The story told in the sixth Chapter of the Prophecy of Daniel is instructive in the current political season. When an exiled Jew named Daniel rises to a position of political authority in the Persian empire, the jealous racists of his day seek a way to bring him down and put him in his â€œplace.â€ When they find that Daniel is thoroughly trustworthy and can uncover no evidence of scandal, negligence or corruption to use against him, they finally say, â€œWe wonâ€™t find any fault in Daniel unless we can find something to use against him from his religious practice.â€
GOP Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum and the â€œReverendâ€ Franklin Graham took pages from that ancient playbook in the week preceding this column. Graham offered lukewarm acknowledgment of President Barack Obamaâ€™s Christianity, while tactically noting that he had ancestors of Muslim heritage. Mr. Santorum tepidly noted the Presidentâ€™s Christianity, but also said that the President embraces a “phony Theology.” Mr. Santorumâ€™s saying so invites an evidence-based exploration of his own “Theology.”
â€œTheologyâ€ generally describes how we view the Creatorâ€™s work in this world. For Christians, the way that we practice our Christianity reflects our Theology and how we answer the contemporary question, “What Would Jesus Do?” By that standard, Mr. Santorum’s Theology may not be “phony” but is troubling at its best and scary at its worst.
Jesus championed the well being of those that he called â€œthe least of these.â€ Mr. Santorum has offered positions that are fuzzy at best and that favor the â€œhavesâ€ over the â€œhave nots.â€ Jesus affirmed the worth of and offered aid to all that He met – even those who were looked down upon by the â€œrighteousâ€ people of His day. Mr. Santorum has made statements that are demeaningly prejudicial toward women, openly hostile to those with alternate gender lifestyles, and has said, â€œI donâ€™t want to give black people other peopleâ€™s money, I want them to make their own moneyâ€ – a statement that ignores the reality that most American recipients of public assistance are white.
Jesus said that we should not judge unless weâ€™re prepared to be judged. Mr. Santorum has judged the President and those who support him to be on false religious ground, made a veiled comparison of the President to Adolph Hitler, and judged those who donâ€™t share or subscribe to his rhetoric to be â€œa bunch of snobs.â€ Mr. Santorum has said and done all of those things while implying that the solution to Americaâ€™s ills can be found in his narrow religious views and by allowing the â€œfree marketâ€ – an amoral concept – to be Americaâ€™s guiding light. Reverend Graham, who was reluctant to acknowledge the Presidentâ€™s Christianity, said of Mr. Santorum, â€œ…his values are so clear on moral issues, no question about it â€¦ I think he is, no question, a man of faith.â€
The Theology espoused by Mr. Santorum and Reverend Graham is crystal clear. Itâ€™s the Theology of those who raped the continent of Africa of its resources and culture in the days of European colonialism under the false and hypocritical cloak of Christian missionary enterprise. Itâ€™s the Theology of those who kidnaped and dehumanized Africans to work as slaves on Americaâ€™s plantations, who tried to justify their deeds by saying that their were making Christians out of slaves, and who vainly tried to teach those enslaved Africans that it was Godâ€™s will for slaves to obey their masters.
Their Theology is the Theology of those who sang about the love of Jesus but called police to arrest African-Americans who dared try to worship in their churches in the days of legal segregation. Itâ€™s the Theology of those who engaged in rape, lynching, property seizure and other atrocities to keep African-Americans â€œin their placeâ€ in early 20th Century America while calling themselves the â€œChristianâ€ Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
Mr. Santorum and Reverend Graham seek to claim moral high ground, but what Jesus said 2,000 years ago is still true – our authentic religion is evident in the fruit that we bear and in the way that we treat our neighbors. By that standard, the Theology of Mr. Santorum and Mr. Graham is a mean and perverse abomination well described by a song of my ancestors in the faith – â€œEverybody talkinâ€™ â€˜bout heaven ainâ€™t goinâ€™ there.