A Brief Discourse Upon Phony Theology

Preface — when Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum found himself in a bit of hot political water after alleging that President Obama was practicing a Phony Theology during the flap over contraception, the former Pennsylvania Senator attempted a fouetté rond de jambe en tournant to explain what he was “really” talking about:

“An incredulous Bob Schieffer began his interview with Santorum Sunday by asking, “What in the world were you talking about?”

“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 … We’re not here to serve the earth. That is not the objective, man is the objective.” [HuffPo]

Really?  We might be the “summit” of God’s creation, but the former Senator has conveniently omitted two critical parts of his own Roman Catholic Catechism, specifically items 339 and 340:

339. Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. For each one of the works of the “six days” it is said: “And God saw that it was good.” “By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws.” Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment.

340. God wills the interdependence of creatures. The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other.

If we take the Senator at his word that he was talking about “radical environmentalists,” albeit in a context that clearly referenced women’s health issues, then whose Phony Theology was he dismissing?  As we’ve seen from the Catechism it definitely wasn’t Catholic.

“And it was so done. [10] And God called the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” [Genesis]

Perhaps it was Presbyterian? However, that doesn’t seem to fit in light of this statement by the Presbyterian (USA) General Assembly:

“While it may seem that countries rich in natural resources may be rich. That isn’t true. The “resource curse” shows us that countries with great oil, gas and other extractive industries are often the poorest, with less economic growth and worse development outcomes than countries with far fewer resources. In fact, countries with rich natural deposits are often plagued by corruption, civil war, human rights abuses, authoritarian governments, land grabs and environmental degradation – because powerful sectors  want to control the profits.”

Now, who would have thought the Presbyterians, those descendents of the solid Kirk, to be radical environmentalists?

Perhaps Santorum might have been thinking of Episcopalians?  However, when we check their Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer we find:

We learn that there is one God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and
unseen.

What does this mean?
This means that the universe is good, that it is the work of
a single loving God who creates, sustains, and directs it.

What does this mean about our place in the universe?
It means that the world belongs to its creator; and that
we are called to enjoy it and to care for it in accordance
with God’s purposes.

Now, if we are called upon to care for “it” (“it” being God’s creation) according to HIS purposes, and not just our own, then it’s Santorum’s statement, “We’re not here to serve the Earth..” that sounds more radical than those “radical environmentalist teachings” of the Catholics, the Presbyterians, or the Episcopalians.

[31] And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good. And the evening and morning were the sixth day. [Genesis]

Well, perhaps Mr. Santorum was talking about some other theology, maybe that espoused by the Methodists? Here’s their statement on stewardship:

“Stewardship has to do with how we bring all of the resources at our disposal into efficient use in our participation in the saving activity of God. Environmental stewardship is one part of our work as God’s stewards. As stewards of the natural environment we are called to preserve and restore the air, water, and land on which life depends. Moreover, we are called to see that all life has a sufficient share of the resources of nature. With new hope rooted in Christ and with more obedient living as stewards of the earth, we can participate in God’s healing of creation.”

Oh my, “participate in the healing of creation?” That doesn’t sound like a theology predicated on Man as the Summit of All Things does it?   Let’s look to the ardent congregationalist  Baptists and see if they agree?

“Indeed, the Scriptures teach that at creation humanity was given responsibility toward the earth and its resources. Thus, all humanity must seek to preserve the environment and conserve its resources, but Christians especially, who claim not only to have but to understand God’s special revelation, must actively seek to exercise good stewardship over the environment though conservation and cultivation.”  [ZionBaptist.pdf]

And then there’s this statement from the Southern Baptist Convention:

“God has designed us with a dependence on the natural resources around us and has assigned us a dominion of stewardship and protection of those resources for future generations (Genesis 2:7-15); …Our God-given dominion over the creation is not unlimited, as though we were gods and not creatures, so therefore, all persons and all industries are then accountable to higher standards than to profit alone.” (pdf)

So, Santorum’s  “Phony Theology” is Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist, and Baptist?  We might move from congregations to undenominational churches like the Church of Christ to see if there is some of that Phony Theology therein.   That Church says: “Our Lord God Almighty is wonderful for He is indeed an Awesome God. Heaven and Earth cannot contain Him for He is greater than all that we see and know to be. His Majesty is glorious and His power is without measure.”  We’re not off to a good start here if “That is not the objective, man is the objective.” [Santorum 2:19]   It really doesn’t sound like the congregations of the faithful in the Church of Christ are all that into Man being The Objective.

