Rick Santorum: Running for President, Pastor, or Both?

For years — when questioned about Mitt Romney’s faith — Nancy and I have responded with some version of the following: “He’s running for commander-in-chief, not pastor-in-chief, and his core political values are your core political values.”

What we meant was clear.  Mitt wasn’t going to be spending time as president discussing Joseph Smith or any unique point of Mormon doctrine.  Instead, he was going to concentrate on shared values — supporting life, marriage, and religious liberty, for example — and focus on fixing our economy and defending our country.  These shared values stretch across religious lines and unite more than they divide.  Baptists and Catholics and Mormons may not agree on a number of theological fronts, but they are united in supporting life, supporting marriage, and preserving religious liberty.

Rick Santorum is testing the limits of this formula.  Yes, he shares the same broad political values as Mitt Romney and the other Republican candidates — and no one questions his pro-life credentials — but he’s now doing something that I’m not sure I’ve seen from a mainstream Republican candidate: He’s going beyond the shared values of the Republican coalition to making narrow denominational arguments on hot-button social issues.

Let’s take contraception.  All of the GOP candidates agree that Obama’s HHS mandate, which requires Christian institutions to make free contraceptives (and abortifacients) available to their employees, represents a grotesque violation of religious liberty, but only Rick Santorum says this:

One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, “Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.”

It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also [inaudible], but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that’s not for purposes of procreation, that’s not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can’t you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure. And that’s certainly a part of it—and it’s an important part of it, don’t get me wrong—but there’s a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special.

There’s a lot I agree with in that statement, but there’s a lot that I disagree with as well.  I don’t agree with the Catholic church on the theology of contraception.  I respect the Catholic view, but I don’t agree.  And I certainly don’t want my president wasting his limited political capital picking a theological fight on this issue.

And that’s not all, of course.  He’s talked about the “phony theology” of Barack Obama’s environmentalism, and he’s singled out certain kinds of pre-natal testing as especially offensive.  He’s also essentially written mainline denominations out of the Christian faith.

To be clear, there are ways of contesting radical environmentalism — including the more fanatical elements which (as Senator Santorum rightly noted) value the environment more than people — without making the kinds of arguments I’ve heard from the pulpit.  And you can certainly oppose mandates on free-market and liberty grounds without singling out amniocentesis for particular scorn.  As for the spiritual plight of mainline denominations . . . well, I’m just not sure that’s a matter of presidential concern.  (Nor are such sweeping statements helpful or accurate).

I like Rick Santorum.  He’s been a congressional hero of the pro-life movement, and he’s articulating the connection between the breakdown of the family and persistent economic distress better than anyone else in the race.  He was sounding the alarm on Iran years ago — when no one wanted to hear him.  But he’s on the verge of moving from the good Rick Santorum who won two senate elections as a conservative in a moderate state to bad Rick Santorum whose appeal became increasingly denominational and alienated potential allies.  Bad Rick Santorum seemed almost indifferent to winning over moderates, independents, libertarians, and even social conservatives who didn’t agree with everything he said.  Bad Rick Santorum lost in a landslide in 2006.

A presidential candidate simply cannot win a race (and likely can’t even win an extended primary contest) making in essence pastoral, denominational arguments when more ecumenical values and liberty-based arguments accomplish much the same purpose.

See also Rick Santorum’s Pro-Choice Past

  • Nan Pritchard

    David, que tal muchachas?! Rick Santorum the person, in this is speaking to what is understand about contraceptive use. Even if one were to agreewith you, about contraceptive use, does mandate make contraception or abortifacents agreeable. The Senator is a conception to natural death pro life Catholic. Secularly to understand this, includes some understanding that in only a short time ago for U.S. history, Margaret Sanger & Planned Parenthood introduced to the America very shadily from Europe what is now everything to limit women’s reproductive health [an introduction to eugenics]. Do you think all other nation cultures so legitimize contraception from the government the same way. Wrong. The ‘contraceptive mentality’ in the States alone has gone a long way to legitimizing repeat abortion, reducing married life, ethical medical, legal and now constitutional burden to American families on mainstream conscience to do with, reduction of married life, informed consent, consensual relations, civil and taxation laws –all to the traditional family structure. Add to this State vs. Church now.

