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February 21, 2012

The Santorum Revelations

After a 14 hour workday straight from Hell, the Blog Princess was snidely pondering the advisability of injecting Chardonnay directly into the veins finally sitting down with a celebratory libation when the latest outrage du jour hit the fan:

"Satan has his sights on the United States of America!" Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has declared.

"Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition."

Though we will admit to thinking, "Oh for Pete's sake... there he goes again", the Editorial Staff cannot quite summon the requisite degree of indignation over a guy who wasn't then running for President, speaking to a Catholic audience at a church-affiliated university, having the temerity to speak of good and evil in distinctly religious terms.

Though we suspect the black turtleneck and Father of Lies references may have been just a wee bit over the top.

What we do find amusing (albeit unintentionally so) is this little snippet:

And so what we saw this domino effect, once the colleges fell and those who were being education in our institutions [sic], the next was the church. Now you’d say, ‘wait, the Catholic Church’? No. We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.

Gallons of digital ink have already been spilled arguing that Rick Santorum is being attacked for defending social conservatism. That is no doubt a comforting belief, and one for which there is considerable evidentiary support. Organized religion and social conservatism have been under attack in the media for as long as I can remember. The only thing more predictable is that the sun will rise every morning.

Still, we can't help wondering: is it too much to ask for a candidate with a modicum of common sense?

This entire process is a job interview in which the candidates are trying to get hired by the electorate. Insulting the electorate and accusing it of spiritual weakness and sinfulness are not the ways to get yourself the job of president.

Here are two revelations that are worth every cent you're about to pay for them:

If your rhetoric turns off people who are already inclined to agree with you, you're doing the whole persuasion thing wrong.

And when even Rush Limbaugh thinks you've got some 'splainin' to do...

Posted by Cassandra at February 21, 2012 08:13 PM

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Comments

In the context of remarks made at a Catholic school, outside of any attempt to run for any office, the remarks he made are not improper. If you were going to talk about Satan, you'd go to church; that's where we go to talk about things like that. Of course you'd want to make a case to Catholics at a Catholic school that their particular faith is a stronger and purer example of Christian principle than others; that's one of the arguments they generally make at Catholic schools (just as Baptists make similar arguments at their schools).

There is some reason to be concerned about what is usually called "mainline Protestant" churches. The UMC and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) were both captured in the late 1960s-1970s, so that the UMC discourages evangelicals and the Presbyterian Church urges its members to work to eliminate handguns from society. As for the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury... well, you know about Rowan Williams.

I wouldn't dismiss them from the field of Christianity, of course. I think that goes too far; but I think you and I may be unusual in that regard. Most of the Baptists I knew growing up were quite ready to read out even the Baptist church down the street, let alone Presbyterians (who were not, my sister was told by her Baptist friends as a girl, Christians at all).

What does concern me is this idea of pulling things from that context for use in a 'job interview' several years later. Would we approve of that in an ordinary job interview? "We're sorry, your qualifications are excellent, but we found on the Internet some highly religious and sectarian comments you made in church a few years ago. That's not the kind of person we want here."

That doesn't seem quite right, does it?

Posted by: Grim at February 22, 2012 10:24 AM

What does concern me is this idea of pulling things from that context for use in a 'job interview' several years later. Would we approve of that in an ordinary job interview? "We're sorry, your qualifications are excellent, but we found on the Internet some highly religious and sectarian comments you made in church a few years ago. That's not the kind of person we want here." That doesn't seem quite right, does it?

First of all, Santorum's qualifications are not "excellent". He is applying for a job he has never held before at any lower level on the basis that his convictions are strong ones and his refusal to temper his rhetoric is a quality we want in a President. That's a highly debatable assertion, by the way.

So does it make sense to consider what he has said and done in the past on a subject he himself keeps injecting into the campaign? To me it does (at least from the perspective of voters "hiring" a public servant) who want to know what kind of person he is.

This is what freedom of association is all about, and the #1 concern of employers is, "How will this person get along with others in the workplace? How will he/she represent our company?"

