Santorum: Obama motivated by a “different theology”

posted at 10:30 am on February 19, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Normally, I would advise presidential candidates to avoid getting caught in arguments over the relative merits of the faith of their opponents.  Americans typically don’t respond well to politicians claiming that they have a superior theology, especially when it comes to translating that into public policy.  In this case, though, Rick Santorum didn’t start that fight yesterday in Ohio:

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum challenged President Barack Obama’s Christian beliefs on Saturday, saying White House policies were motivated by a “different theology.”

A devout Roman Catholic who has risen to the top of Republican polls in recent days, Santorum said the Obama administration had failed to prevent gas prices rising and was using “political science” in the debate about climate change.

Obama’s agenda is “not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology,” Santorum told supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement at a Columbus hotel.

Santorum’s attack didn’t just come out of the blue.  And it wasn’t Santorum who proclaimed his theology in support of his own policy choices, either.  That honor goes to Barack Obama — twice.  Let’s not forget this moment from earlier this month at a prayer-breakfast event, when Obama told the nation that Christian theology calls for him to confiscate more from higher-income earners:

And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone.  And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.

But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.”  It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who’ve been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.

On top of that, we have the new spectacle of Obama telling churches through the new HHS mandate that his interpretation of religious theology is that faith only takes place in “houses of worship,” and that works are mere businesses under federal jurisdiction for the purpose of forcing churches to pay for contraception and abortifacients that violate their religious doctrine.  That is the “different theology” to which Santorum refers, and his remarks are clearly in response to Obama’s own efforts to justify his policy decisions under the cloak of a strange and self-serving interpretation of Christian teachings.

Is this wise politics?  Perhaps not; most people don’t care to get religion mixed up in their politics, and Obama took some heat for his tax-hike rationalizations on the basis of Christianity for that reason.  Santorum’s well-known affiliation with religious conservatives risks him being pigeonholed even further in a debate like this.  But Obama started this argument twice in the past three weeks, and to blame Santorum for pushing back seems a little odd.

Update: Commenter Reliapundit notes that there are some arguments, though true, that should be made through surrogates and not by the candidates themselves — and that this is one of those.  It’s not a bad point, perhaps especially for Santorum.  Also, some argue that this is a distraction from the main economic issues of the campaign, but as it applies to Obama’s “theology” on taxes and ObamaCare mandates, that’s not entirely true.  And if the economy heats up a little bit between now and the election, we will need the Republican nominee to be arguing on both how both represent an unconscionable power grab, and not merely how they both damage the economy.


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Romney has changed his sales pitch this time around, and he is not explicitly trying to sell himself as a conservative. Mind you, I don’t think that his actual positions are any less conservative, but the emphasis has changed.

As for the talk radio hosts, I think that yoou’re being a little unfair. Romney was the most (and last) conservative candidate to oppose McCain, and they were trying to get the most conservative candidate they could. And it appears that they are trying to do the same now. They have been pretty consistent on this score. There is no need for any ad hominems.

ghostwriter on February 20, 2012 at 10:39 AM

I think the emphasis issue is obviously some people trying to justify their change of mind. A classic rationalization. When Romney said 4 years ago he was a conservative, some folks agreed (not me, thankfully). He says that now, and the exact same folks accuse him of lying and call him a “northeastern liberal”. When asked to explain that inconsistency, they blame… Romney. A clear case of lack of intellectual courage.

As for the second paragraph, that has been addressed over and over: they didn’t say “hey, Romney isn’t really a conservative, but he’s more conservative than McCain”. They flat out called Romney a “great conservative”. Said he “embodied the three legs of conservatism”.

Plus, why is the situation different now? If Romney was more conservative than McCain and Huckabee (I actually disagree), why the heck isn’t he more conservative than a guy like Santorum?

joana on February 20, 2012 at 11:03 AM

….Plus, why is the situation different now? If Romney was more conservative than McCain and Huckabee (I actually disagree), why the heck isn’t he more conservative than a guy like Santorum?

joana on February 20, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Romney was regarded as more conservative than McCain and Huckabee in large part because of his position on illegal immigration. Santorum is arguably more conservative than Romney on that issue.

Santorum is also more conservative than Romney on Romneycare and CAGW, and he is obviously more acceptable to the religious right on abortion and gay marriage.

fadetogray on February 20, 2012 at 11:28 AM

I think the emphasis issue is obviously some people trying to justify their change of mind. A classic rationalization.

Last time around, Romneycare wasn’t considered a big impediment for Romney (it actually was considered an asset, because Obamacare hadn’t been passed. This time it is a problem.

