Santorum is Killing Religion in America

image via ChicagoTribune.com

I simply cannot remain silent anymore.

As someone who still considers himself to be a (strange variety of a) Christian, I cannot sit by idly on the fence and let these squeaky wheels steer the public's perception of individuals of faith so squarely up their own asses.

Never before in my life have I been more ashamed - not of "the gospel of Christ" but of the behavior of those claiming to be influenced by it. I've spent the better part of my life working to prove that believing in God and being well educated can go hand in hand. One can be scientific and spiritual at the same time. One can have faith and let the evidence for it come from one's choices and behaviors, not from one's mouth. I believe that faith can be a totally internal emotional experience, one that can be shared with others but that need not enter the realm of rhetorical political persuasion. Persuasion, after all, is a form of violence.
But persuasion features heavily into the role of most modern religions. The very purpose of evangelism is to persuade others to believe.

Secularism, some Christian evangelicals would claim, is a cancer eating America and evangelism the only cure. I don't agree. In fact, I believe the harder a particular religion pushes to persuade the general public, the more likely that public is to retreat to secularism.

When people like Rick Santorum or Kirk Cameron take the stage and claim to represent the moods and morays of all people of faith by fostering an atmosphere of division and intolerance, it simply tightens the resolve of non-faith bearing people in America to remove faith from public life as completely as possible, and turns folks who might have been on the fence away from believing anything at all. The more people who pop up in the public eye with uncommonly unacceptable beliefs in tandem with (or even emanating from) their religious practice, the more likely religion is to die in America altogether. Thus Santorum (and others like him) are killing religion in America.

"Secularism" is not necessarily a bad thing in my point of view, but even if it was I would still hold that using a strategy of decreased tolerance and increased hostility mixed with even more vitriolic evangelistic persuasion is counter-intuitive toward the end of eradicating secular tendencies. If you want people of faith to stay in the mix of ideas that guide our nation, then people of faith in general need to be regarded as functional members of that nation. Be in the world, but not of the world - right?

It seems to me that most people of faith have lost sight of what it means to be in the world and would rather be of their own little worlds where everyone believes what they believe. This is not only contrary to reality, it is counter to common Christian theology, in my opinion.

There used to be this concept of the need for equal time for candidates in mass media, meaning if a medium gives time to a candidate from one party, it should maintain objectivity by giving equal time to the opposing point of view. Because of the high profile status of so many of these conversations, like the one where Santorum claimed Kennedy's speech about religion and politics made him sick, I feel like there needs to be equal time given to opposing points of view.

If you don't want the world to have a negative opinion about people of faith, make sure that those representing people of faith in the public eye do not warrant such negative opinions. For every Rick Santorum, there should be given equal time to a person of faith who does not turn the stomach of every liberal within 1000 miles, because there are such people, quiet on the sidelines they may have been.

But such things simply do not sell.

This coming Tuesday, the state will pick a Republican candidate to endow with the power of the Illinois share of the electoral college, and (as has been the case for the entire campaign thus far) religion features heavily.

The Chicago Tribune yesterday (thankfully) endorsed NOT SANTORUM (Romney) for the candidacy. This choice, in my opinion, is significant if only because it indicates a decline in one of the largest supposed "issues" facing the choice in this primary - RELIGION.

As much as each of the candidates claim their religion not to need to be a factor, to hear Santorum claim Satan has taken over higher education and Newt declare (on behalf of Obama) war on the Catholic Church, I don't think we've seen an election - at least a primary - with nearly as much religious rhetoric (since Kennedy.)

It isn't the amount of religious rhetoric that disturbs me so much at it is the tone and the vigor. I say that the Tribune's endorsement of Romney (read NOT Santorum) is an indication that the role of religion in this particular political race is declining because of Chicago's deep Catholic heritage. It proves to me that this paper, somehow representative of the mood of the people, see the less religious rhetoric the more sensible choice.

This is a good time to remind readers and myself that the focus of this blog is a religious one, not a political one. Religious is actually a word I would prefer not to use at all because I'm more interested in the emotional process and phyisical display of faith than I am in "religion" per se. For that reason I am angered at the way modern American politics invokes this very (in my opinion) important aspect of human experience.

I'm not afraid of a candidate or a media icon that is overtly religious. I also don't think the separation of church and state and religious people in office are mutually exclusive, nor do religious people not deserve to be media icons.  I don't think it is impossible for a single person's moral compass to guide their legislative or creative decisions, in fact I think I count on it. But what I also count on is for that individual to recognize they exist in a larger community of folks who have different cultures, perspectives, and opinions that are no less valid than their own.