  • Tery

    Santorum’s harping on social issues may make him popular with certain voter groups, but I’ve yet to hear him address what is still the biggest issue facing this country: the economy. How he would Rick fix it? I haven’t a clue. He hasn’t said, as far as I know. The only thing I’ve heard is a recent comment from his campaign stating that Rick was the best qualified candidate to solve America’s economic problems. I about choked on my breakfast when I read that. One hopes that the social issue voters wake up–soon–and seriously consider which candidate is really the most qualified to tackle the economic woes this country is wallowing in, because that candidate sure ain’t Santorum.

  • cypher20

    David,

    Thanks for the post. Among Romney supporters, I’ve found you and Nancy are some of the most articulate and respectful ones. So many others who were attacking Santorum and supporting Romney made it sound like Santorum’s kooky social ideas (you mean we should actually follow the Bible!!) were just a loser with the public, which is deeply offensive to me as I hold many of those views. Your point is more nuanced and also more convincing. Santorum does need to stay on message, and should try to build a big tent without compromising his principles. The exacts ins and outs of contraception, when it is and isn’t okay, aren’t things he really needs to get into and will only hurt him in the general election. He has a tendency to get bogged down in the details like this, to get farther ahead of the issue then necessary, and that could be problematic when facing Obama and a hostile media in the fall. I still think he would make a good nominee and President, however I can definitely see why one would prefer Romney.

    • JL Fuller

      Maybe that is part of the problem David. Rick is taking his personal beliefs as he was taught and has practiced and injected them into the campaign. Mitt on the other hand has taken to heart the advice he was given by Dr. Richard Land and some other very smart Evangelical supporters and not done so.

      While you and I agree that we as a nation will do better if we publicly discuss and affirm our belief in God, the simple matter of fact is that we alienate many of the people we need to be elected when we do so.

      The president is the leader of a nation with many religious traditions. All of them are important as part of keeping us a great nation. So the president’s personal beliefs ought not be on stage while acting in his office. He should of course practice his convictions but they should not be part of his campaign.

  • http://www.MittTheMan.com Mike

    David, you have once again provided a terrific assessment of why we need to look at candidates as leaders who share our values, not our religion! Thanks for all that you and Nancy do!

  • Laura

    I have a question. Are the comments from Santorum ( in the box re: contraception) statements that he made with regard to public policy about contraception, or just comments about why he personally opposes it? Because I agree with your assessment. I respect his position on contraception, but very few people agree with it. He has every right to that position. But should he even be discussing it publicly during the campaign?! I think not! People are quickly confusing his personal beliefs about moral behavior with public policy. This is almost like if Mitt Romney were to be talking about why he doesn’t drink coffee. It’s a respectable position to take, and coffee’s not particularly good for you, but discussing it during a political campaign implies that it has something to do with your opinions about public policy. And since the majority of people in this country drink coffee, such comments could alienate voters. Hmmmm…

  • Liz

    It’s great Santorum is not shy about promoting his religious beliefs. If he were otherwise qualified to be president, I might be more indulgent about his bold proselytizing. He has no executive experience, appears to be a big spender, and is one of those “compassionate” conservatives that doesn’t mind big government as long as it promotes the “right” values. Nice family man, but has no appeal for me when talking about the presidency. Who is supporting this guy I wonder?

  • Joe

    I’m also surprised that Santorum hasn’t really been investigated as others have. I knew so little about him, then he started winning and I started wondering….is this guy going to be President? What is he all about? I know one of his pastors said homophobia is good. He also called Mormons a cult, and said Mitt isn’t homophobic enough, I don’t know if Santorum ever called him on that. And he has made racists statements and so on: http://coloradoindependent.com/110559/catholic-leaders-urge-gingrich-and-santorum-to-leave-racist-talk-behind
    “Catholic leaders issued a letter Friday to GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, themselves Catholics, urging them “to stop perpetuating ugly racial stereotypes on the campaign trail.”
    The letter, signed by 45 Catholic leaders…”

    And he seems to have many other quirks. I just hope we are looking fairly at all the candidates and I want to know more about what he is going to do for the Country, rather then having this be a religious battle. If God wanted to run the country He would come down and do it Himself.

