I heard a rather striking talk from Rick Santorum, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, who was addressing a gathering of foreign journalists under the auspices of the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life.
Santorum, known for overtly connecting his fath to his politics, said the Democrats’ current efforts to be more faith-friendly are “a charade… I dont think it’s sincere at all.” Obama’s efforts to talk about the importance of faith in his life is “phoney–absolutely disingenuous. I think he’s a complete phoney.”
(At the end of the attack, he added that of course it would be inappropriate for him to judge the authenticity of Obama’s faith, as only God could do that.)
It’s interesting: when Republicans talk about their faith, they’re accused of being theocrats who want to shove religion down other people’s throats. When Democrats do it, they’re accused of being phoney.
After he’d accused Obama and other Democrats of religoius fraudulance for a few minutes, journalist Terry Mattingly of GetReligion.org asked whether it’s possible that rather than being fake, perhaps,Obama was sincerely reflecting a form of liberal Christianity in the tradition of Reinhold Neibuhr. Santorum surprised me by answering that yes, “I could buy that.”
However, he questioned whether liberal christianity was really, well, Christian. “You’re a liberal something, but your not a Christian.” He continued, “When you take a salvation story and turn it into a liberation story you’ve abandoned Christiandom and I don’t think you have a right to claim it.”
In other words, Obama’s faith is fraudulant in part because liberal Christinaity is.
I’ve come across this sentiment before. To a degree rarely discussed, many conservative Christians truly doubt both the theological truth and the spiritual authenticity of liberal Christians.