iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Rev. Ruth Hawley-Lowry

GET UPDATES FROM Rev. Ruth Hawley-Lowry
 

An Open Letter To Rick Santorum From A Michigan Pastor (And Voter)

Posted: 02/27/2012 5:00 pm

Dear Mr. Santorum:

I live in Michigan and write to you as a sister in Christ. I worship the same Christ as you do -- only radically differently. I have been touched by the stories of your daughter with Trisomy 18. When I was pregnant with our daughter we were told there was a 1-in-3 chance of her having Trisomy 18. I explained that even if our child did have Trisomy 18, we would not abort. Our daughter is strong and healthy and does not have the condition, and I pray for you and your wife in caring for your beloved little one.

I write publicly because I've heard a lot from you lately, and you have made statements in the public arena that bruise our national capacity for honest dialogue. Folks on the right are cheering you and folks on the left are deriding you -- and I imagine a lot of folks in the middle are just waiting for Nov. 7, quelling the opportunity for conversation that elections offer. Toward the end of concourse, I wish to challenge you from an educational, evangelical and experiential perspective.

Education: Mr. Santorum, you sadly echo what many other parents do in my school district do in Michigan. Our new superintendent has welcomed several town hall meetings as he encourages rigor in our school system. Astoundingly, several parents have criticized him, saying what you have said -- that not everyone was meant to go to college. Mr. Santorum, if we wish to be competitive as a nation, education is an essential. The etymology of education is "to lead forth" or "bring out." This also means welcoming differing opinions without division in the midst of discourse (which means, in essence, running back and forth). I know the word "etymology" because of my high school Latin teacher (thank you, Mrs. Davis). I am working on my doctorate, but my husband never went to college -- not because he is not brilliant, but because his learning challenges were never diagnosed. He can fix anything and is a lovely conversationalist. But to say that his state is preferred is naïve and only serves to boost your preposterous perspective. As my husband has sought to further his education he comes home after reading the great philosophers, knowing that his imagination and perspective have been broadened, not diminished -- and certainly not "indoctrinated."

Evangelical: I was raised and steeped in the evangelical tradition. You said, "The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country" and that the First Amendment's allowance for the free exercise of religion "means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square." But you see, Mr. Santorum, the notion of "freedom of religion" means, by definition, that we are not necessarily talking about "church" but we could be talking about mosque, synagogue, Buddhist temple, Hindu temple or a multitude of permutations. Indeed, everyone must be welcomed in the public square, where we share and talk together. I cannot leave my deeply held Christian perspective at the door any more than the Dalai Lama could suspend his Buddhist belief or Gandhi his Hindu perspective. We meet together in America in mutuality, knowing that a high church Episcopalian priest, an Orthodox rabbi, an African Methodist Episcopal Zion Bishop and a Sufi imam must all have their voice to be heard in conversation.

Experiential: As you visited my alma mater this past week you critiqued the president (whom you previously said has "some phony ideal, some phony theology ... not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology") and charged, "Because there's a lot of tyrants around the world who will talk about freedom of worship, but they won't talk about freedom of religion. Freedom of worship is what you do within the four walls of the church. Freedom of religion is what you do outside the four walls of the church. What the president is now seeming to mold, in the image of other elitists who think that they know best, is to limit the role of faith in the public square and your role to live that faith out in your public and private lives."

Mr. Santorum, this is simply not true. It might win you votes and get you on radio shows -- but it is not the truth. While I was raised in the evangelical church and am grateful for that heritage, I knew that the questions I was asking about poverty and wealth and inequity in this nation were not answered in my tradition. By God's grace, I heard the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright preach in 1989 and learned the Gospel in a way that I never heard it before -- but that was faithful to Scripture. As I received yet another of one of your robocalls, I was reading an article about what is happening in Michigan to the poor children. Right before I answered your call I read this:

"I was visiting with this family and one of the little boys said he wasn't going to eat," said Russell, development director for Forgotten Harvest, a Detroit-based nonprofit that rescues and redistributes fresh food. "He said, 'Oh, I'm not eating dinner because it's my brother's turn tonight. Tomorrow is my night.'"

Mr. Santorum, even as we debate and disagree in our nation, when did this become acceptable in our nation? As a mother who yearns to protect my children, how is this imaginable in our nation?

As you know, the book of James reads: "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you" (1:27). I think we have become far more corrupted when we turn other politicians into the enemy -- rather than evils like poverty. I know for certain that President Obama loves Jesus deeply, seeks to worship God faithfully (though it's tough to do corporately, given how our nation treated his church during the previous election), and inside-out cares about what God cares about -- the poor, the widow, orphans and those with no voice.

So, Mr. Santorum, as we move into this election cycle I know that you want numbers and the nomination. But by God's grace, please be as generous to others as God has been to us.

 

Follow Rev. Ruth Hawley-Lowry on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RuthHL