GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is getting a lot of flack right now for some remarks that he made at a Catholic college in 2008. He said that Satan is out to get America.
Here's a portion of the candidate's quote (not to a general audience, but to fellow believers at Ave Maria College in Florida): "If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age? There is no one else to go after, other than the United States. And that's been the case for now almost two hundred years---once America's pre-eminence was sown by our great founding fathers. He didn't have much success in the early days---our foundation was very strong---in fact, is very strong. But over time, that great acidic quality of time corrodes away even the strongest foundations. And Satan has done so, by attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality..."
And the problem is?
Did the devil make him do it, i.e., say foolish things that everyone knows are not true?
If there is no devil, if Satan does not exist, then Santorum would be the fool he's being portrayed as. But what if there really is a devil, as described in the Bible? The great angel who asserted himself above God and took a third of the angels with him in a revolt in heaven, which he lost. Now he aims to steal, kill, and destroy.
About 300 years ago, Puritan writer John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, which is a retelling of this biblical theme. Some scholars have called that book "the greatest epic in the English language."
To the modern intelligentsia, Santorum may be crazy; but his opinions are closer to Milton's than those of Bill Maher.
The press is having a field day with this whole controversy, as just another example by which to paint Senator Santorum as out of the mainstream.
What exactly comprises "the mainstream"?
If the mainstream refers to the opinions of the majority of Americans, then Rick is in the mainstream. A Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans believe the devil exists. 20% do not, and 12% aren't sure.
Is the new criteria that religious opinions of politicians have to be "in the mainstream," as defined by the liberal media?
Are Rev. Jeremiah Wright's opinions "in the mainstream"? He famously said, "Not God bless America, but God d*** America." The mainstream media for the most part ignored his diatribes in the 2008 election. And Obama claimed that, even though he attended weekly for twenty years in that church, he basically wasn't listening to Wright's sermons.
Mitt Romney is a Mormon. But during this campaign, for the most part, the press has ignored the particular views of Mormons, which are out of the mainstream of historic Christian views – such as the idea that Satan and Jesus are brothers. So far, Americans for the most part have chosen to not delve into the details of Mormon doctrine, presumably out of respect.
So why should Santorum's remarks make him seem like a whack job? His statements are clearly in the mainstream of historic Christian theology. That would include the opinions of the vast majority of the founding fathers.
Historian David Barton once told me that of the 250 men we call the founding fathers, only about a dozen of them at the most had theological views that would not fit the mode of conservative theological positions. The vast majority were Trinitarian Christians and would have affirmed belief that Satan exists.
So Santorum's remarks don't put him out of the mainstream with the founding fathers.
Besides, the Constitution prohibits imposing a religious test for those running for national office.
Nowadays, to hear some pundits, you would think that the only people who should run for president area those holding only a basically agnostic or atheistic worldview.
C. S. Lewis, probably the greatest Christian writer of the 20th century, was a professor at Oxford, then later Cambridge. In the 1940s, he made the cover of TIME magazine because of his innovative book, Screwtape Letters, a fictional account of an older demon corresponding with a younger one in order to the most effective job in causing a spiritual shipwreck of a man who had recently joined the church.
In his foreword to the book, Lewis observed that one of Satan's most clever strategies is to get people to deny that he exists.
I'd say in light of the firestorm Santorum's remarks has sparked, the devil is doing a remarkable job.