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Rick Santorum Wonders If Obama Is A Real Christian

In a subtle but pointed attack, Rick Santorum today suggested that President Obama doesn’t follow a true version of Christianity:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Lashing out on two fronts, Rick Santorum on Saturday questioned President Barack Obama’s Christian values and attacked GOP rival Mitt Romney’s Olympics leadership as he courted tea party activists and evangelical voters in Ohio, “ground zero” in the 2012 nomination fight.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator known for his social conservative views, said Obama’s agenda is based on “some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.” He later suggested that the president practices a different kind of Christianity.

“In the Christian church there are a lot of different stripes of Christianity,” he said. “If the president says he’s a Christian, he’s a Christian.”

The Obama campaign said the comments represent “the latest low in a Republican primary campaign that has been fueled by distortions, ugliness, and searing pessimism and negativity.”

I assume we can expect Santorum and his surrogates to start dragging out the Rev. Wright tapes any day now. In the context of  the Republican race going forward, though, I doubt that this type of thing is going to hurt him very much. Southern Ohio, for example, resembles the south far more than it resembles the industrial Midwest, so appears to social conservatism, evangelicals, and bizarre conspiracy theories about Barack Obama are likely to resonate with at least some segments of the electorate there. Furthermore, with guys like Jon Huntsman and Gary Johnson gone, there’s nobody left in the GOP field who is going to criticize Santorum for saying things like this. If anything, they’ll endorse and double-down on it.

As James Joyner said in his post this morning, we will learn soon enough whether Santorum’s brand of Christianist Theocracy resonates with Republican primary voters.  One of two things will happen. Either his religious zealotry and Michele Bachmann level of craziness on public policy will turn voters off so much that they’ll run away from him screaming. Or, his populist message will resonate with voters so strongly that he’ll end up riding a wave all the way to Tampa in August. If that happens, I have no doubt what the result will be in the General Election some three months later, the question at that point will be whether Republicans will recognize the mistake they made and begin the return to sanity that could have started with a swift and hearty rejection of the Bush 43 era. Only time will tell.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    This shouldn’t be that surprising – as a Catholic he thinks only that faith is “true” Christianity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  2. Ron,

    But it would be good for Santorum to remember that it wasn’t too long ago that large segments of the United States didn’t believe that Catholicism was “true” Christianity. And, I would imagine that there are some places where people still believe that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  3. TR says:

    Obama’s agenda is based on phony theology?

    There are hundreds of references in the New Testament to the duty of men to care for the sick, look out for the poor, feed the hungry, etc. as well as many famous injunctions from Christ about how the rich will never get into heaven while the ostentatiously pious (ahem) are fakers who shouldn’t be trusted.

    For someone who claims to represent Christianity, Rick Santorum doesn’t seem to be familiar with the teachings of Christ. At all.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 2

  4. Santorum’s view of Catholicism is an entirely self-constructed, cafeteria version.

    “Preferential option for the poor” is a phrase deeply rooted in Catholic thought, including in the Catechism. Santorum appeared never to have heard of it. Rick Santorum supports torture, a practice rejected by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops as an “intrinsic evil”. And he supported the invasion of Iraq, and now talks in bellicose terms about Iran. The invasion of Iraq did not comply with the Church’s just war doctrine. John Paul II, March 16, 2003, “There is still time to negotiate; there is still room for peace, it is never too late to come to an understanding and to continue discussions.” Then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict: “reasons sufficient for unleashing a war against Iraq did not exist,” in part because: “proportion between the possible positive consequences and the sure negative effect of the conflict was not guaranteed. On the contrary, it seems clear that the negative consequences will be greater than anything positive that might be obtained.”

    Now, it’s only fair to note that then-Cardinal Ratzinger also said: “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    But it is also fair to say that he does not appear to consider or mention the Church’s teachings when they aren’t in line with the Republican Party’s platform. He is driven by his tribal identity as a US conservative, not by his identity as a Catholic. The teachings of the Church on the importance of, say, just war, the death penalty, torture, or poverty are irrelevant to Santorum.

    After all, they’re merely about treatment of the prisoner, the stranger, and the least of these among us.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    @reflectionephemeral: Well cherry picking and religion go hand in hand.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  6. JohnMcC says:

    Borrowing from the wonder blog run by Dr Juan Cole, Informed Comment….

    Ten Catholic teachings Santorum rejects while obsessing about birth control”
    1. Pope John Paul II was against going to war against Iraq.
    2. The Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that health care be provided to all
    3. The Church opposes the death penalty
    4. The Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged the minimum wage be increased
    5. The Bishops want (government) welfare for all needy families
    6. The Church teaches that workers have a right to productive work, decent and fair wages and
    organize or join an union.
    7. The Bishops have demanded that Israel withdraw from Palestinian territory occupied in 1967.
    8. The Bishops have attacked the Arizona anti-immigrant SB 1070 and specifically
    defend ‘anchor babies’
    9. They demand that illegal immigrants not be treated as criminals, in general.
    10The Church has denounced the ‘Bush Doctrine’ of preventive war.

    But as another commenter somewhere has said about Mr Santorum, he claims it’s Opus Dei or the highway.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  7. David Koch says:

    I assume we can expect Santorum and his surrogates to start dragging out the Rev. Wright tapes any day now

    He already did that Friday in an interview on CBS Morning.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. JohnMcC says:

    @JohnMcC: Well that is certainly a compositional disaster. I give myself an ‘F’ for presentation. I think that it does spell hypocracy and pharisee clearly, though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. DanF says:

    This isn’t just about Obama. It’s a reminder that Romney is a Mormon without actually saying that Romney is a Mormon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  10. Hazel says:

    @DanF: This was the impression that I got as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. labman57 says:

    Since when should theology and religious beliefs dictate public policy decisions?

