Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rick Santorum's Political Christianity

Why Rick Santorum Can't Just Say: God Doesn't Want You To Be Gay | Politics | Religion Dispatches

It’s not as though Santorum dispassionately selected Catholicism from a menu of religious ideologies. He believes because he feels. Even before his wife’s miscarriage (in 1996), before his political career, some concatenation of circumstances installed what some have called religious “software” in his brain. Things are good when religion is dominant, bad when it is not. This is the truth of his experience.

I’m reminded of a story told by Tim LaHaye, notorious author of the apocalyptic “Left Behind” series. LaHaye was ten years old when his father died, and obviously devastated by the loss. As LaHaye tells it, it was during a pastor’s eulogy for his father that he truly came to believe. The pastor explained how his father was now in heaven with Jesus, and the young LaHaye knew this to be true, felt it to be true. Indeed, he must have wished it to be true as well. Of course he did; what ten-year-old boy wouldn’t?

That, not evolution or homosexuality or any other point of dogma, is the real issue for people like LaHaye, Santorum, and Chambers: the fundamental comfort that religion provides. If people evolved from apes, according to this logic, Timmy LaHaye’s father is not in heaven with Jesus and Rick Santorum’s son died for no reason.

And this is why we cannot argue with people who subscribe to this framework: there is simply too much at stake for them. They have wedded their fundamental sense of okay-ness to the truthfulness of a set of doctrines. Not only is sociology not at issue for Rick Santorum, Romans isn’t either. What is at stake is his very sense that the world is a good place, that things are basically okay, and that he himself is okay as a result. That may be expressed in a theological framework, but it is a psychological reality. If I marry my partner, therefore, Rick Santorum is not okay.

The rest is window dressing. The fake sociology, the religious doctrines of sin and salvation, all of it. Santorum and Chambers have had powerful religious experiences, and they avail themselves of such doctrines to articulate the inexpressible.

By Jay Michaelson

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