What does scare me are individuals who are so hungry to attain office that they will invoke religious rhetoric simply to stir or persuade the voting populous.

Am I claiming that Santorum is not sincere in his faith? Or Romney? Or Newt or Ron Paul or Obama?

I'm claiming that any candidate who puts on the clothes of religious rhetoric in order specifically to sway the vote scares me - and from my point of view, far too many from both sides of the aisle have done or do this.

But regardless of a person's vocation, I find it problematic when religious rhetoric is adopted for the purposes of persuasion and political or media gain and not because a person is particularly drawn to faith. I would rather see religion as we know it disappear from earth and be removed from all public language than to see it used just to trick people into giving power to other people.

According to Kerry Lester at The Daily Herald, Santorum apparently addressed a group of Hersy High School students with a pocket sized Constitution in tow and said that America needs to "...continue to change."

And you know what? I totally agree. America does need to change. It needs to talk less about "RELIGION" and more about good governance. It needs to think more sensibly about the role of power and money and commerce in the political process. As a body of people, America needs to finally put to rest the intentional divisionism that will, if not sterilized, prove to be the cancer that ate us all.

Finally, if you feel the way I do - speak out. The more voices we lift of faithful sensibility, the more we can counter the impact of the Rick Santorums and Kirk Camerons and prove that there are other people of faith who do not believe similarly.

If you agree, as I ask that you participate in the process by seeking with me to impact the role that money plays in the political process as a way of reducing the circumstances whereby political people feel they can benefit politically by putting on the clothes of religious rhetoric in order to sway votes and therefore come to wealth and power.

Take a look at http://rootstrikers.org and decide for yourself how you can help.

From that site:
Henry David Thoreau wrote, "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." Together, we must strike at the root of America's problems.

Comments

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  • You must really be scared when Obama, who is currently the President, invokes the "gospel of Christ" to justify his policies, which involve mostly stealing from Peter to give to Paul.

    So glad you brought to notice that Santorum is killing religion. Quit an accomplishment for a loser senator from Pennsylvania. Who knew he was the devil in disguise.

    What is trying to kill religion in America are those who admit to a "messy" faith, yet want to influence the not-so-messy.

    The country will "survive" Santorum just as it has survived Obama (so far), and also will survive the hysteria of the "lukewarm".

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Santorum is a piker compared to the destruction that Obama has wrought on both religion in America and our Constitution. Of course, that is Obama's goal, so maybe we should say he is expertly following his plan.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    I'm not so scared by Obama, no, but as I said in the post - any political figure that attempts to use religious rhetoric simply to gain votes scares me not matter who it comes from. I recognize my own use of hyperbole when I say "Santorum is Killing Religion in America," but all hyperbole aside I believe a wake-up call is in order. People are turning away from ANY kind of faith in droves because of these high profile negative characterizations of the faithful. I happen to believe faith is an important part of our (human) culture we don't need to eradicate and feel frustrated when well meaning hardliners make that argument less plausible or logical.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    What do you mean by "influence" the not so messy?

  • Great post. I would add that the religious zealots (as opposed to the genuinely religious) need also to stop implying that people who don't "believe" are somehow flawed, evil and morally bankrupt. There are people all over the country who don't believe in a god of any kind and aren't members of any organized religion, who are leading good lives, trying to be the best they can be, and quite frankly we're sick of being demonized!

  • In reply to Expat in Chicago:

    Yes, I agree totally that the folks who would choose "other" or "none" in the "what religion are you" survey need to be treated differently (with more respect) by people of faith moving forward and that would likely illicit greater respect for "people of faith" in society at large - not that gaining respect alone is the motivation for tolerance but peace is the end desire. There is a growing chasm of cultural difference that keeps people in our nation from being able to successfully communicate peacefully and it needs to change. "People of faith" need to be able to speak the language of "people not of faith" and vice versa. "People not of faith" need to understand that not all "people of faith" would see them converted or proclaimed an enemy.

  • If the Penn State debacle isn't evidence enough of Pennsylvania's need to go away for 100 years, Senator Santorum is quite the exhibit himself.

    Great post - if only more thought as sensibly on a subject so many people do not understand (but think they do).

  • In reply to David T.:

    And, as a Roman Catholic, I'm appalled by the narrowmindedness of his words. Catholics are meant to be universal and to seek the truth regarding the world and our God. To think we figured it out is arrogant, ignorant and wrong.

  • In reply to David T.:

    Thanks, David.
    Like I said, I believe that habits of good thinking, sensibility, and what I would call the pursuit of wisdom are all highly valued in many religions. I too wish, as a species, we could see that these elements do not have to be perceived as running counter to a life with faith.

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