Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is well-known for his Christian worldview that forms the basis of his platform, and his recent rhetoric about President Obama and his “different theology” has earned Santorum well-deserved criticism from a variety of faith groups, including Sikhism:
There is a point, however, where an emphasis on religion in a political campaign becomes inappropriate and even unsettling in a religiously diverse society such as ours. Appealing to voters along religious lines is divisive. It is contrary to the American ideal of including all Americans in the political process, regardless of whether they are members of large and powerful religious groups, religious minorities, or subscribe to no faith tradition.
That point is increasingly being exceeded. We are reaching an almost xenophobic fervour in some of this rhetoric where faith groups comprising of the “other” are implicitly being targeted. When such candidates accuse the President of attacking freedom of religion, it is an indirect call to arms of the Christian faithful to maintain their dominance in society, rather than to promote the true definition of that freedom espoused by the Constitution.
As politicians become desperate in courting votes, they will continue to use the politics of division to bring voter blocs to their cause, often by rallying dominant religious groups around perceived threats to their existence. And, it isn’t just Rick Santorum:
Religion has played a significant role in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, with appeals to evangelicals propelling former Senator Santorum (R-Pa.) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to wins in places such as Iowa and South Carolina. Polls have shown that many voters are uncomfortable with electing a president who is a Mormon, such as former Massachusetts Gov. Romney. Mormons believe in Jesus Christ and see themselves as Christians, although many other Christians question the church’s theology.
Is there any way to participate in politics without getting religious? “I don’t think it should even be an aspiration,” Critchley told me. “If you look at a counterexample, the problem with the European Union is that it doesn’t have those rituals. It tried to bind a polity together through a constitution, but it was so weak. There’s been a total failure to craft something like a European identity—the problem hasn’t even been recognized. So we’re left with a unity which is simply monetary. And that seems to be screwed.”
If political unity is this dependent on religion as a crutch, then the American experiment that pursues the liberty and equality of all its citizens, as envisioned by this country’s founding fathers, has been a failure.