At any rate, if you want to sit around and impugn people’s motives, feel free to do so. But I don’t see how attacking people’s intentions is very constructive.

ghostwriter on February 20, 2012 at 11:37 AM

Last time around, Romneycare wasn’t considered a big impediment for Romney (it actually was considered an asset, because Obamacare hadn’t been passed. This time it is a problem.

……

ghostwriter on February 20, 2012 at 11:37 AM

Conservatives’ views of the individual mandate have been evolving. They have come to understand the individual mandate is just a stalking horse for single payer, a way for the collectivists to get in the door. Over time, the ability of government to dictate what insurers can and cannot offer and charge will lead to a similar situation to what we reached with student loans, where the insurers really became an unnecessary extra expense adding no real value to direct government control.

Romney’s view seems not to have evolved at all, perhaps because if he tries to disown MassCare, he will be disowning the signature achievement of his four years in government.

fadetogray on February 20, 2012 at 11:51 AM

Last time around, Romneycare wasn’t considered a big impediment for Romney (it actually was considered an asset, because Obamacare hadn’t been passed. This time it is a problem.

At any rate, if you want to sit around and impugn people’s motives, feel free to do so. But I don’t see how attacking people’s intentions is very constructive.

ghostwriter on February 20, 2012 at 11:37 AM

I’m attacking people’s intellectual inconsistencies.

Romneycare is exactly the same 4 years ago than it is now.

People who liked Romneycare 4 years ago and see it as a deadly political sin now can’t be taken seriously. They’re just opportunists who don’t understand the core of a conservative understanding of the government.

This exercise is constructive because the lesser those people are heard, the better for the conservative movement.

joana on February 20, 2012 at 1:03 PM

Let’s face it: if Obamacare hadn’t happened, those same people would still like Romneycare. Or at least ignore it. It’s simply Pavlovian. Same reason they never had much of a problem with Bush’s reckless behavior on spending.

joana on February 20, 2012 at 1:05 PM

Jesus’ actions and sayings DO overturn the Old Law -CONSTANTLY. By his words and actions he meant that he was “fulfilling” it. The prime example would be: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” ended the killing of social and religious troublemakers by holy mobs, even though the Old Law calls for stonings and killings. To over-rule the Biblical death penalty for such sinners was a radical break with the past. An heretical move.

profitsbeard on February 20, 2012 at 10:43 AM

Sorry to have to disagree with you.

First, the woman was not going to be executed no matter what Jesus said. The Romans had already ended the ‘killing of social and religious troublemakers’ by denying the Jews the right to perform executions in accordance with the Old Testament law. For this reason, the lawyers’ bringing the woman taken in adultery to Jesus was entirely theoretical, a real “Gotcha!” test to see if he would side with those who urged a rebellion against Roman interference in Jewish religious matters or those who advocated obedience to the Romans, thinking they could win a PR battle with him either way. His answer confounded them, but has lately been interpreted as “Live and let live” by sentimentalists who think that even for people who have the responsibility of upholding good behavior, judging others is worse than the adultery Jesus seemingly winked at.

That premise totally misses the point of Jesus’ words.

Second, Jesus had already gone on record (as you rightly said) that He was here to fulfill the Law (Mat 6:17)–by demonstrating that it was currently being misused by the religious leaders. The key verse of the Sermon on the Mount is Mat. 6:20:

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

This was appalling to the people, because the scribes and Pharisees were the most professional do-gooders the world had ever seen. If these guys weren’t righteous enough for heaven, who could be? (Today we mistakenly have a poor opinion of these guys, because some of them were hypocrites, but it took the teachings of Christ to show that their self-justification was in itself hypocritical–more about this in a moment–today most religious and irreligious people alike are more hypocritical in our viewpoints than the more devout Pharisees were.)

He went on to specify why even these religious guys weren’t righteous enough by intensifying the spirit of the Old Testament law far beyond any degree that the Pharisees had ever conceived of:

Mat 6:27-28

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

So Jesus laid the foundational premise that his entire ministry was about, that it is impossible to please God by our actions alone, since even if we keep the entire Law in deed we are incapable of keeping its intent.

And back to the story of the woman, Jesus had already taught that while the woman was taken in the act of adultery, the lawyers themselves were guilty of adultery in their hearts.

And where was the man with whom she was taken? By Law, he was also to be stoned. So by selectively enforcing the Law, they had demonstrated their insincerity in keeping it.

And third, by saying that only the sinless in nature should cast the first stone, Jesus was not just reminding them of their own sin but also proclaiming for the future (it is doubtful that this was overt at this point) his own sinlessness–and as the ultimate righteous Judge, by not proclaiming the woman’s need to be executed, He emphasized that the ultimate goal of the Law is repentance, not just condemnation and punishment.