Having worked with a woman who just wouldn't shut up about how her church was superior to all others, (and oh by the way, the Holocaust never happened - those durned Jews were overreacting) I can testify to how such statements are perceived.

I'm not sure what makes selecting a chief executive LESS rigorous a process than selecting an office manager. This is precisely what regular employers do these days - they search on your name and if they find something that causes them to question your character, self control, judgment, or ability not to irritate the snot out of their fellow workers, it "can and will be used against you", albeit not in a court of law :p

Like you, I don't have a problem with Santorum's remarks wrt Satan. I think the context (he's a Catholic, talking to Catholics) matters. But that stipulated, you've described what bothers me about the "Protestants" comment here:

Most of the Baptists I knew growing up were quite ready to read out even the Baptist church down the street, let alone Presbyterians (who were not, my sister was told by her Baptist friends as a girl, Christians at all).

I don't have time to go around being offended by every random comment made by a GOP candidate. Life is just too short :p

Still, it's a widely held (and, I think, largely accurate) perception that strength of faith is often positively correlated with intolerance of other faiths. Not always. But often enough that the stereotype is widely held.

It is precisely that intolerance that turns people off. My DIL lives near you - all their friends are Baptists and they basically consider themselves to be the only true Christians. Everyone else's faith is a sham.

Does that kind of attitude make people want to be part of such an organization? Does it speak well for the church or the tempering effect of faith on human nature? No - it does precisely the opposite.

I get that this is precisely the kind of thing people say when they're among like minded people (we are the real deal - it's those other guys who are pretenders). It's just that I've never thought much of folks who say (much less believe) that sort of thing.

Posted by: Cass at February 22, 2012 11:26 AM

Oy. "Satan?" Really?
We're done here, Rick. The receptionist will validate your parking.
Have a nice. day.

Posted by: spd rdr - altar boyo at February 22, 2012 11:31 AM

As far as the technical question goes: Does that attitude make people want to be part of the organization? Manifestly it must. As you say, all your daughter in law's friends are Baptists; I'm given to understand that evangelical Christianity is a claimant to the title of 'world's fastest growing religion.' Most of the other claimants also show this model.

The question of whether it works is separate from the question of whether it's right, of course, and I think you and I agree on this subject.

I am interested, though, in the broader question -- setting the political piece of this aside for a moment. One of the things you've always maintained is that the Internet is a public space, and that people have to be accountable for what they do in public. A church is also a public space, but part of our social bargain has been that you can do things in church that aren't acceptable elsewhere.

For example, people go to church and speak in tongues or hold snakes without becoming unemployable; whereas if they did it at Starbucks (or at work) they might well become so. So there's a kind of distinction here; both places are public spaces, and so to some degree it is proper to hold people accountable for what they do there. On the other hand, it is just because we have set up church as a separate space in which it is OK to express these drives that we are able to maintain such a religiously diverse society. If we pull the church fully into public, those rifts have to be faced head-on.

Posted by: Grim at February 22, 2012 11:51 AM

I'm not saying you're wrong, Miss Cass, but I can't agree that comments made to a Catholic group 4 years ago regarding Catholicism disqualifies him somehow from national public office. And your example of the office manager also has problems. Because any business that refuses to hire someone for their religious views is most likely going to get their pants sued off of them. Now, can they find something "legitimate" to refuse employment to this person? If they can't cite "abrasive/abusive personality" I'd be highly disappointed in their HR department. But the fact is, holding a jaundiced view of others' religious beliefs and a rosy view of your own, while obnoxious is hardly uncommon. Trust me, I've heard the "Catholics are not Christians but Polytheists who worship Mary" bit (and I actually had some dude tell me to my face that he knew more about Catholicism as a Baptist than I did with decades of time within the Church). Yes it's annoying, but to be shocked, shocked to find that a Catholic can be less than tolerant of Protestants is a bit squirrely to me.

Posted by: MikeD at February 22, 2012 12:23 PM

...and you a good Catholic boy :)

Posted by: Sister Mary Bag O'Metaphors at February 22, 2012 12:37 PM

"Would we approve of that in an ordinary job interview? "We're sorry, your qualifications are excellent, but..." [emphasis mine]

"First of all, Santorum's qualifications are not "excellent"."

