Culture, Current Events, Faith, Theology — March 2, 2012 2:26 pm

What is Phony Theology?

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Rick Santorum last week denounced Barack Obama for maintaining and propagating a “Phony Theology.” I have no idea what this means. Upon further investigation, I discover that this does not mean that Santorum thinks Obama is brainwashing us. Santorum does not actually question Obama’s religious background and roots. But, what he does mean, according to the link above, is that Obama’s Phony Theology is his emphasis upon the environment. In the article he is quoted as saying,

We’re not here to serve the earth. That is not the objective. Man is the objective

What? Huh? That S*** cray. What does he mean that “Man” is the objective? The earth’s objective to serve us? I don’t get it.

As you can imagine, many people have pushed back against Santorum and what it is he meant, specifically. In this Huffington Post article he clarifies.

“I was talking about the radical environmentalists,” Santorum said, suggesting that they believe man should protect the earth, rather than “steward its resources.” “I think that is a phony ideal. I don’t believe that’s what we’re here to do …”

Where ever you stand on the debate of Creation Care and Environmentalism, can we agree that his theology is not as sharp as it could be on the topic?

At risk of doing the same thing I am confusing Santorum of doing, let me try and flush out what I mean by, “sharp.” Santorum and Rick Perry both in my opinion, committed the same mistake. The mistake that I believe they are committing is one of empty rhetoric. They casually accuse Obama of things and question his faith using phrases like “Phony Theology” which sounds much worse than it actually is, simply because it means nothing. The reason why Santorum uses such meaningless phrases is because he is smart enough, old enough and mature enough to know that he cannot (and should not) parse theology with another person when running for office. Theology is messy business. So, instead he uses phrases that appeal to a certain group of people so as to provoke a response.

That for me has been one of the most interesting and fascinating portion of this primary season. This is the first time I have cared. Like really cared. Not for any other reason than I think I reached the age where people begin to have opinions on these topics. (Maybe I am getting boring, I need to read more Entertainment Weekly) Also, I can’t help but mention again (sorry if you read my posts regularly) but after completing a Master’s Program in theology I cannot help but see the mistakes, confusion and out right pandering that these men and women do for the sake of attention (re: Vote).

This then, for me, begs the question. What are we doing as a church? What as a group of people who claim Christ doing that these people running for national office think this is what we want to hear? We could go into the last 15-20 years of politics and the rise of the religious right but that has been done by people better informed and smarter than I. Instead, I simply just want to make sure that I am asking the questions that need to be asked of ourselves.

How are we presenting ourselves to the larger public?

Are we thoughful people?

Are we compassionate people?

Are we articulate people?

Are we engaged people?

I can’t help but think that Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann and whoever else emerges in the years to come emerged because we allowed them to. Our rigidity and inability to truly think for ourselves meant that someone had to do it for us. So, I for one, no longer want to be told what to think. Could we as a group truly engage the issues and others connected to these issues in critical and thoughtful dialogue? I think so.

So, let’s do it. I can’t promise I won’t make a weird joke to try and break the ice. Like this, “Why does a chicken coop have 2 doors?? Cause if it had 4, it would be a chicken sedan!!” 

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