Monday, January 16, 2012

Hard Weekend for the Faithful

After pious Denver quarterback Tim Tebow is humiliated on the gridiron, there comes unsettling news for evangelicals who days ago met and decided to support Rick Santorum for President.

Even as ministers fall in line, the Daily Beast publishes a report (with photo) of Mrs. Santorum’s live-in relationship with a well-known abortion provider before she met her husband. (In a stranger-than-fiction turn, the doctor had delivered her 22 years before they got together when she was a nursing student and he was 63.)

Whether or not her past is germane to Santorum’s candidacy, Southern Carolina voters and beyond will have to think hard about how far religion, or religiosity, has been pushed into areas of American life where it did not predominate in the past.

Of all the damage George W. Bush did to our national character, not least is how his faith-based meanness obscured traditional admiration by Americans of all religions, or none, for figures like Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa, whose beliefs led to humility, self-sacrifice and good works rather than contempt for those who fail to share self-serving political certainties.

“Cheap grace,” wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a minister hanged by Hitler for denouncing the comfort his Church was conferring on believers while turning a blind eye to the inhumanity of the Nazis, "is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance...absolution without personal confession.”

This year the Super Bowl will be won by athletic skill, not prayer, while voters, the Religious Right notwithstanding, will be picking a President, not a pastor-in-chief.

Update: In its own bubble, the GOP debate Monday night, according to the Caucus, leaves two imponderables: “The endorsement of Rick Santorum by a group of evangelical leaders over the weekend has the potential to affect the race” and “a smear campaign...aimed at influencing evangelicals who view Mormonism as a cult.

“But the two rivals of Mr. Romney who seem to be vying most strongly for the evangelical vote--Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum--are both Catholic, a religion that has sometimes been viewed with skepticism by certain evangelical voters.”

Outside of that, let the best candidate win.

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