The Politico-Evangelical Candidate

I don’t have enough zeal for any particular politician – now or ever – to use this space to advocate for anyone, but politics is quite a spectacle, albeit in a Roman Coliseum kind of way. Politics is also a quirky creature, but for now Rick Santorum is the choice of the Politico-Evangelicals.

So how did that happen? There is first of all their comfort level with a large-family, home-schooling man who will talk about personal issues and tear up while doing so. He may be Catholic, but he wears his piety evangelically.

In the first unlikely source of this post, CNN captured this angle pretty well, including the following:

Santorum’s a homeschooling dad. His wife, Karen, is homeschooling or has homeschooled their seven children, making them a poster family for a movement populated largely by evangelical Christians and other serious believers. “It matters because it shows he’s a real part of our movement rather than simply someone who is politically sympathetic,” says Michael Farris, an evangelical conservative who leads the Home School Legal Defense Association.

Then there’s occasional talk about Santorum’s Christian worldview. “Worldview” would seem to indicate a big picture consistency with some kind of structure to it, but it’s hard to see anything of the kind in Santorum. He’s mostly earned it by continuing to push the hot buttons of abortion and gay marriage; not long ago positions like those would have been called “family values” but now, for some reason, it’s a worldview.

If worldview goes along with having the ability to see the big picture, one might expect a Presidential candidate to be able to articulate ideas that come out of the Constitution or fit nicely into it. But you’re not going to get that from Santorum, who proposes federal law on marriage and abortion. In our second unlikely link, provocateur/comedienne Ann Coulter summed up what’s wrong with that:

I also wonder why he’s running for president, rather than governor, when the issues closest to his heart are family-oriented matters about which the federal government can, and should, do very little. Santorum doesn’t seem to understand the crucial state-federal divide bequeathed to us by the framers of our Constitution…when Santorum tried to explain why states could ban contraception to Bill O’Reilly back in January, not once did he use the words “Constitution,” “constitutionally,” “federalism,” their synonyms or derivatives. Lawyers who are well familiar with the Constitution had no idea what Santorum was talking about. He genuinely does not seem to understand the Constitution’s federalist framework, except as a brief talking point on the way to saying states can ban contraception.

All of which raises the question of whether the Politico-Evangelicals really like our system of government or their appeals to the Constitution are merely opportunistic.

Finally, Santorum unpresidentially talked of his impulse to “throw up” over a speech by fellow Roman Catholic John F. Kennedy, which included

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act…

In response Santorum said:

“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,”… “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”

Whatever you think of John F. Kennedy or his speech, it does show that Kennedy had a high awareness of the Constitutional prohibition on church establishment, and the speech is primarily about the church itself rather than individuals participating in the public square. And it is pretty clear. Santorum is less clear. For example, Santorum’s church is opposed to contraception. Would Santorum be in favor of banning contraceptives? If not – and I assume not – then he actually does believe in a separation of church and state. And, on that issue, the Politico-Evangelicals will be glad that he does.


Filed under Church and State, evangelical politics, Worldview

13 responses to “The Politico-Evangelical Candidate

  1. Richard

    What amazes me is that the Catholics Santorum and Gingrich get forums for their speeches in Baptist churches–which used to believe historically in the separation doctrine. Whereas the actual Baptist, Paul, isn’t seen in those churches. Politics make strange bedfellows, huh?

    • And, Richard, a 2k-ish perspective can work alongside all kinds of religions in the civil realm while maintaing theological distinctives in the church. But the Politico-Evangelicals without that perspective very well end up minimizing the theoolgical differences of the Reformation as a result of political and culture war alliances. Win the state, lose the church.

  2. It makes want to heave when I agree with a politainer. Good thing anti-nausea substances aren’t banned in Michigan.

    • So there’s Santorum on stage at a Baptist megachurch, letting the preacher pray over him, having no idea what the preacher is going to say. All the religious elements aside, it’s just not good judgment to let himself be in that position. He may score high on the short checklist of social conservatives, but he does so many things that simply aren’t Presidential. But I don’t think the Politico-Evangelicals factor in being Presidential.

      • Richard

        And I see the news even made it in the London Telegraph newspaper–another “idiot” evangelical U.S. pastor makes an ass of himself was the message. Makes people want to hear the Gospel, doesn’t it?

  3. Lily

    Just for fun, let’s add the other side of the coin: Kirk Cameron getting in trouble for politely saying he doesn’t support homosexual marriage (in response to being asked the question in an interview).

    “I was surprised, frankly, that people were surprised by the things that I’ve said,” he told host Ann Curry. “I have been consistent for 15 years as a Christian. I’m a Bible-believing Christian. What I would have thought was more newsworthy is if I had said something that contradicted the word of God, if I had contradicted my faith.”

    I love this part:

    “Noted Christian believes what Christianity teaches.” How shocking!

  4. Lily

    Ugh – the Des Moines church was being quite provocative.

    I was thinking that Cameron was an example of how we can get into trouble for the right reasons in our vocations. I don’t think he was trying to be provocative. When I watched the original interview portion with Morgan, it seemed to me that Morgan purposely asked the question because he knew Cameron was a Christian and Cameron wasn’t thrilled to answer it. I thought he did well in his answers. Check it out:

  5. Richard

    Been leading our adult SS class through DVD’s book, “Life in God’s Two Kingdoms,” and talking about the spirituality of the church. Nice that I now have examples of how to screw this up. And I see in the latest Weekly Standard an article about our First Lady pushing churches to get behind her “Fight Obesity” campaign, while her husband tells churches to take a flying leap when it comes to his health care plan on issues of conscience. Man, you really can’t make these examples up if you had to, could you?

    • Nicely done! I also covered the book, but in a birds-eye-view kind of way, taking five weeks to hit the high points. It provoked a lot of conversation, and was about as well-received as can be expected given that, though the ideas are not new, they can be new to many congregations.

      What kind of reaction are you getting?

      • Richard

        I’m taking several months to go through the book. The reaction I got a first was one of astonishment–people are so used to the transformation crap out of Calvin College or Covenant College, they haven’t heard this at all. I’m also getting some hostility and push back from some of our more theonomically inclined people (one of our former officers had heard the book was anti-confessional; I so wanted to clock him). I’m approaching the last chapter with a bit of dread because some of DVD’s remarks on education have already lit a fuse with some who support a local Christian school which is into worldviewism. Appreciate your prayers. One of your OPC pastors, Greg Reynolds, has been doing a terrific job going through the book as well; his talks have been an encouragement to me. .

    • There’s a recent article from the Foreign Affairs journal on youth having a negative view of church because of its being politicized. I was going to blog it, but it’s pretty much saturated the blogosphere already. Here’s one article:

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