Friday, March 9, 2012

Uncomfortable Positions

In the current Republican primary contest, evangelicals have faced a lot of wooing and more than a few uncomfortable moments.  Many are supporting a Mormon, Mitt Romney, which in and of itself makes them queasy, but given his many twists and turns on positions and his often uninspiring rhetoric, it is more of a "settling for" and enthusiasm.  Then there is Newt Gingrich, the twice-divorced, often abrasive, newly-committed Catholic defender of "traditional values" who burned almost every bridge with his allies in Congress with his style of playing politics.  And Ron Paul--well, while his supporters are passionate, his campaign is aimed more toward trying to get an agenda considered.  He is an evangelical, but purposely seeks to keep that out of his political discussions.

But the candidate that the majority of evangelicals seem to be supporting is a conservative Roman Catholic, Rick Santorum.  His blue collar roots are thought to appeal to the working class, and his strong religious convictions are well known.  In fact, some think they are too well-known, and endanger his prospects because he is so conservative--on the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, his rejection of homosexuality as deserving of protected status (though he would not legally limit it), and his support of the Roman Catholic view that all artificial contraception is immoral (though he would not ban it).  Many believe these positions would cost him the election.

Maybe so.  However, I was surprised to read a commentary in TIME magazine recently by Joe Klein (it can be found here), not anybody's definition of a conservative, talking about Santorum's defense of his positions when interviewed.  He points out that Santorum gives a reasoned explanation, even though some who are asking the questions are incredulous and seem to have no frame of reference for understanding the answers.

He remarks that Santorum's views were once "mainstream," but now are viewed as fringe, including his commitment to life, evidenced in his family's decision to give life and love to their special needs daughter.  This causes him to stop and think, not just about his views, but the strength they require and what our society may have lost as we have abandoned such "demanding" views.  Below is a powerful quote:

Rick and Karen decided to fight for Gabriel’s life, which nearly cost Karen her own, and they passionately embraced the child during his two hours on earth. They have spent the past three years caring for their daughter Isabella, whose genetic defect, trisomy 18, is an early-death sentence. “Almost 100% of trisomy 18 children are encouraged to be aborted,” Santorum told (CBS New reporter Bob)Schieffer. 
I am haunted by the smiling photos I’ve seen of Isabella with her father and mother, brothers and sisters. No doubt she struggles through many of her days — she nearly died a few weeks ago — but she has also been granted three years of unconditional love and the ability to smile and bring joy. Her tenuous survival has given her family a deeper sense of how precious even the frailest of lives are. 
All right, I can hear you saying, the Santorum family’s course may be admirable, but shouldn’t we have the right to make our own choices? 
Yes, I suppose. But I also worry that we’ve become too averse to personal inconvenience as a society—that we’re less rigorous parents than we should be, that we’ve farmed out our responsibilities, especially for the disabled, to the state—and I’m grateful to Santorum for forcing on me the discomfort of having to think about the moral implications of his daughter’s smile.

Now, I am  not endorsing Santorum here for President.  But I am struck by the fact that such a powerful example has been set and demands thought.  I think that it is this kind of example that becomes a powerful tool not simply for the pro life cause, but as we choose to live it out, the cause of the Gospel.