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EDITOR OF REDSTATE

A Primer for the Media and I Agree With Rick Santorum

The Drudge Report put up a story about Rick Santorum’s speech to Ave Maria University in which Santorum said Satan was attacking the United States. The speech was giving in 2008, but is largely consistent with statements he has given in the past few weeks.

I agree with Rick Santorum. I also think that this is a Romney leaked piece. Given the close ties between Matt Drudge and the Romney camp, that’s an easy guess. I also think it will hurt Santorum who apparently has Gingrichitis, a disease the frontrunners all seem to get where they mouth off on any topic under the sun once they are the front runner.

Focus on this topic does not help Santorum and is largely irrelevant to being President. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to defend Santorum given how clueless some of those attacking him seem to be on the specific points he made and also given the cluelessness of a lot of reporters trying to put his remarks in context or explain them.

In 2008, Rick Santorum wasn’t running for President. His statement is well within the mainstream of orthodox Christian theology. And that’s the point here for a lot of reporters who seem stunned by Santorum’s statements.

I’m not Catholic and disagree with some of the teachings of that church, but both orthodox Protestant and Catholic views are consistent with the idea of Satan (who is very real) at war and trying to both tempt and corrupt people.

The humorous thing is there are many on the left who are trying to claim Santorum’s view is nutty, wacked out, or bizarre. There’s actually a stronger case for saying Satan is trying to corrupt the United States than that Barack Obama is a Marxist. Pick your poison.

But one of the statements Rick Santorum made that the media has terribly portrayed and clearly does not understand is Santorum saying, “We look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.”

He is absolutely correct in this statement. When mainline Protestant denominations are in the news these days, it is more likely to be over their debates on the ordination of gays than on anything they have done to actually advance Christ’s kingdom. The problem is that a lot of reporters and even a lot of conservatives do not understand what “mainline Protestants” are.

It is not hard.

A mainline protestant is not a “mainstream” protestant. The two are not interchangeable. The former is more of an academic term.

The base way to understand what a mainline protestant is would be to understand that the term largely means those protestant denominations that existed during the colonial era of the American colonies and as they have evolved from that point.

Many suggest the term comes from the Pennsylvania Main Line railroad that ran through Philadelphia neighborhoods at the turn of the twentieth century, which were organized around communities of interest making up those original colonial faithes.

Specifically, Mainline Protestant denominations are Episcopalians, the United Methodists, the Presbyterians (USA), the American and Northern Baptists, the United Church of Christ, the Congregationalists, the Disciples of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.1

While evangelical churches are more mainstream in America, they are not considered main line. Many evangelical churches branched off from the main line. The Southern Baptists, the nation’s largest protestant denomination, branched off from the Northern and American Baptist Churches. The Presbyterian Church in America, Evangelical Presbyterians, and Reformed Presbyterians broke away from the main Presbyterian Church, which is today the PCUSA. Anglicans have come back into the country in response to the ordination of gays within the Episcopalian Church.

I await the United Methodist Church splintering over that issue and the social gospel too. The Methodists are one of the last major mainline denominations not to have a serious split. But it is on the verge of happening.

There is a long history here and I am no religion scholar, but there are a couple of points to understand.

The mainline churches are more concerned these days with the social gospel, the role of gays in the church, etc. These churches are in decline. Their numbers are falling as they have replaced the actual Gospel with a modern sense of spiritualism that ultimately does not feed the flock.

Evangelical churches over all are growing. The charismatic churches are really seeing strong growth. These churches are much more concerned with fundamentalism, which is, like “mainline”, a specific term. Fundamentalist churches believe in the fundamentals of the faith, which were toward the turn of the twentieth century narrowed to five points including the inerrancy of the Bible, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the need for salvation. When people talk about “fundamentalists” these days, they usually mean hard line Christians who are no fun. Actually, a “fundamentalist” is someone who subscribes to five specific points within Protestantism: (1) the inerrancy of the Bible; (2) the virgin birth of Christ; (3) the atonement of sins through Christ’s death; (4) the bodily resurrection of Christ; and (5) the reality of Christ’s miracles.

So, when Santorum says mainline Protestantism in this country is in shambles, he is referring to specific churches, not all Protestants and specifically not evangelicals. He is referring specifically to those specific denominations more interested these days in the social gospel and the ordination of gay ministers than in salvation through grace. And both the decline of those churches’ populations and their ceding the field on actual matters of the Gospel are proof that Santorum is right. These churches have less and less to do with orthodox Christianity and it is no surprise that it is from the ranks of these churches that the media typically draws on ministers to rebut long held orthodox Christian views and the mainstream churches of America, which are more and more evangelical.


  1. The United Church of Christ vs. Church of Christ issue is complicated. I learned the list as UCC being mainline and Church of Christ not. Checking Wikipedia, it too has UCC listed. But some Church of Christ members contend they are mainline, not UCC. The general rule of thumb, however, can be that congregationalists are generally considered mainline and those congregationalist churches that prioritize the social gospel are more in keeping with the mainline trends in the country than those that do not.

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