  • http://ignoramus.us ignoramus

    Mitt, Rick and Ron all came to Idaho this week and the whole state loves them all, however 2012 Politics is not beanbag, it is world class chess! Expect all four to be in Tampa Bay in August with the final question not answered yet. The first ballot will fail and then on the second after two days of chaos we will all be happy to have Mitt as the next POTUS challenger to slay the dragon in November. It will be KABUKI at its best! But, don’t let me spoil it. I am just ignoramus. What do I know?

    • JL Fuller

      You live in Idaho so you are smarter than the average bear.

  • Gary Netherton

    Interesting article but a word of warning would be good. You might need to be careful that you don’t burn some bridges and damage your reputation by being so pro-Romney that you feel the need to criticize/tear others down – even when you would normally be very in line with them. You might want to follow the lead of your friend Hugh Hewitt. If push came to shove, the I believe Hugh would choose Romney. But on his radio show, Hugh has been vary careful to extol the virtues of both Romney and Santorum. Why don’t both of you try that? Fine, be a full-throated Romney supporter, but then do you have to take off after Santorum? I have a hard time believing that you would have taken the time to be a Santorum critic if he weren’t giving Romney a run for his money. The media and the left are laying into Santorum pretty well. It’s sad that he has to also be taking fire from ‘friends and allies’. Something for you to think about. You both have the potential to be good and strong voices with our movement. Be careful not to sully your future reputation based upon this one election.

    • Woody

      Agree with this readers comments: give equal time to both Romney and Santorum. And if Hugh Hewitt supports Romney I’ll be so disappointed in Hugh!

    • Terry

      Ahhh…the name of this web site is “Evangelicals for MITT” It’s not called “Evangelicals for Mitt and Rick”.

      Hugh Hewitt–whom I respect greatly–tries to be impartial. Impartiality is not the purpose of this web site. We are all unabashed Mitt fans–and proud of it!

      • GN

        My question is; can you be for your guy without having to tear down the other guy – especially when you agree 95% of the time and will end up supporting each other in the end. This election is important and Obama needs to be defeated. But at this point in the primary, is it really necessary to be ‘shooting inside the tent’?

    • cypher20

      Eh, I think David was very fair in his assessment and I think this article was needed. He’s a Mitt supporter and many people are trying to decide between Mitt and Santorum. He’s making a case for why Mitt is better and I thought he did so very respectfully and without being crude. I know that personally, I am at times divided between Mitt and Santorum so it’s good to hear from the pro-Mitt and the pro-Santorum side, with David obviously being pro-Mitt. As so many of us agree with Santorum on most of the issues I don’t think anyone here would have any trouble supporting him if he ends up the nominee, but the question is who should we vote to be the nominee? I think David needed to make the case for Mitt over Santorum because there is a lot of overlap in potential supporters there.

  • Rev. Ton P. Alcantara

    The Mormon church and the Catholic church are both heretical in their beliefs as far as scripture is concerned. Membership in any of those churches is not the isssue in this presidential election. It is the character, competence, values, track record of the candidate that is the the measure of why we should vote for him. For one candidate to talk of ones theology as superior to the other is displaying arrogance when such candidate has not examined whether his own theology is sound after all.

    • steate

      err…. you can’t help falling all over yourself. So it’s no surprise you aren’t even expressing your internal logic properly

      “The Mormon church and the Catholic church are both heretical in their beliefs as far as scripture is concerned. ”

      Change to

      “The Mormon church and the Catholic church are both heretical in their beliefs as far as my understandig, interpretation, and application of scripture is concerned. ”

      Now with that correct sentiment out of the way, everyone else can simply say, “That’s all well and good, but your understanding and interpretation of scripture is leading you to misapply it, in my opinion.”

      You see, in a pluralistic society, where we have the freedom of religion, you do not get to decide what scripture says, means, and how it should be applied for anyone but yourself.

      Please keep that in mind, that your views are your own, and though they may be shared by many, they are disagreed with by many as well.

      Let’s find common ground in other areas without resorting to the trump card of “scriptural authority” when what you are really doing is conflating your opinion with scriptural authority.

      • Eichendorff

        Excellent response to the good Reverend.

      • Terry

        Well said.

