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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