Santorum is right; JFK was wrong.

Albert Mohler has a very important article over at CNN.com. He argues that Rick Santorum was right to disagree with JFK’s famous speech on religion. JFK declared that the separation of church and state was “absolute,” and Santorum rightly opposed the “absolute” part. Mohler writes:

It is high time that Americans understand that the ideas Kennedy espoused in that speech have led us to an impasse in current debates…

Kennedy’s insistence that his church “should be important only to me” and his description of a president’s religion as “his own private affair” – create the problem…

Kennedy’s line of argument set the stage for the hugely influential effort of intellectuals such as John Rawls, Jurgen Habermas and Robert Audi. The secular left is deeply committed to their idea that public arguments must be limited to secular reason, with religious beliefs and arguments ruled out of bounds.

This approach has also led to the secularization of vast areas of public life, marginalizing citizens with deep religious convictions. The coercive power of the state has forced the secularization of charitable work, leading to such tragedies as the closing of religious charities that refuse to secularize their ministries.

Read the rest here.

12 Responses to Santorum is right; JFK was wrong.

  1. Christiane February 29, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    Santorum lost the Catholic vote in Michigan.

    • Derek February 29, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      Sad to say, Christiane, many or most Catholics identify more with a Catholic who solicits prostitutes and whose family made its fortune on bootlegging than one who has high moral standards and opposes abortion and federally mandated contraception coverage. Maybe many or most evangelicals are the same, I don’t know. This says a lot about America’s overall decline.

  2. Paul February 29, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    Well, it’s actually kind of a silly topic of discussion. Let’s face facts here Denny. Let’s say you get a job at a public school, where your job hinges on the ability to not look overtly “religious.” Isn’t every decision you make still going to be made through the filter of your faith?

    Ditto for JFK. I will grant Santorum this…for social conservatives, he is the soundbite candidate. And props to him for that. He won’t win outside of his base, but his base loves him, and with good reason.

  3. Simon Marc February 29, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    I get what Mohler is saying here about keeping religion a private matter. But that doesn’t automatically mean that the right wing evangelicals are always right. In fact conservatives have benefitted mightily by keeping religion out of the public sphere when it comes to organizing business activity. Just let business do whatever it wants to do, nevermind the social consequences… Because a lot of American conservative evangelicals subscribe to an ideology that if you just let business do what it wants, then all of society benefits…. I’m sorry, but many Christians outside America don’t see things the way you do. And the social issues like abortion, homosexuality etc that consume these conservatives often end up in shouting matches and nothing more. It does quite a bit to create an atmosphere of hate, which sometimes leads to violence. I think the evangelical approach to these issues has sometimes done far more harm than good.

    And part of the reason why people are suspicious of conservative evangelicals influencing public debate is because they have not been responsible. There is an unwillingness to accept facts a lot of the time. I mean the whole young earth creation thing is a clear example of this. Perhaps if evangelicals were more thoughtful and compassionate, then they might get more of a hearing.

    So ok, lets get Christianity back into public debate. I agree. But don’t imagine that this means winding back the clock to the 1950s or that this means Jesus is a Republican. Many orthodox Christians, especially outside the U.S. don’t see things the way conservative evangelicals do. In fact, probably the most forceful critic of keeping the church out of politics in recent times has been N.T. Wright. Perfectly orthodox in his beliefs. But he’s got a far more sensible and fuller vision of where our beliefs should influence public policy. Yes, of course social issues like abortion should be dealt with. But so should third world debt, poverty, environmental issues and so on. These are issues that many conservative evangelicals get their inspiration from atheists like Ayn Rand and F.A. Hayek rather than from Jesus of Nazareth.

  4. Simon Marc February 29, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    Might I add that the dualism of premillenial dispensationalist eschatology has colluded with secularism in taking God out of the public sphere.

  5. RN March 1, 2012 at 12:54 am #

    From a Christian standpoint, I struggle with this, as both Constantine with Rome and England under folks like “bloody Mary” have showed, time and again, that when the church gets involved in running the state, bad people come to power and rotten things happen to genuine Christians.

