Could Santorum’s Radical Religious Fundamentalism Propel US Into Religious Violence?

Despite the fact that our country was founded in part by immigrants seeking to escape religious persecution, the current crop of Republican presidential candidates (with the exception of Ron Paul, who gets no media airtime anyway) have carried the Republican party’s “God and country” theme to even more of an extreme than usual. Taking the clear lead in this push to extremism is Rick Santorum, who now is not only proclaiming his radical faith as a principal reason to vote for him, but he also is deriding the faith of others, primarily that of President Barack Obama.

The Washington Post notes:

When Rick Santorum accused President Obama of having “some phony theology” last weekend, it was neither an isolated event nor an offhand remark.

Instead, Santorum’s comments were a new twist on a steady theme of his Republican presidential candidacy: that Obama and other Democrats have a secular worldview not based on the Bible, one they are intent on imposing on believers.

The Republicans’ religious fundamentalism comes through in response to concrete policy issues:

The relationship between religion and government has emerged as a flash point in the presidential campaign in recent days after an effort by the Obama administration to require religious institutions to include contraception in health insurance plans for employees. All of the Republican candidates objected to the effort, which the administration tweaked after a massive outcry, especially from Catholics.

The “Founding Fathers” that conservative Republicans so want to emulate on some fronts took pains to establish the separation of church and state. Because many had come from persecuted religious minorities, they pushed for the First Amendment’s prohibition both on establishment of an official religion and for the freedom to practice all religions.

Yet, with his extreme devotion to a radical fundamentalist Christian version of Catholicism, Santorum is moving in a direction that could lead directly into the kind of religion-fueled violence we see in other parts of the world. Until now, only the occasional murder of an abortion provider has cropped up as violence that could be attributed to radical religious fundamentalism in the US. But when a candidate for president openly charges the current president with adhering to a “phony theology”, how far away are we from situations like that now in Afghanistan, where violence has erupted over the burning of Korans at Parwan prison?

When radical fundamentalist religion and government are intimately intertwined, violence seems to follow. In the current fiasco in Afghanistan, we see the mullahs in the Taliban calling for violence as a voice for the outrage at the burning:

An Afghan soldier joined protests on Thursday against the burning of copies of the Koran at a NATO base and shot dead two foreign troops, Western military sources said, as the Taliban urged security forces to turn their guns on foreigners.

Protests against the burning of copies of Islam’s most holy book drew thousands of angry Afghans to the streets, chanting “Death to America!” for the third consecutive day in violence that has killed 11 people and wounded many more.

The Taliban urged Afghans to target foreign military bases and kill Westerners in retaliation for the Koran burning at Bagram airfield on Tuesday, later directing its plea to the security forces, calling on them to “turn their guns on the foreign infidel invaders,” it said on its site shahamat-english.com.

But, remarkably, members of the Afghan Parliament have joined in with the Taliban in calling for a violent response:

The fury does not appear likely to abate soon. Some members of Parliament called on Afghans to take up arms against the American military, and Western officials said they feared that conservative mullahs might incite more violence at the weekly Friday Prayer, when a large number of people worship at mosques.

“Americans are invaders, and jihad against Americans is an obligation,” said Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a member of Parliament from the Ghorband district in Parwan Province, where at least four demonstrators were killed in confrontations with the police on Wednesday.

Standing with about 20 other members of Parliament, Mr. Khawasi called on mullahs and religious leaders “to urge the people from the pulpit to wage jihad against Americans.”

Is there anything more chilling and disturbing than government figures and religious figures teaming up to advocate violence together? It doesn’t even take the specter of an invading force to provoke such violence. In Iraq today, at least 60 people died in attacks that appear to be a return to the Shia vs. Sunni sectarian battles that have plagued the region for centuries.

Whether it is Catholic vs. Protestant or Shia vs. Sunni inside a country or Muslim vs. Christian in repelling an invading or occupying force, once radical religious fundamentalism becomes a part of government, violence appears to follow.

Calling for radical religious fundamentalism to have no part of government is not persecution of a particular religion. It is merely a part of the American concept that no particular religious view should become the position of the American government on any issue. The persecution the Founding Fathers fled and the fundamentalist-fed violence we see in the world today are all the evidence we need to know that Santorum risks taking the US in a direction that could negate one of its most precious founding values.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
9 replies
  1. Benjamin Franklin says:

    Every sub-group has it’s extremists. Of course, when you have an extremist group, sub-groups get toxic.
    Santorum has modern-day Essenes who hear his bag-pipes with their adrenalin-pumping inspiration.

    Palin’s cross-hairs , despite the protestations to the contrary, was an echo of the line ‘2nd amendment remedies’ and an irresponsible clarion to bring down the Walls of Jericho. We’ve had a resurgence of membership in White Supremacy groups, which has had pockets of activity, clearly in response to having a black man in the White House. Santorum’s rabble-rousing is a desperate attempt to get backing for his nomination, but his so-called ‘Christian’ values, lack the perspective of a spiritual mentality; more of a 10th century Papist, calling for literal christian soldiers to gird their loins for war.

  2. Bob Schacht says:

    This relates to a discussion way up-thread in EPU land on “moral compass,” so if I may re-post:

    Re: Moral Compass
    It’s not taught anymore because, in this relativistic age, no one knows what it is. When our founding fathers talked about “God-given, inalienable rights,” they were thinking of what was, in essence, implicitly a Christian moral compass. When people talk of “universal human rights,” they are referring, implicitly, to an internationalized consensus based on the Christian moral vision. But we can’t call it what it is because then the Jews, Buddhists, and atheists would complain and file lawsuits.

    Obama is attempting to cut through this Gordian Knot by referring frequently to American values. And he is very careful to name only values that there really is a substantial consensus about. But if one were to try to *teach* this, one would immediately run into boundary issues, i.e. values about which there is less consensus but still treasured by important minorities– that is, the list of values has no definitive end. This is partly the Republican problem: Their moral compass is supposedly based on Christianity, and sometimes overtly labelled as such, but they are rather selective in following it.

    Santorum’s objection is that the values Obama cites are not explicitly and directly tied to Christian theology, even if most of them are derived indirectly from a Christian basis. This is another chapter in the Republican’s culture war against “foreign influence” in American politics. It requires Santorum to make nonsequiters such as accusing Obama’s “secular theology,” which reveals conclusively that he doesn’t understand the meaning of “theology.”

    Bob in AZ

  3. Starbuck says:

    It goes deeper than that. We have the specter of individuals whose careers are based on rational, scientific thinking and findings, yet with seemingly no reflection, embrace Christian Fundamentalism which immediately contradicts their training, which on any case, they continue to apply with success in their chosen field.

    To me, that is the occasion for instant insanity!

  4. bittersweet says:

    I think it is simpler than insanity. These Republican leaders are LYING. They no more believe in conservative christian values, then they believe the moon in made of green cheese. Simply today’s fade. If they can out the vistage of female power at the same time, so much the better. Pigs.

  5. Bill Michtom says:

    The problem with your headline is that we have had religious violence from the anti-abortion crowd for decades. Just saying.

  6. Bill Michtom says:

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. – James Madison

Comments are closed.