  • Pingback: Rick Santorum’s Pro-Choice Past | The French Revolution

  • Michael Kranitz

    What’s missing in all of this discussion is that religious motivation for ANYTHING that affects society is, by definition, without factual or intellectual basis. Basing any moral or social policy on a book (or books) that are so fraught with moral peril is anathema to good governance or social order. The bible is replete with moral turpitude, discrimination, sexism, misogyny etc… and NONE of it is refuted by later versions of the bible.

    In terms of contraception, Santorum thinks he knows what we are “supposed” to do based on a bronze-aged notion of sex as somehow wrong or hideous. Biology would have something altogether different to say. I happen to like the way we have civilized sexual unions, marriages, etc., but to have some idiot bureaucrat tell me what to do in the bedroom counters everything this country was built upon. Moreover, the basis for his position is a fictitious compilation of writings strung together over hundreds of years.

    I am tired of religious morons trying to tell us what to do based on the instructions they get from their invisible friend in the sky. Meanwhile, they live by and benefit from the products of scientific thinking in every other manner of their existence. Moreover, the debate between two lunatics as to whose invisible man friend is real and whose is fake is just stupefying. Add Allah into the mix and we have one really humorous debate from the point of view of someone who applies logic and reasoning to things like this.

    What makes this country great is so far from religion that we are poised to knock ourselves from the throne with divisive and ridiculous debate over what someone’s theology tells them.

    If god were actually looking out for any of the groups that claim as much, they would surely have ascended within humanity. But, alas, they have not and the suffering people around the world that continue to pray in earnest to gods will continue to be disappointed. So let’s just make policy around what these gods “said” and call it good. Right Rick?

  • A Theist

    Just so I understand. Your argument is that while you admire Santorum because his views on most public policy align with yours (and maybe Romney’s today or yesterday or tomorrow) in areas such as women employees of church owned, tax-exempt institutions being denied access to health care options (note that “free choice” factor applying to individual American citizens) whether or not they’re of that denomination. Such access is already in place in about 28 states, although I’m sure you are supportive of efforts to roll that back. But Santorum’s public statements are really disagreeable because they are too narrowly “Christian”, divide that vote and potentially (likely) would cause Santorum to lose should he be nominated by the GOP. I submit that Rick Santorum wouldn’t merely lose, he’d be buried. No doubt, a Christian burial.

  • Randall Bush

    So let me get this straight. You would rather trust someone from a religious organization that has a long history of double-speak, subterfuge, and deception than someone who is honest and upfront about his personal convictions? Maybe we will all get lucky and an invading force of pre-natal souls from the planet Kolob will bring to fulfillment the prophecy that a son of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will save the Constitution! Please keep this a secret so that the secularist enemies will be caught off guard!

    • Eichendorff

      You conflate folklore with official beliefs. No Latter-day Saint I have ever met seriously believes anything your sneering post contains. Folklore is never part of any sermon, Sunday School class, or conference on the local or general level of the Church.

      The idea that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a history of double-speak, subterfuge, and deception is a figment of the diseased imagination of someone who engages in doubles-speak, subterfuge, and deception.

      • Randall Bush

        I have read the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price and have extensively studied Mormonism. Please excuse me if what once were considered official doctrines have now become “folklore.” This is news to me. Indeed, this would actually be very good news if it were true, but I don’t believe it is. I am pretty certain that you are misinformed. The last I heard, the official Mormon doctrine was that Elohim is a physical being like ourselves who grew up to become a god. “As he once was, so we are now; as he is now, so we shall be.” The point of my post is that Rick Santorum is attacked because he expresses his beliefs while Romney is given a free pass. I seriously doubt that this free pass will continue to be given to Romney if he is the nominee.

    • cypher20

      For what it’s worth, I doubt attacking Romney’s Mormonism will help. When Santorum tried to make the argument you just made, that Romney is getting a “pass”, I don’t see that it helped him in anyway. If anything, it made him look small and petty as we have freedom of religion (for now) in this country and attacking a man because of his religion is just wrong. I sincerely doubt the Obama campaign will try this tactic, though maybe his superPAC or another group may. Regardless, I doubt it will work among anyone but the leftists who already wouldn’t vote for Romney. Moderates would likely see it as a crude attack. It also would likely upset the GOP base and thus fire them up, so it could really be a counterproductive tactic. That’s my two cents, could be wrong.


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