Pardon my confusion, but he didn't say that. And curiosity leads me to ask why did you read it that way?

As to the replaying ad nauseum of something that was said four years ago - as if pure repetition somehow makes it *current*....I'll take the Enemedia with a grain of salt and a shot of tequila (and you know how I feel about tequila) until it no longer filters everything they print/say through the filter that their name suggests.
0>;~"

Posted by: DL Sly at February 22, 2012 12:47 PM

I'm not saying you're wrong, Miss Cass, but I can't agree that comments made to a Catholic group 4 years ago regarding Catholicism disqualifies him somehow from national public office.

Well, if I'd said that I would have to agree with you :p

Durnitall, I didn't even say that and I still have to agree with you!

We're not talking about disqualifiers here - we're talking about how voter perceptions affect willingness of individuals to vote for a candidate.

Yes it's annoying, but to be shocked, shocked to find that a Catholic can be less than tolerant of Protestants is a bit squirrely to me.

Again, I don't think I said I was shocked. I believe the word I used was, "amused" (which is a much lower bar, especially given my propensity to laugh at pretty much anything).

On Grim's comment:

One of the things you've always maintained is that the Internet is a public space, and that people have to be accountable for what they do in public. A church is also a public space, but part of our social bargain has been that you can do things in church that aren't acceptable elsewhere.

....For example, people go to church and speak in tongues or hold snakes without becoming unemployable; whereas if they did it at Starbucks (or at work) they might well become so.

Question: were these comments made during a worship service? Or were they made during a speech to a group of Catholics (and possibly non-Catholics as well - I honestly don't know)? Two different scenarios, I think.

With respect, both you and Mike are stretching what I wrote far beyond what I said. Words like "unemployable" or "disqualifies" don't really have much to do with the impressions people (or voters) gain of a person and their subsequent assessment of that person, based on statements made or books written or speeches given and recorded.

Politicians, of all people, have good reason to know that what they say and do will be noted and commented upon. They are public figures who avidly seek the spotlight (when they're not complaining about how bright it is). So I expect *more* awareness of them than I would of a private citizen.

The issue, in my mind at least, is that Santorum is very much running on his willingness to champion religion and social conservatism. Many folks welcome that.

I think it's not really what we hire a President to do. It is quite literally, a distraction from the issues Presidents are hired to address. Now he can decide that's his "brand". But having made that decision, it becomes hard to claim that a quality (or issues) you are actively marketing yourself upon are somehow irrelevant. Santorum's big problem here is that he needs votes from people who aren't social cons to win this election, and the very qualities he is marketing during the primaries are not going to play well to a broader audience.

Question: what does he do then? I'm guessing, "tone it way down". Of course he keeps saying he won't do that.

It is a problem.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 22, 2012 12:51 PM

Pardon my confusion, but he didn't say that. And curiosity leads me to ask why did you read it that way?

Here's what Grim said:

What does concern me is this idea of pulling things from that context for use in a 'job interview' several years later. Would we approve of that in an ordinary job interview? "We're sorry, your qualifications are excellent, but we found on the Internet some highly religious and sectarian comments you made in church a few years ago. That's not the kind of person we want here."

Let's keep in mind that I have argued that stricter scrutiny should be applied to someone running for the leader of the world's largest superpower than to an ordinary citizen applying for the job of office manager.

More responsibility, more power, stricter scrutiny.

If I think Presidential candidates merit stricter standards (and I do), AND I don't think it at all improper for an ordinary person to take publicly made statements into account when hiring an ordinary person for an ordinary job (as in Grim's, "That's not the kind of person I want to give this job to, even if his qualifications are otherwise excellent", then why on earth would I apply a looser standard to someone applying for a much higher position where he has no prior experience?

Posted by: Cassandra at February 22, 2012 01:06 PM

Well, if I'd said that I would have to agree with you :p

Durnitall, I didn't even say that and I still have to agree with you!

