In discussing abortion in a controversial interview with CNSNEWS last week, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said, "I find it almost remarkable for a black man [such as President Obama] to say, no, we are going to decide who are people and who are not people."
Were Santorum's remarks a cup of political hemlock in light of his widely known desire to run for president in 2012? Was he insensitive to American race relations? What was Santorum thinking?
Political strategists may believe the Republican's statement was a monumental gaffe. But as a Santorum-watcher since his stunning victory over incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Walgren in 1990, I know that political prognosticators do not easily sway him. Late in his doomed 2006 senate reelection campaign, when Americans were opposed to the Iraq war, Santorum was unmoved and making powerful speeches about confronting radical Islam. He got crushed. You won't find a cupbearer in Santorum's circle of advisors because he doesn't fear the effects of tasting what many consider to be political poison. Last week, Catholic Online called him a "man with a chest," a man willing to defend objective human values embraced by people of all cultures (a reference from C.S. Lewis' Abolition of Man).
Despite Santorum's admired fearlessness, I was afraid his remarks would add yet another cut to our nation's festering racial wounds. Yet, I knew immediately what he meant and I support his position: For much of American constitutional history, blacks were treated as property, not people, and to Santorum it's regrettable that we have a black president who views the defenseless unborn similarly. The pro-life leader, like Martin Luther King Jr., has a high view of race relations: Human relations and human law should be consistent with natural law, or God's law as written on the human heart. Moreover, the father of seven is known for pointing out that King wrote about this principle in his famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." In September 2010, Santorum quoted King's letter in a Houston speech, saying, "[King] wrote: . . . 'How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.'" Roe v. Wade, the law of our land, is unjust.
Santorum's remarks may hinder his political ambitions and may stir racial tensions, but we Americans must have the courage to discuss law, life, and society within the larger context of God's law as written on the human heart. Santorum is a man with a chest and our nation needs more like him.