Monday, January 16, 2012

Santorum as the Anti-Universalist


Quite reasonably, James Carroll wants his religion back from Rick Santorum. That nasty pol has used Roman Catholicism as a weapon this electoral cycle. Despite the clumsiness and craziness (my terms) of those in the church hierarchy, American Catholics have consistently been forces of progressive and compassionate personal dealings and public beliefs.

Instead, Santorum has been inverting President John Kennedy's defense of his religion while pledging to keep his personal beliefs separate from public policy. As Carroll notes, Santorum's "achievement is in showing that a Roman Catholic can be as narrowly intolerant as the most puritanical of fundamentalists." That may work in appealing to the basest of GOP-inclined voters, particularly as progressive and liberal sorts do turn cheeks to tolerate such divisive hatred.

Santorum does not have the honor or Christian values to play fair. His putative religion is just another prop and another weapon.

One might suppose that a nation whose original white settlers came expecting religious freedom would even now demand that of anyone running to be their top leader. Cynics could note that many of the original colonialists only demanded such liberty for their own narrow flavor of religion. That may be true enough, but by the time we got through fine-tuning our Bill of Rights, we had the basic principals down.

It took a bunch of court decisions and state and national laws to flesh it out. Even today though, we aren't quite there. It took us nearly two centuries from our revolution to elect...and just barely...a Catholic President. That was quite an improvement from outright bans of Catholic settlers in colonies like Massachusetts, but wow, it took a long time to get there.

Even now, many Americans seem suspicious of Jews, Muslims and other non-Christian sorts. Agnostics or atheists might face even harder campaigns to be President.

Most of the current GOP scrum of POTUS candidates have been using religion like cudgels. Even the notorious ethically and fidelity challenged Newt Gingrich claims to know he's been forgiven, and uses his Catholicism as cover. Only Mormon Mitt Romney seems at all defensive and non-pious about his personal religion.

Without even getting into comparative religion, we can likely agree that the fundamental principles of Christianity should produce fine humans well suited for public service, as well as good neighbors. What kind of ambition and hubris and disingenuousness has led these candidates to misuse such good material?

Just in my last post here, I bemoaned that sort-of progressive POTUS Obama has muddled his religion, apparently for political expediency. He pretends his religion is a cover for his inaction on a key civil-rights issue.

We need more of the attitude of the late Peter Tosh. In You're An African, he sang to black folk to stop deriding each other's religion and to look at the commonalities:

No mind denomination That is only segregation You're an African 
'Cause if you go to the Catholic And if you go to the Methodist And if you go to the Church of Gods You're an African 
The Santorum types, basically the whole GOP field seem to forget the are supposed to be Americans. 


No comments:

UpTweet