Very sorry, ma'am. I do promise I wasn't trying to straw man you, it's just kind of how I took it. Do also remember, I'm hardly a so-con (in fact, it's the social side of me that's libertarian... within certain limits), and I only argue Santorum's side in this vis a vis his First Amendment rights to his religion and associations.

And let's be 100% fair here, I'm not saying his religious views are not or should not be germane to his seeking the Presidency. After all, we DID hold the current occupant of that office to a fairly strict standard WRT his choice of pastors in Chicago. And fair's fair, if Rev Wright can be a relevant topic, Rick's rather strict views on religion certainly can as well.

The real question, though (as my re-re-reading of your post gives me) is less "is it fair" and more of "will it play in Peoria", and that answer is, "no, probably not". I'm not saying Protestant America won't hire a Catholic. I'm saying, no one likes their nose rubbed in that someone else finds their heartfelt belief system is up to snuff (so to speak). IOW, while some may not really see it as a slander to call Mormonism a cult, or Catholicism polytheistic (and neither "Christian"), let the tables be turned and out come the knives (metaphorically speaking, of course).

Posted by: MikeD at February 22, 2012 01:26 PM

I do promise I wasn't trying to straw man you, it's just kind of how I took it.

I figured that! I know you and Grim well enough to know you don't resort to straw man arguments. That said, "Will it play in Peoria" is a very apt summation of the question I intended to raise :)

I'm saying, no one likes their nose rubbed in that someone else finds their heartfelt belief system is up to snuff (so to speak).

That was kind of my point. As Grim pointed out earlier, that sort of thing plays very well to the base because "we" always like to hear how much better we are than "those other people", but it generally doesn't play so well to "those other people" :p

Posted by: Cassandra at February 22, 2012 02:11 PM

With respect, both you and Mike are stretching what I wrote far beyond what I said. Words like "unemployable" or "disqualifies" don't really have much to do with the impressions people (or voters) gain of a person and their subsequent assessment of that person, based on statements made or books written or speeches given and recorded.

This is a sensitive topic, so I appreciate your attempt to reinforce the atmosphere of mutual respect; but I assure you I have no doubt of yours, as I hope you have none of mine.

Neither do I intend my next comment to be taken as a personal criticism of spd, whose character appears to be above reproach, and whose loving attitude towards his daughters and their mischievous horses I've always admired.

When he writes:

Oy. "Satan?" Really?
We're done here, Rick.

...that does sound like we might be talking about a "disqualifier," if not for you than for him. He has every right to make that decision, of course, but it's this kind of thinking that interests me.

Now, I'm still more interested in the larger social point than the particular case. The point about "mainline Protestants" that Santorum is making is that they have walked away from some central Christian doctrines. If one views the belief that Satan is real to be a disqualifier, in some sense one is confirming his point. I don't have any special commitment to the question of whether Satan is real or metaphorical, but the Catholic church does: since the Fourth Lateran Council, their doctrine has held that the Devil and his angels are real beings actively at work.

Now I think you can interpret Satan as a metaphor or even a myth and still be capable of holding to something that is still a form of Christianity; I don't know that the reality of Satan is really as central to the faith as other things. People are free to reject a belief in a real Satan, and even to hold that people who believe such things ought not to be elected President; or, alternatively, that people can believe it as long as they have the good sense not to say it in public (which would show some additional discretion, a good quality in a President).

What I'm trying to suggest is that we may benefit from respecting a further distinction between "in public" and "in church." (I'm taking these remarks to have been delivered "in church" based on Drudge's accompanying photo, which looks pretty churchy.) It seems like professing a belief in Satan as a Catholic speaking to a Catholic audience at a Catholic university (and apparently, judging from the lectern, in a church) ought to be as non-controversial as learning that a Jew professed a Jewish doctrine to a Jewish audience at a synagog.

But as I said, I've had to deal with these Baptists all my life. Maybe I'm just used to the idea; I know they probably believe that I am a highly damnable person what with my drinking and numerous other sins, and regrettable failure to attend their church. (And indeed, I certainly am in some peril of damnation, for some of my sins have been quite grave.)

