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Reflections on Rick Santorum Withdrawing From the Race

(Photo by Flickr/CC user Maasive)

I was asked this afternoon by the “On Faith” page of The Washington Post to write (quickly) about Rick Santorum’s sudden decision to terminate his candidacy.

My remarks are here and if you think you’ve heard Berlinerblau sing that song before then you have because I have been bellowing this same chorus for five years: Divisive religious rhetoric does not work in presidential campaigns.

Why the Cains and Perrys and Bachmanns and Gingrichs and Santorums of the nation don’t listen to Professor B., I don’t know. But should any Republican candidate seek my services as a Faith and Values consultant–and I want to stress for my readership (and potential clientele) that I am not aligned with any one party–this is what I would tell them:

Most Americans have no problem hearing about your religious views. In fact, many are respectfully curious about such matters. But insofar as “most Americans” are a gloriously diverse lot who represent every shade on the theological spectrum, faith-based messaging must be conducted with extreme discretion and caution.

Most Americans resent sanctimony in a candidate. They prefer humility.

Most Americans deplore candidates who exude a God-is-with-me vibe. They favor a God-is-with-us approach.

Most Americans are made highly uncomfortable by attacks on other groups (i.e., gays, liberals, women, religious progressives) that are couched in terms of faith. They don’t mind substantive critique but, please, keep the Almighty out of it.

Most Americans don’t want a candidate’s every invocation of God, to be the prelude to the heretication or anathematization of others. Politically speaking, anyhow, they believe that we are all God’s children.

Most Americans don’t mind a little presidential God Talk. But they want it to be positive, affirming, ecumenical, unsectarian.

Rick Santorum obeyed none of these protocols. In this regard, he was joined by the entire over-the-top GOP 2012 presidential slate save Ron Paul and, interestingly, the two Mormon candidates, Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney.

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