Santorum’s Theology Three-Ring Circus

Presidential politics is always messy.  I’ve been shaking my head about this year’s Republican primary for months now.  As a non-Republican, I know better than to talk politics with my family.   But that means I know it is crazy when my conservative LDS family has volunteered in my presence the existence of a bunch of crazies in the early race.

Still, I thought we had finally reached the end of the extreme crazies, but apparently not.  This week’s lead-up to the Michigan primary has been a three-ring circus when you consider religion and environment.

Ring #1 Santorum claimed late last week that Obama believes in “some phony theology.  Not a theology based on the Bible.  A different theology.”  Even though he was speaking in context of the environment, it opens the door for all the crazies suggesting Obama is a Muslim rather than Christian.  The alternative (which Santorum actually implicitly provoked in later comments) is Obama adheres to a radical form of Christianity (Rev. Wright resurrected if you will).  I can’t believe we are still having these tired arguments how many years later???

Ring #2: When asked to clarify the remark on Face the Nation last Sunday, Santorum said Obama has “a world view that elevates the earth above man and says we can’t take those resources because we’re going to harm the earth” and continues to go onto say that those harms “frankly are just not scientifically proven.”  Beyond the fact that Santorum should be more careful to use theology and ideology in their proper contexts (no, the words are not synonyms although sacrament meeting sometimes makes me wonder if most Mormons also believe that to be the case), the craziness of questioning the existence of climate change makes me shake my head every time.  I also start to wonder if I missed the magic trick where Obama was a radical environmentalist putting the ‘environment before Man.’  Did I blink?  Because I’m not seeing it.

Ring #3:  Of course, any time one of these candidates bring up theology and presidential politics, talking heads end up musing about whether Mormonism is Christian.  (For those of you wondering, Mormons do consider themselves Christian and following Christ is a central tenant of their theology.)  A reworking of the ‘anyone but a Mormon’ anti-Romney theme yet again if you would.

Obviously I’m disappointed that we are still arguing the basic facts that resource extraction harms the earth, that climate change exists, or even the basic facts of pollution and pressure on the earth from humans’ lifestyle.  Does it have to involve religion too?  Even more disappointing is to see that if environmentalism is rhetorically linked to religion,  it is apparently fair game to question Romney’s Christianity but not obvious to question the assumption that Mormons’ are not committed to environmentalism.

Those of us who are Mormon and care about the environment have a lot of work to do.


4 responses to “Santorum’s Theology Three-Ring Circus

  1. bettyjo February 23, 2012 at 10:46 am

    This is an interesting article from the Guardian.

    Attacks paid for by big business are ‘driving science into a dark era’
    Robin McKie, science editor
    The Observer, Saturday 18 February 2012

    Most scientists, on achieving high office, keep their public remarks to the bland and reassuring. Last week Nina Fedoroff, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), broke ranks in a spectacular manner.

    She confessed that she was now “scared to death” by the anti-science movement that was spreading, uncontrolled, across the US and the rest of the western world.

    “We are sliding back into a dark era,” she said. “And there seems little we can do about it. I am profoundly depressed at just how difficult it has become merely to get a realistic conversation started on issues such as climate change or genetically modified organisms.”…

    “As Fedoroff pointed out, university and government researchers are hounded for arguing that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are changing the climate. Their emails are hacked while Facebook campaigns call for their dismissal from their posts, calls that are often backed by rightwing politicians.

    As Fedoroff pointed out, university and government researchers are hounded for arguing that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are changing the climate. Their emails are hacked while Facebook campaigns call for their dismissal from their posts, calls that are often backed by rightwing politicians. At the last Republican party debate in Florida, Rick Santorum insisted he should be the presidential nominee simply because he had cottoned on earlier than his rivals Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney to the “hoax” of global warming.

    “Those of us who grew up in the sixties, when we put men on the Moon, now have to watch as every Republican candidate for this year’s presidential election denies the science behind climate change and evolution. That is a staggering state of affairs and it is very worrying,” said Professor Naomi Oreskes, of the University of California, San Diego.

    Oreskes is co-author, with Erik Conway, of Merchants of Doubt, an investigation into the links between corporate business interests and campaigns in the US aimed at blocking the introduction of environmental and medical measures such as bans on smoking and the use of DDT, laws to limit acid rain, legislation to end the depletion of ozone in the atmosphere and attempts to curb carbon dioxide emissions.

    In each case, legislation was delayed by years, sometimes decades, thanks to the activities of a variety of foundations – such as the Heartland Institute – which are backed by energy companies such as Exxon and billionaires like Charles Koch.” ….

  2. Nicole I February 23, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Thanks Bettyjo. It rings pretty true to me. Before I went back to pursue a PhD more on the social science end of things, I was working as a researcher for one of the largest contract research firms in the country in an environmental group. This was the mid-2000s. The pressure to play up uncertainty and downplay climate change in our reports under EPA contract was pretty concerning to all actually doing the research. For example, or in our case we were tracking precursor pollutants in a baseline surveillance system and it was well understood that we were NOT to explicitly link to climate change even though it was pretty well documented by then and that is why we were doing it.

    I understand that statistics and numbers can be manipulated any which way; it was just super frustrating that the pressure to manipulate tended to go towards pro-business and pro-status-quo rather than a precautionary approach.

    I think that also is what makes me a bit irrational about calling Obama this big, bad environmentalist. When I see increasing pressure to downplay environmental harm from the right in both everyday actions and science, how dare they act like Obama has forced this environmental revolution!

  3. Mike H. February 24, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    To see some details about shale gas drilling by fracking, see this:

    BettyJo, thanks for that link.

  4. bettyjo February 28, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Here is part of an excellent post by the President of Macalester College.
    “….When a policy or an argument or a political platform — or a candidate — is antithetical or threatening to the fundamental educational mission of the institution, then in my view it is the responsibility of the president to say so publicly. Put another way, silence in the face of such threats is a failure of leadership. So: the next question to be asked is whether Santorum — or if one prefers to be less personal, let us say the set of views articulated by Santorum, perhaps imagined collectively as Santorumness or Santorumosity — qualifies as such a threat.

    Let me choose two examples of recent Santorum statements that I believe suggest strongly that he does. In a well-documented speech in Steubenville, Ohio, this man who would be president asserted that global warming claims were based on “phony studies” and that climate science was in fact only “political science”: “When it comes to the management of the earth, they” — I’m not sure if this refers to all Democrats, all climate scientists, or all those who believe in evidence — “are the anti-science ones. We are the ones who stand for science, and technology.”

    Could there be any more direct threat than this to the very foundations of education: the ability to formulate arguments based on evidence, to use language with precision, to think critically and analytically? This is not first and foremost about climate change; it is about the responsible and appropriate use of words, facts, and ideas. To concede that Santorum’s remarks are within the bounds of the appropriate is to concede that our work as educators is pretty much meaningless.

    One more (though there are so many from which to choose): in an interview several days ago with Glenn Beck — yes, he is still around — Santorum observed, “I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely … The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.”

    It is not much of a stretch, I would submit, to see the claims that (1) wanting to see more students attend college is bad for our country and (2) colleges are indoctrination mills, as ones with which a college president should publicly disagree, and that a presidential candidate who makes such claims is at least as much a threat to our collective mission as any law or court ruling.

    So with all due respect to my responsibilities as a fundraiser and as a guardian of open discourse on my campus, I am prepared to make the case that stating publicly that I am appalled by the views of Rick Santorum is not only my right but my responsibility.

    I am appalled by the views of Rick Santorum.”

    I’m old enough to remember the McCarthy Era. Mr. Santorum is one scarey dude.

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