Rick Santorum has laid down the challenge. It's time someone took on that challenge.
About godliness, that is.
About who's more godly.
That would be Rick Santorum, he says, in contrast to Barack Obama, who has no coin in said fountain.
Before discussing the most recent outrageous statement from the sainted ex-senator, a word about tea party adherents, to whom he spoke it. If you recall, the group used to be about the vagaries of spending and governance. Now the tea party is becoming all hymns and communion wafers. It's the "700 Club" with less interesting guests.
To such a gathering last week, Santorum said Obama is about some "phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology." We're now told that Santorum wasn't challenging the president's faith, except to say maybe that Obama trusts the EPA before the Lord. Still, the notion of even bringing up in a theology in political campaign, with implications of and what's legitimate and what's not: Wow.
I'm trying to picture a President Santorum standing at a White House rostrum declaring who it is among his constituency — people who like Obama profess their Christianity — might harbor "phony theology." Surely one who knows can detect this, and surely President Santorum would have his advisers.
Back before the turn of the century, the Ku Klux Klan had its ideas of pure, authentic Christianity. Americans who were faking it, said the KKK, were those into mixing races and tolerating Jews.
Back around the same time you could see a theological disagreement between a Catholic and a Baptist settled with gunfire on a dusty western street. Good old days, they were.
You might like the idea of a president who calls 'em as he sees 'em, theologywise. It's either called leading by example or dividing by divinity.
Well, just who is the phony?
Commentator Juan Cole goes beyond wondering if Santorum is a cardboard Christian. He wonders if Santorum is even Catholic.
The post, "Top Ten Catholic Teachings Santorum Rejects while Obsessing about Birth Control," on juancole.com, asks as much.
For starters, the pope opposed the war of preference against Iraq. Santorum? It was roll tanks and pass the ammunition.
Cole points out the church's opposition to the death penalty, American bishops' support for hiking the minimum wage, and their embrace of the vital nature of labor unions. Don't bring up any of that, Rick, at our next tea party parley.
Immigration? You'd better just ignore the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference, because it has denounced hard-core initiatives like Arizona's SB 1070 and the criminalization of undocumented workers.
And there's that biblical thing about helping the poor, which we realize carries little scriptural weight when juxtaposed next to the birth control pill and the diaphragm. Regardless, the U.S. bishops seem a little adamant about the government helping needy families. Oh, and they embrace universal health care.
Santorum calls the painstaking political compromise that was "Obamacare" raving socialism. What exactly would he call what the U.S. bishops would have in mind? Best not say.
Friday Santorum was giving some sweet, serene lip service to the notion of helping the poor, but expressing the notion that as government gets smaller, Americans must "get bigger" in helping them, and so must churches.
The Catholic Church has done an enormous amount, here and abroad, to help the poor. To ask that churches pick up that function served by government since the days of the Great Society is to, in sporting parlance, punt away one's Christian responsibility. Don't attribute that assertion to me. That's the bishops talking.
This cavalcade of inconsistencies on behalf of a typically brazen politician is just another way of saying to candidate Santorum what Christ said to everyone and no one in particular:
"Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them."
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.