How disconcerting to have one’s Christian name used as a Twitter tag to describe the aspirations of seven men and one woman, none of whom will ever be President.
Still, yesterday’s debate gave a fairly good idea of what each candidate means when they use words like “liberty” or “freedom,” and expressions like “states’ rights.” Rick Perry comes closest to a coherent, limited-government synthesis, when arguing that the Tenth Amendment should protect each state’s right to make mistakes about the definition of marriage, subject only to the peoples’ right to amend the Constitution to say otherwise. As we’ve explained before, that’s actually not at all contradictory.
Compare this with Rick Santorum.
Sullivan explains: according to Pennsylvania’s favorite son, “freedom does not mean the freedom to violate the eternal, unchanging ‘laws of nature,’ as defined by the Catholic church.” Put another way, the laws of God perforce supersede the laws of man, and should be enforced by both man and by God.
Now, Santorum is obviously wrong on the law. The Constitution leaves no room for implied theocracy. If religious mores may be used in molding the law — something that’s perhaps improper in a pluralist society, but certainly not illegal — they do not become the law absent affirmative enactment, subject to constitutional limitations. But isn’t he also wrong on his theology? Believers should hope to see God’s will done, but Santorum posits an interference with temporal affairs rejected by Christ himself, and by early church fathers (St. Augustine of Hippo, in his City of God: “Two cities have been formed by two loves. The earthly, by the love of Self; the heavenly, by the love of God.”) Santorum’s view seems definitional of today’s more militant Christian fundamentalism, where a takeover of all secular institutions approximates a religious commandment, a Christian jihad, albeit one which precludes violence in most iterations. But it’s also plainly at odds with what Christianity was originally supposed to be.
It’s also in conflict with the larger fundamentalist community. The Skousenite view — formerly an aberration confined to the far-far-right of the Mormon church, now more mainline fundamentalism, post-Beck (cf.) — holds that the Constitution is a “divinely inspired” document. Per Skousen, because the Constitution was formed by God’s will, the limits of the document are the limits of God’s will for human government. Per Santorum, the Constitution incorporates God’s law into the background, as a sort of external limitation preventing the constitutional recognition of certain rights and liberties.
Both views should terrify, and both are clearly wrong. But both are finding increasing incorporation into the Republican party line. God help us all.