    I think JFK was right, but I also think he was a jelly donut as well. Jesus drew the distinction of two kingdoms: His, and the earthly one. My allegiance is to Christ’s kingdom, yet this side of glory I will continue to render to Caesar and pay my taxes, even if it is under a secular flag.

  6. Christiane March 1, 2012 at 2:54 am #

    I don’t think Catholics want a theocracy in this country.
    But I think Santorum lost their vote in Michigan for reasons OTHER than any comment on JFK . . . Santorum doesn’t sound like he’s Catholic when he talks politics . . . he sounds much more like a conservative evangelical . . . .

    But I can tell you what I THINK happened . . . Santorum ran up against Catholic women who do practice birth control to space their children. I think he lost Catholic women in Michigan, as well as some Catholic men.

    JFK wasn’t ‘perfect’ morally. But he was from a very Catholic family and perhaps Santorum’s remarks about John Kennedy were not appreciated. But right now, it’s the women of the country that are going to be influencing politics this year, and they are organizing and intend to be heard as a voting bloc.

    Someone in my own community said something revealing about Santorum’s comment concerning JFK . . . that Santorum did not have the gravitas to bring off that remark, so it made him look ‘little’ and small when he did it.

    • Patrick March 1, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      Christiane, my impression of Santorum is different than yours. I suppose the question may come down you believe a Catholic sounds like when he talks politics. What politician sounds like a Catholic to you?

      If one believes what the Church teaches (as Santorum apparently does) on abortion, birth control, and related matters, and one says anything about it, one will run into trouble with a large portion of the population. This may make him unelectable, but I do not see how it makes him sound different than a Catholic.

      • Christiane March 2, 2012 at 2:48 am #

        well, I am a practicing Catholic, went to Catholic schools, taught in Catholic school (sixth, seventh, and eighth grade), and am totally aware that whatever religious play-book Santorum is reading from politically, it is very far removed from Catholic social justice doctrine.

        The Catholics I know think he sounds like a ‘theocrat’, which Catholics are not. That is not to say that Catholics do not feel a moral obligation to engage in the culture as Christian people . . . we do, but not in the ways that Santorum is advocating.

        Plainly said: he doesn’t ‘sound’ Catholic, he sounds ‘evangelical/fundamentalist’ on right wing conservative social and political issues.

        • yankeegospelgirl March 2, 2012 at 10:05 am #

          Awesome. Viva la evangelicals/fundamentalists.

        • Patrick March 2, 2012 at 11:28 am #

          Christiane,

          Thank you for your reply. I don’t know whether you failed to mention a politician who sounds like a Catholic because you could not think of one or because you thought I was asking a rhetorical quesiton. But I am actually interested in the answer, as I believe it sheds light on the very difficult task that any Christian has in having his or her faith inform what he/she does in the political realm.

          I presume you believe that conservative economics generally does not give the preferential option to the poor. I believe that conservative economic policies are far better for the poor than liberal economic policies. I also believe that the policies of the current administration, including the “health insurance reform” they have enacted, are a disaster for the country. I also believe that these enacted policies will make it significantly harder for people to escape poverty in the United States in the coming years. But I recognize that I have come to these conclusions using my significantly less than perfect knowledge and reasoning ability. I could be wrong.

          But if a person believes (as I do, and as I presume Santorum does) that liberal policies actually hurt the poor, does Catholic social justice teaching compel him to vote for those policies anyway? I would argue definitely not. In fact, I fail to understand how one can believe that it could.

          I would also say that in order to sound Catholic politican must talk about abortion, as the Cathecism says:

          Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law (Para 2271-2)

          Would you agree?

          I appreciate the dialog and I thank you for your service to the Church.

  7. JStanton March 2, 2012 at 1:45 am #

    Someone’s being slightly disingenuous here by leaving out the context of JFK’s speech. JFK was a Catholic in a time when Catholics were still broadly mistrusted by a broad segment of mostly “wasp” voters. The issue was whether JFK would take orders from and defer to the Pope and not so much that religion had no place in government. This was a time when both parties were largely equally religious.

    Santorum’s just using JFK for his own purposes and his rhetoric fits your reality. Thus, Santorum was right and JFK was wrong. In 1960, however, you would probably have thought he was saying exactly the right thing.

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