OK, 1.7% of us in the United States are Jewish, and the members of the Union for Reform Judaism doesn’t seem to be in line with Senator Santorum’s theology either:

“The earth is full of the fruit of Thy works….In wisdom has Thou made them all,” declared the Psalmist. But America, in thoughtlessly abusing its natural resources has disregarded the Biblical injunction to conserve God’s creation for the good of all. Water and air pollution are all too common in areas of major population concentration. Our forests have been neglected and we have not reseeded fast enough to keep up with anticipated needs. Our clean, fresh water supplies and mineral resources are being exhausted by industrial and population growth.”

There are those radical environmentalists again?  Perhaps we might find views more compatible with Senator Santorum’s among more orthodox practitioners?

“The Torah has a deep tradition for protecting the environment. Reading our sources with an eye for environmental sensitivity, we find a wealth of connections and teachings that encourage us to protect our resources, care for our health, prevent unnecessary damage to our neighbors, show concern and respect for other creatures, and avoid unnecessary waste. These teachings can help us find solutions to some of the grave environmental threats that we face today.”  [IJII]

All right, the “Man is the Objective” school of thought doesn’t seem to fit with Jews, so how about with the  0.6% of us who are Muslim?

Thus man has the freedom to do what he wills with the power invested in him through these two means. One is his closeness to God in spirit and second is his acceptance of the trust. Man’s superiority, control and power over nature and the rest of creation was thus a part of this trust. After having taken the responsibility man had to show that he was indeed worthy of keeping it. If he forgets about the responsibility of the trust and instead takes full and destructive advantage of the power conferred upon him, the other side of his  superiority takes over. Because he has the spirit of God within him, he now deems to set himself up in rivalry to God. He wishes to take control of the destiny of the world not as a trustee but as a demi god.  [IslamFI]

So, if a man were to be the Object, then he would not be a trustee but a demi-god.

When push comes to the point at which it reaches shove, the only “philosophy” that remotely offers that Man is the Object, was that presented by Ayn Rand’s novels.  “It is the individual alone that is real, objective, and the true foundation for ethics. Therefore, Rand can postulate the basic premise of her philosophy: “The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A – and Man is Man.

The Catholic Church has an opinion about that, but it may not be one Mr. Santorum is likely to accept:

“No man,” she (Rand) emphasizes, “can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as ‘the right to enslave.’” Moreover, there are no rights of special groups, since a group is not an individual reality. As a result, she firmly denies that groups such as the “unborn,” “farmers,” “businessmen,” and so forth, have any rights whatsoever. [...]

“No philosopher ever proposed a more simple and straightforward view of life than the one Ayn Rand urges upon us. Man=Man; Existence = Existence; only individuals are real; all forms of altruism are inherently evil. There are no nuances or paradoxes. There is no wisdom. There is no depth. Complex issues divide reality into simple dichotomies. There is individualism and altruism, and nothing in between. Despite the apparent superficiality of her philosophy, Rand considered herself history’s greatest philosopher after Aristotle.”

Not exactly any form of ringing endorsement from this angle.

In actuality, the Phony Theology former Senator Santorum would like for us to adopt is the “Man is the Summit” morphed from “Man Is the Measure” pseudo-Objectivism of Randian adherents.  Where Christian, Jewish, and Muslim theologians read their holy books beyond Genesis 26 and acknowledge the relationship of man to the rest of Creation, hewing more closely to the notion expressed as “And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good. And the evening and morning were the sixth day,” Senator Santorum and Ayn Rand seem to be outside the mainstream of theological thought.  By their lights, Man — the Object — appears to be the only part of His Creation with which He was most pleased.

There is another bit of scriptural advice for the proponents of Rand’s dismal philosophy: “As I live, saith the Lord God, forasmuch as my flocks have been made a spoil, and my sheep are become a prey to all the beasts of the field, because there was no shepherd: for my shepherds did not seek after my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flocks…” [Ezeckiel 34:8]  The bottom line? God wasn’t happy.

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1 Comment

Filed under 2012 election, ecology, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

One response to “A Brief Discourse Upon Phony Theology

  1. Good breakdown of all the differing denominations views on stewardship. When I heard Santorum speak of stewardship, I don’t recall a single sermon in any of the ones I sat through (and there were many) that indicated that the earth was ours to rape.

    You probably could have stopped at the Catholic catechism however, because as Rick has said, they are the only “real” Christians. :)