Most of those who objected to Rick Santorum’s 2008 remarks at Ave Maria University depicting Satan’s influence in the United States missed the real problem with what the former senator said.
That Santorum spoke of Satan is certainly jarring for the non-religious and even those who expect mainly to hear these things in church, not from politicians. But it should not be particularly surprising that a religious Christian believes the devil is at work in the world, and that he should be resisted.
What concerns is that Santorum in his remarks - unearthed Wednesday by the Drudge Report - painted his political opponents as being permeated by Satan. This speaks to the very thing that gives people pause about Santorum – that while commendably principled, he may be too rigid and eager to view every matter in terms of good vs. evil.
Santorum argued that the devil had first invaded America’s universities. From there, the Satan’s work extended to society at large, and then to politics. Here’s how Santorum put it:
He understood pride of smart people – he attacked them at their weakness: that they were in fact smarter than everybody else and could come up with something new and different, pursue new truths, deny the existence of truth – play with it, because ‘we’re smart.’
There’s no question that academia is liberal and that it is influencing society’s future leaders to be the same. But liberal thinking, even if you think it is wrong-headed, is not satanic. And those who are voting for Democrats in congressional elections are not being guided by Mephistopheles.
There is good and evil in the world. Too many politicians – and people – are afraid to say it, or don’t believe it. But our system of government rests on the notion that we might not be right, and that our opponents are animated by a difference of opinion, not by Satan.
Imputing evil to political opponents is far more often the provenance of the left, which generally holds conservatives to be either dumb or intentionally malignant. That Santorum subscribes to the theory of an evil opposition is a worrying quality in someone who could become president.
And it represents a habit of intolerance by Santorum that flashed in the debate Wednesday night when Santorum raged at Romney, saying, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
For those who think Santorum may be the second coming of Ronald Reagan, remember how the Gipper would have put it: “There you go again.”