I devoted last week’s Pastor’s Corner to examining GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s religion in light of his saying that President Obama embraces a “phony Theology.” I seldom write about the same person or subject two weeks in a row, but I can’t help doing so this week. When it comes to outrageous statements that deserve examination, Mr. Santorum is the political embodiment of the old Hallmark card slogan – “the gift that keeps on giving.”
Mr. Santorum again called President Obama a “snob” this past weekend for wanting more people to go to college. Beyond the rank hypocrisy of a candidate with three college degrees making that claim, it also says something about the political strategy of Mr. Santorum and other candidates of like mind.
Many people who don’t go to college are successful – a college degree doesn’t guarantee success – but a college education is a part of the “American dream” that cuts across lines of color and culture. Missionaries who came south to assist former slaves at the end of the Civil War established not only churches, but schools like Allen University and Benedict College in Columbia, SC. Both started out as primary schools but evolved into colleges for people of color pursuing the American Dream.
Churches, communities, families and schools in the days of my youth made college a hoped for goal for all young people. People of all colors and cultures with no college education still work hard so that their children can go to college. Churches often offer scholarships to young people headed to college – Morris Brown did so to the tune of more than $10,000 last year.
The reality expressed by President Obama is that higher education is an increasingly important requirement for good employment in today’s marketplace. Mr. Santorum’s assertion that a college education is for “snobs” and is a means of indoctrinating young people into liberal political thought is amazingly ludicrous and blindly ignores institutions like Liberty and Regent Universities that strive to create a conservative political mindset in their students.
Mr. Santorum’s statement also reflects a curious modern political strategy embraced by some politicians and their constituents – making ignorance a virtue. From Sarah Palin’s statement about Paul Revere “riding his horse, firing his gun and ringing his bell,” to Michele Bachmann’s saying that America’s founding fathers – many of whom owned slaves – fought against slavery to Rick Perry’s inability to remember the name of a Federal agency he vowed to close, this year’s Presidential hopefuls have proven to be – to put it kindly – less than bright or well informed.
What’s amazing is that they not only get away with it, their supporters celebrate their ignorance, join them in blaming the “liberal elite” media for asking hard, “gotcha” questions and expecting them to know the answers and find their shelter in a strange Jesus who adds a new Beatitude to those in Matthew 5 – “Blessed are the clueless.” Perhaps ignorance as a virtue works because people uncertain of their ability and intellect find comfort in candidates who seem to be equally limited or because those who have long found comfort in racial stereotypes uneasily eloquent and intelligent minority elected officials like President Obama as “uppity” folks who “don’t know their place.”
I pray daily for our nation’s well being and for those so insecure in themselves that they buy into political propaganda that tells them that they don’t have to think and that education is a bad thing. I pray that the America will again become what it was in my formative years – a nation where those of both major political parties articulate their hopes, dreams, goals and ideas instead of seeking cheap and easy votes by spreading lies, pointing out the faults of and insulting their opponents.
People of faith – regardless of color or culture – ought to demand that from our political leadership, hold them to a level of intellectual honesty, stop accepting the “Tea Party line” without question, think for ourselves and vote for candidates who seem to have both a plan and a clue. The future of our nation and our children depends on our doing so, for America doesn’t benefit from elected officials who are long on rhetoric and short on substance or a dumb President who knows how to run a rude, shallow and divisive campaign but not how to govern. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was right: “Nothing in this world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”