The Devil and Rick Santorum

Matt K. Lewis | Senior Contributor

Rick Santorum continues to come under fire for his religious beliefs and comments, the most recent example being a top story on the Drudge Report Tuesday (though TheDC first reported it on February 18). It included excerpts from a 2008 speech in which Santorum argued that, “Satan has his sights on the United States of America!”

I’m a bit ambivalent about this. Let me explain why.

While Santorum’s words sound blunt to secular ears, they certainly fall within the mainstream of Judeo-Christian doctrine. Anyone who prays and has the audacity to expect an answer, is tacitly admitting they believe in spiritual forces. Anyone who asks The Almighty to guide their lives — or guide this nation — implicitly believes in the spiritual realm.

As Santorum more delicately told CNN yesterday, “I’m a person of faith. I believe in good and evil.” One might extrapolate that such a belief also implies the existence of some form of spiritual warfare — of heaven and hell or God and Satan — or not. (For some reason, it’s more acceptable in our culture to talk about God than Satan.)

Clearly, some of the concern has to do — not with what Santorum believes — but in how he presents it. In this regard, the devil’s in the details. Still, it’s probably reasonable for voters to expect even the most devout presidential candidate to speak a bit differently than a preacher might.

On the other hand, in our modern, secular society, we have probably forgotten just how publicly religious some of our past leaders were. Franklin Roosevelt’s D-Day prayer, for example, asked God to lead our soldiers “straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.”

It’s also worth noting that Santorum’s speech took place at Ave Maria University in Florida four years ago. It clearly spawned an uproar, but should his comments — specifically directed to a Catholic audience — have been that shocking?

Putting it in context, can you imagine what the secular media would do today if it were discovered that FDR met secretly with Winston Churchill (as he did) and sang a song called (gulp!) “Onward, Christian Soldiers”? The press would accuse them of wanting a Holy war. Is nothing sacred?

Today, of course, any time you speak to a group of people, you can expect someone to tape it and use it against you when you run for president. This is in many ways good, and in many ways harmful.

But Santorum faces another problem, and that is his seemingly negative view of modernity. As John Podhoretz notes, “Like many culture warriors, [Santorum] is disappointed by America and its failings…” I suspect this is at least part of the reason why Santorum’s comments sound so dissonant to even some conservative ears. Ronald Reagan was no stranger to invoking The Almighty, but he also believed America’s best days were ahead.

Who knows? Maybe Santorum is right — maybe he’s a Cassandra?

Right or wrong, however, it seems that Americans like to elect optimists as president. And right now, it would seem that Barack Obama is more optimistic about the future of America than Rick Santorum. Now that’s a real problem.

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