simply making one up from whole cloth.  Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he is establishing context.  Did he have a manuscript of his speech?  If so, why not release it an give this claim credibility?  If he was shooting from the hip, wasn’t there a staffer there recording what was being said for transcription?  Oh wait that’s right – shoestring staffing in Camp Santorum.  Yep, organization matters.

But let’s turn back to “worldview.”  Schieffer did not really let him up for air on this thing, so let’s see if there were any additional comments from Team Santorum.  WaPo’s “PostPolitics” blog reported later in the day:

In an interview Sunday, a spokesman for Santorum’s campaign said the candidate was not judging Obama’s private religious beliefs. But, spokesman Hogan Gidley said, “theology” was still the right word for what Obama had wrong.

“Theology’s a worldview. And Obama sees the world differently. I mean, someone who apologizes for America’s greatness, and someone who thinks the government knows best on health care, I mean those are different theologies,” Gidley said. “Rick is separating the two. One’s own personal religious beliefs are different than a worldview or a theology as it relates to governing and the government.”

What? “Theology’s a worldview?”  OK, we’re into doublespeak here.  Let’s turn to Wikipedia:

Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.

A comprehensive world view (or worldview) is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society’s knowledge and point-of-view, including natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics….Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual, group or culture interprets the world and interacts with it.

Those are pretty different things.  Hopefully theology is a part of the “entirety of knowledge” that goes into forming a worldview, but worldview and theology are very distinct things.

What we have here is a very bungled bit of political optics.  Obama clearly does have a very different worldview than pretty much all of us in the Republican big tent – but that can result from an emphasis on sources of knowledge other than theology, not reflecting at all on theology specifically.  But what Santorum clearly wants to do here is imbue the discussion of the worldview of Obama with religious significance and thereby capture the Evangelical/Social Conservative vote.  Put more plainly he is trying to play the same game on the opposite side of the aisle that Obama played at the Prayer Breakfast.

Frankly, Obama was wrong at the prayer breakfast and Santorum is wrong here.  Both Article VI and the First Amendment make it plain that we do not use theological or scriptural argument in an effort to place God’s imprimatur on policy decisions or discussions.  The PostPolitics piece we linked to earlier made a broader point:

The usual rules for talking about faith on the campaign trail call for candidates to speak about their religion in uplifting, accessible generalities. Now, Santorum seems to have cast himself as a candidate bold enough to tell others where they’re wrong.

“He has this internal tic, of wanting to get into what I call theological disputation. And theological disputation is a loser,” said Jacques Berlinerblau, a professor at Georgetown University who has studied the use of religion in U.S. politics.

Obama too violated the “usual rules” when he tried to Biblically prooftext his policies at the Prayer Breakfast.  But such is not license for Santorum to do the same.  Somehow a reference to lemmings and “two wrongs…” seems to be in order.

If Santorum wants out from under this mess, I think it is time to say “Oops” and move on.

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