John 8:11

Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Gal 2:24

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

While you and I might be in general agreement, I felt I needed to clarify what I thought was a mis-statement; I could not let this pass, because Jesus did fulfill the Law, even while intensifying it and then transforming it to emphasize its redemptive aspects. The entire Epistle to the Romans is based on Christ’s fulfillment of the Law as the basis of the forgiveness of sins He offers repentant Jews and Gentiles alike. If He had not fulfilled the Law, He would not be able to offer salvation to the Jewish people.

rwenger43 on February 20, 2012 at 2:19 PM

2008:
CandidateA: I will murder 10,000 people a day, if elected.
CandidateB: I will murder 100 people a week, if elected.

CandidateB, who isn’t safe at all, is safer than CandidateA.

2012
CandidateB: I will murder 100 people a week, if elected.
CandidateC: I won’t murder anyone at all, ever, if elected.
CandidateD: I won’t murder anyone at all, and I’ll work to execute all murderers, if elected.

Both CandidateC and CandidateD are safe, while CandidateB — who was the safer choice in 2008 — is unsafe, even though his positions have not changed.

Again, joana, if the question is wrong, the answer doesn’t matter. And you continue to ask the wrong questions due to your wrong premises.

John Hitchcock on February 20, 2012 at 2:23 PM

fadetogray on February 20, 2012 at 11:51 AM

I think your point is well-made. While the issue has changed, so have our understanding of the options.

While we as a culture must come to grips with End-of-Life care, it is far more important to have these discussions with conservative ideas on the table without government ramming “death” or any other panels down our throats.

rwenger43 on February 20, 2012 at 2:26 PM

Brutus, the First Amendment was not meant to prevent Christianity from influencing Government. It was meant to prevent Government from controlling Christianity. It was a one-way permeable wall of separation.

Again, to contextually accurately paraphrase-from-memory one of the Framers (the Father of the Constitution, if memory serves right):

The US is a Christian nation; the US Constitution is wholly inadequate for any other.

John Hitchcock on February 20, 2012 at 2:40 PM

Santorum: Obama motivated by a “different theology”

It’s about time that Republicans begin a principled, systematic dismantling of the liberal theology which spreads false teaching and subordinates man to nature.

Rick Santorum has it right!!! We ought to have “government of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE, and for the PEOPLE”!!! The liberal establishment is trying to subordinate PEOPLE to plants, animals, and various natural substances in an effort to enslave us all.

landlines on February 20, 2012 at 3:17 PM

The US is a Christian nation; the US Constitution is wholly inadequate for any other.

John Hitchcock on February 20, 2012 at 2:40 PM

John Adams said it. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

We are a secular nation of a Christian people. Our secular Constitution ultimately depends upon the morality of the people to uphold it, and that morality is given its backbone by Christianity.

fadetogray on February 20, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Thank you, fadetogrEy (:P), for that. It was, indeed, the Father of the Constitution who said it.

John Hitchcock on February 20, 2012 at 3:29 PM

Thank you, fadetogrEy (:P),

You’re most welcome, and I prefer the American spelling. :)

fadetogray on February 20, 2012 at 3:35 PM

And I prefer the 1980s, 1970s, 1960s, 1950s, etc, etc, AMERICAN spelling. ;)

John Hitchcock on February 20, 2012 at 4:56 PM

I’m attacking people’s intellectual inconsistencies.

Romneycare is exactly the same 4 years ago than it is now.

People who liked Romneycare 4 years ago and see it as a deadly political sin now can’t be taken seriously. They’re just opportunists who don’t understand the core of a conservative understanding of the government.

This exercise is constructive because the lesser those people are heard, the better for the conservative movement.

joana on February 20, 2012 at 1:03 PM

Word games. From those “intellectual inconsistencies” you are inferring nefarious motives: His opponents are “just opportunists who don’t understand the core of a conservative understanding of the government.

ghostwriter on February 20, 2012 at 8:21 PM

It’s about time that Republicans begin a principled, systematic dismantling of the liberal theology which spreads false teaching and subordinates man to nature.

Rick Santorum has it right!!! We ought to have “government of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE, and for the PEOPLE”!!! The liberal establishment is trying to subordinate PEOPLE to plants, animals, and various natural substances in an effort to enslave us all.

landlines on February 20, 2012 at 3:17 PM

I have no idea what that means, but I’m pretty sure that I don’t want any part of that. If you want to repeal Obamacare, and roll back some of the Federal intrusions in day-to-day life, then count me in. I’m no interested in any holy wars.

ghostwriter on February 20, 2012 at 8:24 PM

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