Quixotic Rick Santorum

I half expect to stumble upon a YouTube video of Rick Santorum galloping through a field, lance in hand. Coming upon a small hill, he spurs his trusty steed onward, picking up speed as he nears the crest. Suddenly, he sees the arm of the enemy swing toward him. Pulling his head close to the nape of his stallion’s neck, he readies his lance to strike, and grits his teeth. Clang. He collapses in a heap at the base of one of those grotesque wind-turbine windmills. Looking up, he curses the wretched beast, climbs back onto his horse and circles down the hill to shake of the daze and ready himself for another futile charge.

The world would laugh and I’d run out to my nearest Renaissance festival to be outfitted with a suit of armor and a mace.

It’s not that I have a strong aversion to wind power. Of course, I’m speaking metaphorically.

In many ways, Rick Santorum is tilting at windmills. It’s a seemingly futile battle against the dark forces of modernity. But one that must be taken up.

 

Santorum recently questioned the, shall we say, orthodoxy of President Obama’s theology. And this week, news outlets dug up a speech Santorum gave at Ave Maria University in 2008 in which he warned that Satan was at odds with America.

“Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition.” Going further, he remarked, “We look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.”

Those sorts of remarks aren’t going to help him win any elections. His staunch and outspoken views on contraception aren’t going to help either. Neither will his defense of the nuclear, heterosexual family. Nor will his views on gays, abortions, the creation of the world, sex, religion, morality, and a whole host of other things.

He’s criticized loudly and often in the media for his statements on religion and morality. He’s been branded as a misogynist, a crazy zealot, an idiot, and an enemy of science. He’s been labeled a bigot for his views on homosexuality. Worse, he’s the object of a terribly prominent, and terribly offensive, internet “prank,” which, until recently, held a firm grasp on the number one spot after Googling “Rick Santorum”.

And despite it all, Santorum continues to battle, hacking away at an enemy with more heads and more persistence than the Hydra.

Santorum, the candidate, can be criticized for many things. His view of government is not exactly one that is small, frugal, and local. Where foreign policy is concerned, he’s one of the higher soaring hawks.

As a candidate Santorum may not be ideal, and that’s probably just as well, because you’re not getting elected in this country running on a platform that’s equal parts traditional Catholic social teaching and the Neo-Con brand of biggish government.

But as a defender of the faith…he’s not half bad. And, frankly, he’s the best we’ve got right now. The bishops may continue to pleasantly surprise the laity when they meet in March and discuss the HHS mandate. And yes, there’s always the newspaper columnist or occasional talking head who comes to the defense of the Church. But when it comes to a sustained and focused attack on modernity in defense of Catholicism, Rick Santorum is as good as it gets.

He’s in the public eye. He is, amazingly, a legitimate presidential candidate. And he is, first and foremost, a Catholic. He wears it on his sleeve, and he doesn’t apologize for it. Santorum is the polar opposite of John F. Kennedy who famously said: “I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.” That statement helped gain Kennedy the presidency.

And it’s Santorum’s persistent refusal to make a similar statement that will help crush his chances at the White House. And I pray that he remains strong. I pray that we don’t get a rehash of 2004. It certainly appears that Santorum has learned from his suspect endorsement of Arlen Specter over the pro-life Pat Toomey for U.S. Senator.

Aside from my misgivings about some of Santorum’s fiscal and foreign policies, I just don’t think he’s presidential material. This was on display in the recent debate in Arizona where Santorum struggled to defend instances where he eschewed his principles for “the team.”  Rather, he has the stuff of a shabby but brave knight errant. And I mean that with the highest admiration. He doesn’t sit back. He doesn’t ruminate on the issues. He doesn’t compromise. And that hurts his image. It sometimes leads to mistakes.

But I admire someone like that. Someone who rushes passionately into the fray to defend his faith and beliefs. Someone willing to take blow after blow from the unceasing monster of modernity in order to get in a few shots of his own.

Santorum is certainly not perfect. He is probably not electable. But he has the faith and the fortitude to dive headlong—again and again—into battle, bearing the standard of Christ as best he can.

It’s best for him and for all of us that he remains a wandering knight, fighting the good fight. Better to have him out there, unchained from the Oval Office. Better for him to fearlessly and tirelessly defend the Church, the family, morals, and the unborn, rather than to try wade through the political quagmire.

No, I don’t want him taking up residence in the White House…I want him taking up his lance, donning his sweater-vested armor and hacking away at the enemy in the name of the Church.

No politician is going to save us. Our culture and our society will not be reclaimed by the political process. But a man willing to hurl himself at seemingly unassailable enemies in the name of truth and goodness, over and over? That can change hearts and minds.

As Cervantes wrote: “One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars; and the world was better for this.”

By

After a brief career restoring timber-framed barns, Christian Tappe worked as an editor for Regnery and ISI Books. He is currently Editor of Saint Benedict Press/TAN Books in Charlotte, NC.

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