More On Santorum’s Religious Anathemas

In an earlier post today, I quoted Steve Waldman’s report from Beliefnet on Rick Santorum’s 2008 remarks about Barack Obama and those un-Christian “liberal Christians.” But in the comment thread, “nitpicker” came up with a link to an actual transcript of Santorum’s answers to questions posed by sponsors of the conference (the Oxford Centre for Religion & Public Life) that Santorum and Steve were attending. Here’s the Q&A related to Obama:

QUESTION: What would your opinion be of this stance: Obama has been very honest in the past about his faith. He said he was attracted to the church because of its non-literal approach to the Bible. Now that’s coming through Wright. His speech before the United Church of Christ, he very much embraced the basic theological approach of the United Church of Christ. So you could say that he is a very sincere, liberal Christian, with a non-literal approach to Scripture, who would argue that, voicing Niebuhr, that the primary application of the Gospel is in issues of economic, social justice. And that he accepts his church’s teaching on sexuality, in the same way that you accept your church’s teachings on sexuality. So in that case he is a sincere liberal Christian. Would you buy that?

ANSWER: I could buy that. Again, yes, it goes to the larger question of whether I could buy that overall from that point of view. But is there such thing as a sincere liberal Christian, which says that we basically take this document and re-write it ourselves? Is that really Christian? That’s a bigger question for me. And the answer is, no, it’s not. I don’t think there is such a thing. To take what is plainly written and say that I don’t agree with that, therefore, I don’t have to pay attention to it, means you’re not what you say you are. You’re a liberal something, but you’re not a Christian. That’s sort of how I look at it.

When you go so far afield of that and take what is a salvation story and turn it into a liberation theology story, which is done in the Catholic world as well as in the evangelical world, you have abandoned Christendom, in my opinion. And you don’t have a right to claim it.

But as they say on the late-night commercials: Wait, there’s more!

The sponsors also asked Santorum about John McCain. Keep in mind this was in August 2008, when McCain was already the certain nominee of Santorum’s party.

QUESTION: You haven’t spoken so much about McCain’s religious condition. Could you shed some light on McCain’s religious views?

ANSWER: Yeah. I don’t think he has any – I think, historically, he’s been hostile to it. He’s been hostile to me on many occasions because he sees me – saw me – as injecting faith into the debate. He’s very uncomfortable with that. This is not a guy, in my opinion, who is a spiritual guy, is deeply connected to – again – what’s between him and God is between him and God. It’s not me. I’m just telling you from my experience, this is not a man who is comfortable in his own skin with faith….

That’s fine. But what I look at is his behavior toward me and others who were people of faith, who were obviously motivated by faith to do things, and his antipathy toward me and groups who were faith-motivated groups. He would often rail against Christian-conservative groups when he was in the Senate, particularly in the last – not the last two years, but the four years prior to that.

So I don’t think he’s gonna have a whole lot of appeal. And he did very poorly among Christian conservatives. The real question is whether Obama will motivate those people to come out and vote against him. Not whether McCain – McCain cannot and will not – McCain will not personally. He may have surrogates go out and drum up the evangelical vote. He will not do that. He cannot do that. That’s just not who he is. And he won’t do it.

Interesting, eh? It’s reasonably clear where Santorum’s basic political loyalities reside. And it’s with his ideological comrades in the Christian Right, not with the GOP.

Thanks again to “nitpicker” for this glimpse into Santorum’s thinking.

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.