Nevertheless, that's what they do on Sunday; and however strongly they feel about it, they have generally always been nice folks to be around the rest of the week. I find their intolerance to be fairly tolerable, which makes me inclined to tolerate it. I could be intolerant of their tolerable intolerance, but I think all things considered, we're probably better off not dragging it out into the public space where we have to fight about it.

Posted by: Grim at February 22, 2012 02:16 PM

I can't speak for spd, but for me, even from a theological perspective, of all the things happening in 2008, Satan's attacks through pride, vanity, and sex don't seem to be the major issues facing us as Christians or as a nation.

He may be keeping his eyes on something, but it isn't the ball.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 22, 2012 03:29 PM

That's the political issue, which isn't as interesting to me; but apparently in '08 Santorum was working for a think tank focused on foreign policy issues, including particularly Iran. Iran was certainly relevant to the big issues of 2008; I had the occasion to rather closely observe some of their incoming rockets in Iraq that very year.

So, you know, he wasn't in church all the time. The question is just how much we want to hold it against someone that they go to church at all -- at least, a church whose beliefs may be unfashionable. If they went somewhere wholesome like Trinity United (which, as I recall, was also relevant in 2008)... well, that's another story!

Posted by: Grim at February 22, 2012 04:05 PM

The question is just how much we want to hold it against someone that they go to church at all -- at least, a church whose beliefs may be unfashionable.

Is that really the issue here, though? That he goes to church at all? Hard to think of a President who hasn't been a regular churchgoer (at least to hear them talk).

A leader whose beliefs are "out of the mainstream" (which is probably nearer the mark) is usually not something voters have a problem with unless they believe he doesn't respect the beliefs of others. He may privately think just that. It's just that it's not wise to say so publicly, and this is a home truth most politicians understand.

If you want Americans to respect your beliefs, it helps if you don't disparage theirs. I think that is nearer the mark here.

If they went somewhere wholesome like Trinity United (which, as I recall, was also relevant in 2008)... well, that's another story!

This is a great point, and one I've often thought of. During the 2008 election, the public statements of people who aren't even Obama (but with whom he voluntarily associated himself by attending church) were examined and dissected in excruciating detail by lots of conservatives.

I know - I was one of them. They were relevant then. Which makes it all the most inexplicable to see conservatives suddenly saying the candidate's own voluntarily expressed beliefs are somehow a distraction now that the shoe is on the other foot.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 22, 2012 05:39 PM

By the way Grim, I will respond to your pithier comments when I can. Have to finish what I'm doing and don't have time for deep thoughts.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 22, 2012 05:43 PM

I will await you with pleasure. In the meantime, I might say:

Is that really the issue here, though? ... A leader whose beliefs are "out of the mainstream" (which is probably nearer the mark)

There may be an issue about just where the mainstream is. If you mean it the way the NY Times means it -- it seems to be their favorite phrase for tarring conservatives -- then he certainly is. Saturday Night Live has been mocking people who believe in Satan since the Reagan era. Many of these people are in what you and I take to be the field of Christianity, but the idea of taking Satan seriously is absurd to them.

If you mean by 'the mainstream' the wider human population, though, perhaps it is not. The doctrine of a real Satan has been in place in his church since 1215, which is to say, the same year as Magna Carta. That is to say that this has been the belief of the largest religious organization in the world for eight hundred years. Nor is it peculiar to Catholicism: it's a standard feature of Evangelical Protestant churches, and even 'mainline' ones until the most recent generation.

I wonder whether the real dispute is just over whether the right word is "mainstream" or "mainline." That the members of the "mainstream" belong to a whole different world than he does is a subject on which they seem to be in perfect agreement.

Posted by: Grim at February 22, 2012 07:11 PM

Grim, you ignorant slut :)

Don't you know that "outside the mainstream" means roughly the same as "any position I don't agree with and find it expedient to demonize"?

That's why I put it in quotation marks - to indicate my own skepticism about what is and is not mainstream.

That the members of the "mainstream" belong to a whole different world than he does is a subject on which they seem to be in perfect agreement.

