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The World According to Rick

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The world according to Rick, erstwhile GOP presidential hopeful, is a frightening place. It's a place filled with demons, many of whom are teachers and professors, whose sole purpose in life is to brainwash our children with -- God forbid -- a "liberal" arts education. The world according to Rick is filled with scientists who fudge their results to promote the anti-growth argument that our climate is changing because we burn too many fossil fuels. The world according to Rick is one in which people of "faith," whom he defines as those who share his particular set of spiritual beliefs, are routinely persecuted by the godless elite. In Rick's world someone who has embraced "liberal" ideologies cannot be a Christian.

In 2008 Beliefnet's Steve Waldman provided this quote from Rick about the possibility of liberal Christianity:

"You're a liberal something, but you're not a Christian." He continued, "When you take a salvation story and turn it into a liberation story you've abandoned Christendom and I don't think you have a right to claim it.

Although I have not and never will interview former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, he has made, is making and will continue to make statements that give us a glimpse into his world. Indeed, the elements that constitute Rick's world appear to shape the religious, social and political beliefs of a man who could be the GOP nominee for President of the United States.

To better understand Pennsylvania's "favorite son," maybe we should dive into the murky spaces of Rick's world -- his worldview. To construct a worldview, anthropologists observe public behavior as well as the symbolism of secular and religious rituals. In search of a worldview, we also interview folks to see how they create categories -- the colors they recognize, their preferred origin myths, the relationship between good and evil, the distinctions between nature and culture and so on. This work enables us to get a pretty good picture of how people situate themselves in the larger scheme of social or celestial things.

If you pool together Rick Santorum's statements about religion, sexuality, liberalism, Christianity, and the brainwashing laboratories that constitute our institutions of public education, it becomes apparent that Rick's word is a simple place of stark oppositions. The world according to Rick consists of keepers who protect the kept. The keepers protect us from what they define as evil. In Rick's world, the keepers protect the faithful from the faithless, innocent children from world-weary secular teachers. In Rick's word, you cast aspersions on folks situated outside a narrowly defined norm -- scientists, humanists, professors, liberation theologians, women and democrats -- to purge them from public life.

In Rick's world, there is a rigid orthodoxy that produces hermetically sealed categories of right and wrong. There are simple answers to complex problems. In Rick's world, you know who you are. You never admit that you are wrong. You never say you've changed your mind. You are strong.

If you are a keeper in Rick's world, your burden is to straighten out those who strayed from the path -- your path.

In Rick's world, you are uncomfortable with the complexities of contemporary social life. You yearn for the illusion of a past in which life was better, in which the lines of social class were more clearly drawn, in which women and minorities knew their place. In the world according to Rick, you long for a society in which everyone knew the rules -- your rules -- and played by them.

Into Rick's world the "keepers" interject themselves in the privacy of our lives to protect us from ourselves. This "moral" intervention enables them to reinforce a social, cultural and religious orthodoxy that they have created, an orthodoxy that would undermine the separation of church and state.

This worldview, of course, is inconsistent with the complex social realities of 21st-century America. Indeed, the world according to Rick reminds me of the Spanish Inquisition in which any deviation from the narrowly defined rules of the Church could result in persecution, excommunication or worse yet, a burning at the stake. The Church empowered the inquisitors to use their authority to keep the world pure and simple, a central theme in Rick's world.

Are we ready to recede into the illusory comforts of Rick's 15th-century world?

Are we ready to go "back to the future"?

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