Pierce writes: "I know theologians, Rick. I went to school with theologians, Rick. And you, Rick, are not a theologian, nor any great judge of who is and is not acting out of a 'theology.'"

Rick Santorum as preacher, illustration by DonkeyHotey. (art: DonkeyHotey/flickr)
Rick Santorum as preacher, illustration by DonkeyHotey. (art: DonkeyHotey/flickr)

Theology for Dummies

By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Magazine

21 February 12


n case you all missed it in your preparations for today's celebration of Fillmore/Pierce/Buchanan Day today, Rick Santorum spent the weekend roaming the landscape and talking very much like a nut on a great many topics, and have I mentioned recently what a dick this guy is? I am not kidding. The Republican party is about a half-step away from handing its presidential nomination to an out-and-out religious fanatic whose views, as expressed to allegedly evolved primates on the campaign trail, are not dissimilar to those that some people listen to on their short-wave sets in survivalist camps in upper Michigan, or those that other people hear transmitted to them from St. Michael The Archangel through the fillings in their teeth. There were a number of reasons why the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania decided six years ago that they no longer wanted to be represented in the U.S. Senate by fetus-fondling Torquemada. Over the past few days, we have seen only a few of them.

Santorum now has attached himself to the most extreme rightist positions on both women's health care and on the various issues of environmental protection. He has aligned himself with the most extreme elements of his party on both those issues. It doesn't matter a damn any more that he has more "blue-collar credibility" than Mitt Romney - so does Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands - and it doesn't matter a damn that he actually makes the right mumble-noises about his plan to revive American manufacturing, which, anyway, if you look at it closely, is more a plan to revive the personal profits of the people who employ American manufacturing workers. He has decided, on issues that by his own admission are at the core of who he is, to make common cause with the most singularly exotic fauna of the political fringe. Let us face facts. If your opinion on the coverage of pre-natal screening within the Affordable Care Act is based on the notion that the president wants pre-natal screening to be used fundamentally as a Trojan Horse for culling disabled children from society, you've strayed pretty far from the pack. And if you start trafficking in the idea that, say, cap-and-trade is an expression of a "theology," phony or otherwise, you've gone zooming into that zany dimension where every word simply means what you want it to mean.

(Also, in opposing the coverage of all pre-natal screening for whatever reason, Santorum is also adopting a position that will save large insurance companies a lot of money. I do not believe this is accidental, either.)

As it happens, for non-bloggy reasons I need not go into here, I've spent the last week or so reading actual theology from actual theologians, going all the way back to Origen and Tertullian on Christian pacifism, and also hanging around with Erasmius, Luther, and Calvin, while they chew over predestination and free will. (Love that old Dion song. "I think I saw him walking over the hill/ With Desiderius, Martin and John.") I know theologians, Rick. I went to school with theologians, Rick. And you, Rick, are not a theologian, nor any great judge of who is and is not acting out of a "theology." And neither, I would point out, is the president of the United States. A difference in opinion on how we best save our battered planet is not a theological dispute. The answers to it are not to be found in Scripture, or in the writings of the Church Fathers, unless you count Glenn Beck, which I don't, and I think I probably could have gotten Clement of Alexandria to agree with me on that one, too. The answers are to be found in how we argue with each other through our politics. That's messy, and nasty, and uncivil, and so can theology be, but what is being argued about is neither sacred nor ineffable. The only reason to frame it that way is to demonstrate what a good theocrat you can be, and to give people a god-haunted reason for not recycling, or for bitching some more about lightbulbs.

This is not something a candidate should do lightly, or because it gives a candidate a leg up on another candidate who might be, you know, the member of a religion that some of your primary target voters think is a cult. Political campaigns are not theological. It is dangerous to make them so. You get people turning fundamentally political arguments into theological disputes, and you're not far from the darker impulses that lead to the bastinado and a very dire St. Bartholomew's Day. That Rick Santorum is willing to do this, like a child giggling with a blowtorch, is reason enough to disqualify him ever from a position of secular power. The rhetoric he has adopted comes from a history charred by fire, and sodden with blood. your social media marketing partner
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