*snort* :) For that matter, I'm not sure I'm in the mainstream either, even within my own party. Oh well - if Santorum can live with the pain, so can I.

Heh.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 22, 2012 07:18 PM

Iran was certainly relevant to the big issues of 2008

Yes, it certainly was. But, it appears, that it Satan wasn't attacking America by whispering in the hearts of men to embrace their darker natures and perform evil acts for evil purposes. No, it was those pompous a$$es like Donald Trump, the vanity of the Kardashian ilk, and the slutiness of the Paris Hiltons of the world. That is how America is being attacked!

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 23, 2012 04:09 PM

Even I've spent enough time in church to expect that a sermon wouldn't let its audience off that easily. It's not Paris Hilton's sexuality that is a threat to America; if it threatens anyone at all, it's chiefly her.

If America is threatened by sexuality, it's because Americans in general -- not a few people to be scorned -- have lost perspective on the right way to order sexuality in their lives. It shouldn't be what defines our identity (for the Catholics, that is either our rational nature or God's love depending chiefly on whether you ask the Dominicans or the Franciscans). The fact that the culture as a whole has over-emphasized sexual pleasure means that we allow more important things to fall aside, which explains why divorce is at such high levels, illegitimacy is climbing, marriage is in danger of being redefined only to support the interests of the sexual pair rather than the larger family marriage is meant to create and support (2008 was the year of Prop. 8, so that's relevant as well); and so forth.

There's something to be said for this argument. Part of that something may well be, "It only belongs in church." But that's just where he put it, which surely should make it OK.

Posted by: Grim at February 23, 2012 05:10 PM

My point is, of all the things going on at the time, our collective sexuality is not even close to being a major concern.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 24, 2012 11:31 AM

"My point is, of all the things going on at the time, our collective sexuality is not even close to being a major concern."

A point that is completely lost on the Democrat/liberal/progressive mindset.

Posted by: DL Sly at February 24, 2012 11:53 AM

Also George Will.

Posted by: Grim at February 25, 2012 10:26 AM

I cite the Will piece because it represents something of a synthesis of our positions: he agrees (with you) that these things belong in church and not the White House, but (with me) that these issues may represent an existential crisis for the American people:

"The problem is not that the phenomena that trouble Santorum are unserious. The use of prenatal testing for search-and-destroy missions against Down syndrome and other handicapped babies is barbaric. Obama's stealthy pursuit of a national curriculum for grades K through 12 is ill-advised and illegal. And no domestic problem — not even the unsustainable entitlement state — is more urgent and intractable than that of family disintegration.

"The entitlement state can be reformed by various known — if currently politically impossible — policy choices. But no one really knows the causes of family disintegration, so it is unclear whether those causes can be combated by government measures.

"We do know the social pathologies flowing from the fact that now more than 50 percent of all babies born to women under age 30 are born to unmarried mothers. These pathologies, related to a constantly renewed cohort of adolescent males without fathers at home, include disorderly neighborhoods, schools that cannot teach, mass incarceration and the intergenerational transmission of poverty. We do not know how to address this with government policies, even though the nation has worried about it for almost 50 years.

"In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then in President Lyndon Johnson's administration, published his report on the black family's "crisis," which was that 24 percent of black children were then born to unmarried women. Today, 73 percent are. Forty-one percent of all children are now born to unmarried women.

"Moynihan, a social scientist in politics, proposed various family policies, but also noted this: When the medieval invention of distilling was combined with Britain's 18th-century surplus of grain, the result was cheap gin — and appalling pockets of social regression. The most effective response to which was not this or that government policy, it was John Wesley — Methodism. Which brings us back to Santorum."

So maybe you (and Will) are right about the answer; but the severity of the problem is real enough.

Posted by: Grim at February 25, 2012 12:43 PM

1) I'm not saying there isn't a problem.
2) I'm not even saying it isn't a big problem.
3) But if family distintigration is a Nuke, it's one with a 50 year timer. The fiscal problems, by comparison, are the nukes that could go off next year.

If we don't solve the latter, the former will largely be moot.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 27, 2012 10:33 AM

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