The political beliefs of Barack Obama, said Rick Santorum last week, come out of "some phony theology. ... Not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology."
Given the opportunity on "Face the Nation" to amend his remarks, Santorum declined the offer and plunged on:
"I don't question the president's faith. I've repeatedly said that I believe the president is a Christian. He says he is a Christian. I am talking about his worldview and the way he approaches problems in this country. ... They're different than how most people do in America."
Obama's surrogates on the Sunday shows charged Santorum with questioning the president's faith.
Not exactly. What Santorum is saying is that in the struggle for the soul of America, though Obama may profess to be, and may be, a Christian, he is leading the anti-Christian forces of what Pope Benedict XVI has called "radical secularism."
In Plano, Texas, last week, Santorum was even more explicit:
"They (the Obamaites) are taking faith and crushing it. Why? Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what's left is the French Revolution. ... What's left in France became the guillotine.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we're a long way from that, but if we ... follow the path of President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America, then we are headed down that road."
Santorum is saying that where Thomas Jefferson attributed our human equality and our right to life and liberty to a Creator, secularism sees no authority higher than the state. But what the state gives, the state can take away.
The media think Santorum is singing "Onward Christian Soldiers" while heading off into the fever swamps. But Santorum is wagering his political future on his assessment of where we are in 2012.
He sees America dividing ever more deeply between those who hold to traditional Christian views on marriage, life and morality, and those who have abandoned such beliefs. He believes that the former remain America's silent majority, and he is offering himself as their champion against a militant secularism that has lately angered more than just the right.
Last week, Santorum declared that radical environmentalism is also rooted in this same anti-Biblical view of mankind's purpose here on earth.
"I think that a lot of radical environmentalists have it backwards. This idea that man is here to serve the earth as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the earth. Man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, but man is not here to serve the earth."
This is straight out of Genesis:
"Then God said, 'Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
Santorum seems to want to steer his primary and general election campaign into a conflict that goes back deep into American history and has surfaced time and again.
An early triumph of secularism came with the Scopes trial in 1923 in Dayton, Tenn. Clarence Darrow, defending a teacher who had violated state law by introducing Darwin's theory of evolution into the classroom, mocked the Old Testament teachings of the Evangelical Christians, to the merriment of the establishment.
From that day on, Darwinism was taught in our schools, first as theory, then as fact, then as higher truth. With the Darwinian tenet -- we evolved, we were not created -- established truth in the public schools, secularism set about driving its enemy, Christianity, out completely. Under the Warren Court in the 1950s and 1960s, it succeeded.
All Christian commandments, holidays, prayers, pageants and plays were gone. Where Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter had declared that America is a Christian nation, Obama has declared, "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation," but rather a nation of all faiths. Santorum is undeniably taking an immense gamble here.
First, he is wagering that by emphasizing his moral, social and cultural conservatism, he can trump Mitt Romney's Bain Capital job-creator card.
Second, he is wagering that Obama, with his latest attempt to impose secular values on Catholic institutions, can be portrayed as possessed of an "overt hostility to faith in America." Third, he is wagering that he has the rhetorical and political skills to make this case to the nation through the prism of a hostile media.
Fourth, he is betting that these issues are also the concern of a plurality of Americans in a country far different from the one he grew up in.
Finally, Santorum is betting that Americans still believe this is God's country, that America's laws should reflect his Law, and that they will elevate to the presidency a man who presents himself as the instrument to carry out God's will.