Google analytics

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bad religion: Santorum as Mary, Queen of Scots

by John M. Watkins

Rick Santorum, currently leading the polls in his run for the Republican nomination for president, has said that President Obama bases his administration on a "phony theology:"

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 later elaborated on this theme by tying the comment to environmentalism:
 “When you have a worldview that elevates the Earth above man and says we can’t take those resources because we’re going to harm the Earth …  it’s just all an attempt to centralize power, to give more power to the government.”
 This is recognizably a Dominionist critique. Dominionists believe that the Bible says that Christians are given dominion over the earth, and must rule over it rather than serve it, and should also rule over all civil authority. From Wikipedia:
Dominionism is a term used to describe politically active conservative Christians that are believed to conspire and seek influence or control over secular civil government through political action, especially in the United States, with the goal of either a nation governed by Christians, or a nation governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law.

The basis for this belief is the book of Genesis:
And God blessed [ Adam and Eve ] and God said unto them, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." —Genesis 1:28 (KJV)
Santorum has also made the argument that mainline protestants are not real Christians. In 2008, he was asked if maybe some people are sincere, believing Christians in the liberal tradition. He answered that in that case, “You’re a liberal something, but you’re not a Christian.” He continued, “When you take a salvation story and turn it into a liberation story you’ve abandoned Christiandom and I don’t think you have a right to claim it.”

In short, he considers the current president unfit to rule because he is, in Santorum's view, and apostate.

Our civilization has been through this before, in the Thirty Years War and the English Civil War. Thomas Hobbes, realizing that states with religious division could not have a leader whose authority depended on divine right without some large part of the population considering you an apostate, and therefore illegitimate, sought a secular basis for the legitimacy of the ruler. The book he wrote about his ideas on this, Leviathan, is one of the basic documents in the evolution of liberal democracy, as we discussed in this post.

Hobbes himself, of course, might have been hanged for blasphemy were it not for the protection of Charles II, who had been his pupil.

The separation of church and state brought peace to European states where Catholics and Protestants -- and Church of England and Dissenters -- had once fought over whose religion should be the basis for civil authority.

That separation of civil authority from ecclesiastic authority was enshrined in our constitution in the first amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
We also, in article six of the constitution, included this language:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Santorum, clearly, thinks that only his sort of Christian is fit to serve in public office. He wants a religious test for who is qualified for office. In short, he is not just running against President Obama, he is running against the constitution and our entire tradition of government.

Should he actually be elected, we could expect him to be about as divisive as Mary, Queen of Scots, under whose Catholic rule the Protestant lords rebelled.

This is an old battle, and one most people thought was settled. Granted, George W. Bush thought God had chosen him to lead the country to a perilous time, but that was his private grandiosity, and he did not attempt to extend the reach of his co-religionists to have dominion over our entire government. A president who believed in that could open wounds we thought were closed centuries ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment