Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Agreeing With Rick Santorum



I don't, not really.   But as we're exposed more and more to the wit and wisdom of someone who actually has a conceivable shot at the nomination of the GOP, his vigorous...and I believe genuine...courting of the far right "base" of the Republican party has gotten him in a bit of trouble.   Two recent statements in particular have gotten him in hot water.   In the first, he suggested that when President Obama encouraged young people to go to college, that was a snobby thing to do.   In the second, he took issue with the idea of the separation of church and state.

Both of these statements haven't been received well, for reasons that are relatively obvious.   They should scare the bejabbers out of anyone who wants America not to emulate the dynamics of Afghan culture.

And yet there's truth in both of them.   Not the truth Mr. Santorum thinks is in them, but truth nonetheless.

Let's look at college education.  For Candidate Santorum, the issue with going to college is that...well...it makes you less likely to believe the way he believes.  The more you engage with the great thoughts of humankind, the more you study physics and biology, heck, the more you study religion and how it came to be, well, the less likely you are to share Santorum's belief system.   It doesn't mean you can't be deeply faithful, mind you.  But it does diminish the odds of you being radically, rigidly ultraconservative.

He's totally wrong about the value of education.  And yet, hidden under all the crazy, he's right.  He may not know it, but he's right.

As I've suggested before, that college is increasingly the only goal of our secondary education system is a problem.  Why?  A variety of reasons.   College just isn't for everyone.  Not everyone's vocation requires the engagement with the sorts of things you get as part of a liberal arts degree.   I've known some bright, successful, capable human beings who didn't go to college, and chose instead to focus on developing their skills in their chosen field.  Like, say, a guy I know who is a highly competent mechanic.  He was as driven and as called to that field as any teacher or lawyer.  A four year degree for him just would not have made a lick of sense.

If it was something you could do without incurring a huge debt?  Then, sure.  Give it a go.  But that is not where we are.  It would be pointless, if you are a young adult with a clear sense of what you want to do in life, to start your adult life tens of thousands of dollars in debt for an education that didn't prepare you for that life.  

And the idea that such a human being has less value?  Preposterous.  Offensive.  Absurd.  And though I'd like to say it isn't, assuming that an absence of higher education means less valuable is a real feature of our society.

And as for religion in the public sphere?   Well, Candidate Santorum shows here that he has no clue, none, why the separation of faith and state is so vital.   If the integrity of our republic is to stand, no one belief system can ever be permitted to use the power of the state to enforce its doctrines or teachings.  That would, rather obviously, impinge on the Constitutional liberties of all those who do not share that particular tradition.  It would also betray the essence of Christian faith.  

Santorum does not get this.   Nor, frankly, does he understand that when you step into the public sphere as a person of faith, you need to be able to articulate your faith in ways that resonate with those who do not share it.  This was the one great truth coming out of Richard Neuhaus and his classic work The Naked Public Square.  Neuhaus was Catholic, and conservative, but he understood the necessity of recognizing the dynamics of faith in a democratic culture.

But Rick may not have read that one, because, you know, it says the word "Naked."

And yet, again, there's truth buried under the crazy.  People of faith who are not hypocrites bring their faith into every action they undertake.   If we are citizens of a democratic republic and Christian, then the teachings of Jesus will inform our actions as citizens.  It will govern how we vote, how we speak, and our positions on social issues.   In so far as that is true, we are full participants in the public square.   We may also publicly declare that foundation, should we so choose.

But if our intent is to persuade others who do not share our faith of the validity of our position, then we must do so in ways that step outside of the language of our faith.   This is something that fundamentalists and ideologues do rather badly.

1 comment:

  1. I've often said the same about "higher education". Unfortunately, it is seemingly etched in stone that a college education is a neccessity, almost compulsory even, here in the 21st century.

    So I suppose I agree with Santorum. His disdain for a "public safety net" for those who are genuinely down and out bothers me. I have been labeled with the same pejoratives he has regarding being 'pro-life', but still can't identify with him.

    I won't be participating in the 2012 election. I didn't particpate in 2010, nor in 2008. Am I an Anabaptist? Mennonite? No, but I can appreciate the position's they hold on the State.

    I read "Electing Not to Vote" a few years ago. I recommend it. http://amzn.com/1556352271 I don't agree with all that you'll find in it's pages but the heart of it all speaks to my conscience.

    ReplyDelete