On the eve of the Republican primaries in Michigan and Arizona I would like to direct an urgent appeal to Sen. Rick Santorum: “Please keep talking about Satan; somebody’s got to do it!” This is not meant facetiously. Even though I am neither a U.S. citizen nor a Roman Catholic I am pleading with Mr. Santorum not to waver in his civil courage, as the martyred German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have described Santorum’s intrepid display of faith.
The effete snobs of this world, to resuscitate one of Spiro Agnew’s priceless observations, poured barrels of rancor over the Senator when Matt Drudge discovered a thoughtful and erudite lecture Mr. Santorum had given at Ave Maria University in Florida discussing a 200-year assault by the “Father of Lies” on the institutions of the United States – first academia, then the Church, the culture and politics.
He was slammed from all sides, and perhaps most annoyingly by Father Edward Beck, a befuddled Catholic priest and television commentator who appeared on the O’Reilly Factor with ashes imposed cruciformly on his forehead. Clearly neither he nor O’Reilly had bothered to listen to all of the Senator’s theologically coherent remarks. Beck said Santorum’s words did not “appeal to people more in the middle;” Santorum was “to the right of most Catholics.”
One wonders at what seminary Rev. Beck had studied systematic theology and what his grade was in this discipline. Maybe he missed the part about the Devil as a real being locked in a cosmic struggle with the Creator. Maybe he followed liberal German and American theologians who had reduced Satan to mere allegory, no more than a symbol for the unpleasant things occurring in our era, the holocaust, for example, or – dare we mention it? – the wanton slaughter of 56 million unborn babies since Roe v. Wade in 1973?
If it seems unstylish to discuss this Father of the Lie, why then bother with Christ’s redemptive work on the cross? Was this indeed “divine child abuse,” as some feminist theologians liked to opine over a decade ago? In that case, why call yourself a Christian? Why, for some fluffy Higher Being’s sake, have your thinker’s brow contaminated with cruciform ash on the first day of Lent?
It’s not for me as a foreigner to say whether, politically speaking, Mr. Santorum is the best Presidential candidate for my host country. But there is a reason why this decent man, whose campaign is woefully underfunded, appeals to so many voters, Catholics, evangelicals and traditional Protestants alike, though perhaps not Protestants of a certain mainline genre. The reason is a deep-seated sense among ordinary people that something has gone very wrong with this once so decent society, and similar civilizations in Europe and Down Under.
The mass infanticide, the destruction of orders of creation, such as marriage as defined as a union between one man and one woman, and the appalling greed, are testimony to what Helmut Thielicke, another German theologian who defied Hitler, described as of “a fatality of guilt [Schuldverhängnis] brooding over the world, over its continents and seas,” in other words, the work of Satan. To mock this fatality of guilt, as liberal clerics such as Father Beck do, is theological malpractice of the worst kind, especially in Lent. They might not see it that way, but ordinary people do.
Back in 2008, Sen. Santorum correctly defined the current state of America – and, one might add, the entire Occident – as one of war: “not a political war, not a cultural war, but a spiritual war.” And then he asked, “If you were the Devil where would you attack?” Well, where? At the institutions that had made this country great. And the second of the institutions he listed was the Church, primarily the Protestant Church because it was instrumental in shaping America; actually with this remark Santorum paid implicit homage to Protestantism’s outstanding role in the history of this nation. But of course he was deliberately misunderstood as being “judgmental.”
Listening to him, I did not sense a hint of Schadenfreude in his rueful statement, “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.” Who could argue with Santorum on this point? He might have mentioned that in his own church, too, the Devil had been at work, to wit its sex scandals and the eagerness with which many Catholics are following Protestantism’s bad example. However, Santorum certainly has the support of as illustrious a Protestant as Archbishop Peter Akinola, the former Anglican primate of Nigeria, who called the consecration of an openly homosexual cleric as Episcopal bishop of Concord, N.H., a “Satanic attack upon the Church of Christ.”
Is Santorum right to stress matters of faith in his campaign? Of course he is. He is not imposing any kind of religion upon state the but honestly informing the voters where he stands. Four years ago, he quoted from a newspaper interview with then-Senator Barack Obama where he was asked: “What is sin?” Obama answered: “Being out of alignment with my values.” This prompted Mr. Santorum to tell his audience bluntly: “So now we have the first truly presidential candidate. Clearly defining his own reality.”
This is in synch with the motto of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), the fearsome grand master of postmodernism: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” Of course, Mr. Obama has said nothing illegal, but surely it is Sen. Santorum’s right and obligation to lay open to the voters the profound chasm gaping between him and the contemporary elites, including evidently the reigning President. One of these two views is Christian, the other ethically scarily ambiguous; this is Crowley’s belief system, which has led us to the societal brink we are staring at today
Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto, a veteran foreign correspondent, is director of the Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life in Capistrano Beach, Calif.