Santorum to Mainline Protestants: You Are Satan’s Spawn

Kyle Mantyla of People for the American Way’s indispensable Right Wing Watch has come up with an audiotape of a Rick Santorum address to the students of the conservative Catholic Ave Maria University in Florida, delivered in 2008. It’s an altogether remarkable speech depicting Rick as a leader in a “spiritual war” against Satan for control of America. Much of its involves the usual right-wing stuff about the conquest of academia (outside bastions like Ave Maria) by the forces of moral relativism, but then there is this Santorum assessment of mainline Protestantism:

[O]nce the colleges fell and those who were being educated in our institutions, the next was the church. Now you’d say, ‘wait, the Catholic Church’? No. We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.

Now there is no uniform definition of “mainline Protestantism,” but most people would understand it as including the religious denominations affiliated with the World Council of Churches (which claim 560 million members), or in the U.S., with the National Council of Churches (about 45 million members). That’s a lot of church-going Christians. And while it’s not unusual to hear the occasional Protestant fundamentalist or Catholic traditionalist mock us mainliners as morally and theologically lax, excessively “secular,” too “liberal,” too friendly to feminists and sodomites and so on and so forth, you don’t hear many politicians publicly talk that way, much less suggest all these Christians are really in the grasp of Satan.

I’d say Rick needs to be held accountable for these remarks, unless he chooses to repudiate them. I hope the Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Disciples of Christ, Congregationalists, etc., who encounter him on the campaign trail ask him about it. It’s not as though the man can claim he believes in a strict separation of religious and political viewpoints.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.