Rick Santorum CPAC FL 2011Religious Rightists tend to view all of Christianity as being their Christianity … whichever version of it they belong to … and see no difference between its many varieties. What’s worse, they sometimes extend this even further, and view all religions has being their particular version of their particular religion (i.e. Christianity). In other words, they tend to ignore differences between denominations and sects, and even between religions. All things religious are, therefore, conflated within their minds.

This tendency leads them into all sorts of nonsensical territories. One of which is the all-too-common statement, “S/he isn’t a Christian because s/he doesn’t believe X,” where “X” is some theological point that person holds to, but which other Christians might disagree on.

As CNN reports, the ferocious Religious Rightist and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently used this type of reasoning to attack the incumbent president (WebCite cached article):

Rick Santorum drew applause from Ohio tea party voters – but perhaps raised some eyebrows, too – when he suggested Saturday that President Barack Obama leads based on a theology different from that in the Bible.

It left some wondering whether he was implying that Obama subscribes to a religion other than Christianity. …

“It’s not about your job. It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology,” Santorum said. “Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology. But no less a theology.”

Santorum is wrong on several counts. The most obvious of these is that lots of Christians have lots of different “theologies,” but each is no less of a Christian than the rest. And he must know this; after all, there are thousands of different Christian denominations in the world. More specifically, as a Catholic, Santorum must be aware that his Church has different “theology” than Protestant churches, which among other things refuse to acknowledge the Pope’s primacy and reject transubstantiation. Yet, I cannot imagine him complaining about the “different theology” of other Religious Rightists who happen to be Protestant.

Second, the many different theologies which the many Christian denominations hold, are all widely viewed as originating in the same Christian Bible. He can’t very well claim that Obama’s “theology” — whatever it is — can’t be based on the Bible, merely because it’s different from his own. History shows that devoted and sincere Christians can and do disagree on what their Bible tells them. Again, no Christian theology is appreciably less Christian or less scriptural than any other. They simply happen not to be identical.

Third, Santorum’s desire to conflate governance and theology directly contradicts the teachings of the founder of his own religion. Jesus Christ was very clear on the matter; three of the four evangelists report that he said the following:

  • Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s. (Mt 22:21b)
  • Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. (Mk 12:17b)
  • Render therefore to Caesar the things, that are Caesar’s: and to God the things that are God’s. (Lk 20:25b)

Jesus was very clearly apolitical and unconcerned with statecraft. He viewed government as being part of the physical realm and therefore of no importance; his preaching was about, instead, the spiritual realm, or the Kingdom of God. Santorum need only concern himself with this one lone theological point. No other “theology” ought to cross the mind — or the lips — of a dutiful Christian politician who claims to obey the words of his own Bible.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons.

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