Over at TPM, Sahil Kapur points out that there's a back story to Rick Santorum's claim that President Obama's "phony theology" has something to do with his attachment to "radical environmentalists." A couple of weeks ago, Santorum had this to say at the Colorado Energy Summit:
“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit. We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through the course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create.”
It's quite a stretch to consider Obama an Earth Firster, but lurking in the background of Santorum's dominionism is the discussion initiated by UCLA medievalist Lynn White in a short but influential article for Science in 1967 entitled "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis." An historian of technology, White traced the Western imperative to exploit nature to the "Judeo-Christian dogma of creation," in which "no item in the physical creation had any purpose save to serve man's purposes."
Santorum's account reflects the debate the article sparked, where some religious thinkers argued that the God of Genesis did not encourage exploitation of nature but good stewardship--a position that in any event has been embraced by many Judeo-Christian religious bodies. Whether good stewardship would be advanced by doing away with the EPA, as Santorum wishes, is of course another question.
For his part, White contended that the ecologic crisis required an alternative religious ethos, one that he found in the teachings of St. Francis: "The key to an understanding of Francis is his belief in the virtue of humility--not merely for the individual but for man as a species. Francis tried to depose man from his monarchy over creation and set up a democracy of all God's creatures."
Good Catholic that he is, Santorum seems unlikely to embrace this ecologic vision. Yesterday, in fact, he was in Steubenville, Ohio, home of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and delivered this riposte to his environmentalist critics.
What they have done, and I referred to it the other day, and I got criticized by some of our less than erudite members of the national press corps who have a difficulty understanding when you refer to someone's ideology to the point where they elevate Earth and they say that, well, men and humanity is just one of a variety of different species on the earth and should be treated no differently.
Pretty unFranciscan, I'd say.