Paul  Kengor

Editor’s note: A longer version of this article first appeared at The American Spectator.

The secular world today trembles and shudders at the sight of Rick Santorum speaking on good and evil at Ave Maria University in Florida in 2008. Santorum’s statement came 25 years after another much-maligned social conservative, Ronald Reagan, delivered a similarly fiery speech in Florida in 1983. In both cases, the secular left recoiled in horror, mortified that any American other than Barack Obama or Jimmy Carter might dare remark on matters of faith and state, of the temporal and eternal.

I caught excerpts of Santorum’s speech for the first time yesterday, when America’s omnipresent force—Matt Drudge—posted a link under the grim, black-and-white headline, “SANTORUM’S SATAN WARNING.” Immediately, the remainder of the natural universe leapt in knee-jerk hysteria, and soon Santorum’s warnings of the Evil One were the talk of a stunned nation.

As I digested the speech, I was struck at how so many of Santorum’s themes and words echoed those expressed in Ronald Reagan’s historic Evil Empire speech. Santorum ruminated on evil, spiritual warfare, truth, vanity, sensuality, temptation, pride, education, abortion. Like Reagan, he fears that the “great political conflict” in America “is not a political war at all, or a cultural war—it is a spiritual war.” In that war, “the father of lies” has “set his sights” on America.

And then, like Reagan, Santorum finished with a message of faith-based optimism for the faithful: “My message to you today is that you will lose, you will lose battle after battle; you will become frustrated, but do not lose hope. God will be faithful, if you are.”