    Obama understands the distinction between his Christian values and his role as POTUS, something that the self-righteous, theocracy-minded Santorum will never comprehend.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  12. Brummagem Joe says:

    In a subtle but pointed attack, Rick Santorum today suggested that President Obama doesn’t follow a true version of Christianity

    :

    Subtle? That’s what you’d call it. In the clip they showed on the news I heard the crowd roaring approval. Great little party conserrvatives have their Doug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. RobC says:

    Not sure it’s good politics for Santorum to address this issue, but President Obama did pretty much put the matter on the table with his remarks at the prayer breakfast claiming that his policies are grounded in his Christian beliefs. Doesn’t that then make discussion of those beliefs kosher?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. Ron Beasley says:

    @RobC: Obama was pandering – Santorum actually believes that nonsense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Ron Beasley says:

    @DanF: Good one Dan – That hadn’t even occurred to me but I think you are right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Gustopher says:

    I suspect I am closer to a Christian than Santorum is, and I don’t even believe in God. Obligation to the poor, though, that I believe in.

    Perhaps Levitican would be a better term for the Santorum ilk, if they were also opposed to shrimp and mixed fibers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  17. MM says:

    @DanF: Yep, it’s actually a pretty slick attack from Santorum. Enough anti-Obama red meat to enthuse people at the rallies with a subtle swipe at Romney’s “otherness” that he wouldn;t be allowed to say overtly.

    But I do think there’s a danger there in that there’s still a segment of the Evangelical community who thinks “papists” are evil. Not as many as would be against Obama or probably Mormons, but enough that there might conceivably be a backlash.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Ernieyeball says:

    @Ron Beasley: “Obama was pandering – Santorum actually believes that nonsense.”

    “In too many areas we have spawned ‘leadership’ that does not lead, that follows the crowd rather than challenging us,..It is easy to go downhill, and we are now following that easy path. Pandering is not illegal, but it is immoral. It is doing the convenient when the right course demands inconvenience and courage.”
    Our Culture of Pandering
    The late Sen Paul Simon D-IL
    2003

    I don’t know which is worse!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  19. Patrick says:

    At this point one can wonder if the best that could happen to the GOP would be to nominate Santorum and take a shellacking in November. The sobering effect would perhaps be salutatory.

    If on the other hand they nominate a moderate, who has a good chance of being beaten anyway, the extremist in the base will blame the candidate’s moderation as they did with McCain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. Just nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @MM: I can guarantee you that there is a segment in the evangelical community that holds papists as evil. I know people who still hold to the old timey “whore of Babylon/revise Roman Empire” theory of latter day events. They were recently bouyed by the adoption of the Euro–the mark of the Beast in coin form.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. ernieyeball says:

    @Patrick: “The sobering effect would perhaps be salutatory.”

    You are applying rational thought to the situation. HA!
    What makes you think a defeated Republican Party won’t believe they need an even more socially conservative agenda to defeat the dark, Satanic forces they believe to be among us?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. Moosebreath says:

    Today’s political cartoon in the local rag sheet hits it well

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    As noted previously in the thread, this ad hominem by Santorum is as much a dog whistle to remind the Protestant Bible bots that Romney is a Mormon as it is a slam against Obama. There also is an obvious dog whistle aimed at the Obama-is-a-Muslim crowd and simultaneously it’s a way to try to make an entreaty towards the anti-Catholic Bible bot demographic, the implicit suggestion being that Santorum’s Catholicism is a better alternative to Mormonism or to statism.

    The scary thing for the GOP is that its primary base is so weighed down with ignorant and irrational Bible bots this sort of thing might have some real legs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Bob says:

    Santorum is correct; Obama’s public pronouncements are outside orthodox Christianity, Catholic or Protestant. Obama states a collective salvation, not an individual salvation as does orthodox Christianity. His views of social justice are unorthodox and look to me like he has adopted much of Black Liberation Theology preached by Jeremiah Wright. BLT is a heresy and a Marxist influenced perversion of Christianity bedded in racism. It is clear that most have paid little attention to Obama’s pronouncements and have an equally limited knowledge of Scripture.

    Nowhere in Scripture is charity tied to government. Charity in the Bible is an obligation of individuals and congregations. The Bible, like the founders, abhorred a government involved in forced charity.

    Santorum is also correct in publically rebuking Obama’s positions while not judging whether or not he is a Christian. After all Obama has been critical of these that oppose his heresy. Heresy must always be publically rebuked.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  25. elroy says:

    this is not news. everyone knows obama’s pastor teaches an apostate doctrine. if that didn’t keep him out of the whitehouse the first time it wont keep him from being re-elected. rick’s wasting his time. if he wants to point the finger at apostasy where it might do some good… there’s one staring him in the face at every republican debate. (romney is a mormon)

    now that ive said that all you.mormons….. ATTACK!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. elroy says:

    @TR:

    problem with your analysis is Obama is not caring for the poor, or being charitable with what God has blessed him. he is using the powers of the government to extort from others their wealth in order to distribute it to those who might support him politically.

    thats not Christianity, that’s communism.

    he aint no mother theresa!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0