Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Santorum's Religious Fundamentalism Part 1

I would like to devote the next few posts to GOP Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum, as he is now a contender for being the GOP front-runner. There are many things that trouble me about Santorum. His social policies on homosexuality, contraceptives, abortion and sexuality should all be extremely troubling to anyone who is not a religious zealot. Speaking of religion, his views on religion are especially problematic as they infuse his positions on social policies ranging from marriage to the environment. Here are a few of his positions:

In the realm of religion and worldview, he has said that Obama’s worldview is a “phony theology,” that its “not an ideology based on the Bible.” This is very concerning statement for many reasons, the first being its arrogant exculsivist attitude. For those not familiar with the term exclusivist, allow me to briefly introduce the idea. Exclusivism is the attitude that “my community, [my nation], my tradition and set of values, are the only correct ones, excluding all others” (Grazer, 1999). This unfortunately is the most common perspective amongst fundamentalists and extremists. My way is the true way and all others are false. This attitude of course brings all sorts of other issues such as truth claims, but I’ll speak about it more in another post. For these purposes, it is sufficient to say that Santorum believes that any ideology not based on the Bible is thus somehow inferior, invalid or false, as it is not wanted in the public sphere. This naturally creates an issue, as this view is not only dangerous for other people of faith, it’s a view that is also un-American. Santorum has said,

“I’ve taken the position that the moral values reflected in the laws should be the moral values that built this country. Which is the Judeo-Christian values, and the laws should try as much as possible to comport with a higher law.”

This quote illustrates a few things. First, that there is a higher law, in this case, Judeo-Christian law, and second that those arbitrary, dangerous, and exclusivist laws should be the basis of our laws and public policy. (Also extremely un-American.)

He has also said, “No other country in the world has its rights based in god-given rights, not government given rights…if rights come from the state everything government gives you it can take away. The role of the government is to protect rights that cannot be taken away.” This is a juicy quote. First it embodies an American exceptionalism that I have little patience for. There are plenty of countries that base their laws and public policy on God and those countries tend to be Muslim.
But Santorum says there is a difference, although he doesn’t really elaborate it: “Unlike Islam where the higher law and civil law is the same. In our case we have civil laws, but our civil laws have to comport with the higher law. As long as abortion is legal, at least according to the Supreme Court, in this country, we will never have rest. Because that law does not comport with god’s law which says…that all life has value. [Because God said] ‘I knew you in the womb’”. So what’s the difference? We cannot allow abortion because it is against God’s law. First of all, it is the pure embodiment of arrogance to say that you know what God’s law is, as there are millions of religious people worldwide that have a different idea of what God’s law is. Second of all, that shows no difference whatsoever between civil law and “higher law”. Civil law, in this case, and in the cases of homosexuality, contraceptives and marriage must conform to his own fundamentalist and exclusivist interpretation of what this higher law states. Going back to the first quote of this paragraph, our rights are in fact outlined in our government. And yes, the government does not always protect these rights as exampled by cases with slavery, race, the equality of women, and state sanctioned discriminations of every kind. But these laws change and adapt, as they must to suit the ever-evolving moral zeitgeist. All rights can be taken away. The role of government is to protect its citizens, to protect the rights that protect its citizens. Never has there been a time in history when more human rights have been elucidated and protected, all due to modernism and secular ideology. Religion, which has had millennia of dominance in state affairs has never been able to come close to this record of human rights protection, in fact, the modern human rights protections come largely in spite of historical religious dominance.

Santorum says we need to understand who we are as Americans. However, once again, the religious right, championed by Santorum forget to recall the Treaty of Tripoli signed by President John Adams in 1797 that says, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

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