I’m not sure how much longer Rick Santorum will remain in the GOP race for the presidential nomination, but it’s worth noting that Santorum is not evangelical. I know, you’ve heard otherwise. In a bizarre twist of history, for once a conservative Catholic is being referred to as an evangelical—but that only goes to show how little people understand the evangelical label.
RNS explains Santorum’s religious convictions and their political consequences:
“Now here we are, 50 years later, and evangelicals are not only willing to vote for Roman Catholic candidates but frankly they are flocking to Roman Catholic candidates” like Santorum and Newt Gingrich, said Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a top evangelical political activist.
“This is a big moment in American religious and political history.”
Both Reed and Hudson note that Santorum’s appeal to conservative Protestants isn’t really—or even mainly—a case of mistaken religious identity. Plenty of evangelicals know Santorum is a practicing Catholic; it’s just that it doesn’t matter the way it once did.
What’s really important is that Santorum espouses their values, because in a multi-front culture war, an “ecumenism of the trenches” prevails over Reformation-era disputes about doctrine. So when Santorum makes full-throated opposition to gay marriage and abortion his signature issues, he is effectively singing from the evangelical hymnal.
That’s a surprising statement. Just as it was with Newt Gingrich.
As someone who grew up in among evangelicals but counted many Italian Catholics as relatives, I can remember feeling awkward when fellow church-goers would refer to Catholics as not being Christians—as un-Christian as many evangelicals say that Mitt Romney is as a Mormon.
But that’s not to say that those who vote primarily based on conservative social policies don’t see kin in Santorum. JFK he is not. If only evangelicals can similarly overcome those historical religious biases in terms of Romney’s candidacy, they just might be on to something.
Read the rest of RNS’s story here.