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Satan Is Not a Campaign Issue

Comment

In 2008, Rick Santorum spoke at Ave Maria University in Florida. There, he tackled the crucial issue of moral decline in America and did so in explicitly religious language. "Satan has his sights on the United States of America," he said. "Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition.

"He attacks all of us, and he attacks all of our institutions," he stated.

Now Santorum obviously has a right to his religious believes. And polls show that Americans agree with him that Satan exists — 70 percent of Americans, according to Gallup, believe in the devil, and 69 percent believe in hell.

But Santorum's speech became the story of the day once it was posted on the Drudge Report on Tuesday. Santorum's supporters immediately came to his defense, rightly claiming that Santorum said all of this while he wasn't a presidential candidate and said it in a religious setting.

But Santorum is a presidential candidate now. And that means that the media will dig up his past and blast it into the ether, as they should. The more we know about our candidates, the better. And what we know about Santorum is deeply problematic for social conservatives.

Social conservatism is based on traditional morality; American social conservatism is based on secular explanation of traditional morality. Appeals to the Bible may convince believers, but they alienate non-believers. They end the moral conversation and polarize relationships. Believers end up labeling non-believers atheists; atheists end up labeling believers kooks.

That's the problem for Rick Santorum, too. Moderate to liberal opinion holds that Santorum is a fringe candidate, a religious panderer who revs up the base but loses the middle. There's truth to that perception — polling shows that Santorum is seen as a more fringe-y candidate than, say, Mitt Romney. More damaging, there is a popular perception that Santorum is paranoid about sex, focused solely and completely on matters of the bedroom. This is just plain false. But Santorum's own language lends support to that false perception. When he talks about Satan using "sensuality" to seduce the United States, he sounds like a tent preacher, rather than a politician.

When he rails against the pervasive sexuality of our society — all of which is true — he doesn't do so on social grounds, but on moral grounds, slinging around terminology that makes the irreligious blush.

None of this is to say that Santorum is wrong. But it's political suicide.

Americans largely fear the bleed over from religion to politics. We want to see religious values infuse governmental action in some cases — but in many cases, we don't (contraception, for example). We want to know that our leaders care about the Creator because at root, Americans believe that our rights are God-given, rather than state-granted. But we also want to make sure that religious leaders don't use the levers of government to pursue their own ends. We aren't interested in the state policing our freedoms rather than protecting our rights. "We have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion," wrote John Adams, a religious man. "Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

So where does this leave Santorum? It leaves him out in the cold, unless he can find a way to better articulate the socially conservative position. He's a politician, not a preacher. He needs to stop citing religious belief as the source of government values and start citing the social truths that religious beliefs describe. Unwed motherhood is a moral issue, but it's a secular, societal issue, too — which is why Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former Democrat senator from New York, could make the case against it. Santorum prefers to stay on the moral plane rather than the social one.

That's understandable, and it's even laudable from religious leaders, many of whom have shirked their duty to instill ethics and values into their followers. But it is not the job of the government to instill those values. Morals and values matter from our politicians. But we should not look to them to teach us about religion, for in doing so, they help to dissolve the bonds of conversation that tie us to one another. Social conservatism is a winning argument. But that argument must be won on the religious level outside the government and on the social level inside it.

Ben Shapiro, 28, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, and Editor-At-Large for the Breitbart websites. He is the four-time bestselling author of "Primetime Propaganda." To find out more about Ben Shapiro and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM



Comments

2 Comments | Post Comment
Yes, its true that if Americans followed the ten commandments and followed more biblical teachings, that a lot of our problems would go away, but you can't force people to follow them. This is a country of religous freedom, and these speeches are killing Rick in the long and short term.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Thu Feb 23, 2012 6:58 AM
I agree with young Ben and applaud his objective presentation. Politicians or Government attempting to regulate social and moral values is akin to trying to hold water in a strainer.
The religion of "just say no" captured the hearts and minds of a people who believe the '60's brought on the ruination of our country. What with NOW and Civil Rights and "The Pill" and our sons dying in Vietnam.
We all know how children and teens, even adults, respond to "NO" especially if it means you need to shun or try to change/convert your homosexual son or daughter, best friend and Jew who married a WASP, white Lutheran brother and his non-white baptist wife and their children, and mommy who enjoys everything but the missionary position
Later, many of the "preachers of separation" were exposed as the greedy, hypocritical, polemic, peddlars of snake oil that they are. The Reverend Billy Graham was the counter balance to the extremist views, presenting a religious viewpoint and a moral message and living a life unsullied by moral turpitude.
Today I see Joel Olsteen as a counter balance to both the extremist conservative message and the Billy Graham message. A uniting force for those who want to live a moral life and raise a moral family and his message(s) follow the message of most, if not all, religions. Joel Olsteen preaches and his flock practices a religion of inclusion and love of God and self. They recognize 'free will' and neither damn nor praise those whose exercise of free will is contrary to their own. The philosophy: Accept Jesus as your savior, love the Lord thy God first and foremost, Love thy neighbor as yourself, do unto others as you would they do unto you, etc. The philosophy or belief is instilling good moral values starts with love and respect. A child will make responsible moral and ethical choices if raised to love, forgive, and respect themselves and others.
Comment: #2
Posted by: demecra zydeem
Thu Feb 23, 2012 10:04 AM
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