Monday, February 20, 2012

Theology And Politics

This has been bothering me: 'At a campaign appearance here on Saturday morning, Mr. Santorum described the “president’s agenda” as being “not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your job... It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology. But no less a theology,” Mr. Santorum said (Santorum Calls Obama's 'Agenda' About 'Some Phony Theology' - NYTimes.com)'.

Now, first of all... back in the day, the founders held those truths to be "self-evident" because they wanted to detach public morality from religion. The Declaration of Independence and Constitution both build on a secular, humanistic moral code - thus self-evident. There's no denying the Judeo-Christian moral code colors much of that secular morality, but there was a deliberate attempt to ground the code in our simple humanity, to make it more permanent, and less easily dismissed as "religion".

That said? Rick Santorum needs to brush up on his theology. Because there's nothing Christian about his agenda. As he's brought it up, what would an agenda based on Christianity look like?

Health Care: Jesus taught that we should take care of the sick - and when his followers asked whom they should do this for the question surprised him. The answer was simple - everyone. Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me, he told them. They had to keep asking - who is my brother? Everyone. Here's Matthew 25: 41 - 46:

41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not [e]take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

If you're basing public policy on the teaching of Jesus, then Universal Public Health Care is the moral, Christian approach. Yet Santorum says the state cannot do this - argues the state should not be involved in providing care or making health care decisions. Well, with a few exceptions - Santorum favors the state's involvement in health care decision making in the realm of women's reproductive health. Quite inconsistent. It is fine to oppose Universal Public Health Care - I can understand not believing that the government should play that role. But Santorum needs to understand that opposing it is an anti-Christian belief. If you're suggesting public policy should be based on Christian Theology.

Welfare: See above. Unemployment Benefits: See above.

Defense: Then we run into foreign policy, law enforcement... any authoritarian exertion of power, really. It's all hard to justify with Christian Theology. Jesus taught "Love your enemy" and "turn the other cheek" and "if someone takes your coat, offer him your shirt, too" - and if you have any question about how far he meant us to take this pacificism, we have his example - you love your enemies even as they crucify and kill you. Any rationalization for defiance and retaliation, any claim of "just war" fails in the shadow of the crucifix. You cannot have a National Defense based on Christian Theology - not unless you're ready to melt the guns, open the borders, and turn the other national cheek. Not viable, I'm afraid.

So... be careful about suggesting that the US Agenda should be based on Christian theology. Certainly, we can each be personally informed by our faith. But just as we as modern individuals respond to different aspects of our faith, following some aspects, ignoring others, we should thank the founders for having the wisdom to detach our national, public morality from a religious structure to give it a similar flexibility. On the flipside of that, we should rebuke any who suggest abandoning the wise, secular morality of our founders.