A few weeks ago Republican candidate Rick Santorum received a great deal of criticism for his criticism of Kennedy’s famous speech that details how he would separate his faith from his duty. While this accommodation sounds valiant – fitting perfectly with the American wariness at that time of Catholicism but presently with any religion, particularly Christianity – Santorum’s comments drove me to want to reexamine Kennedy’s speech in the light of the passage I was preaching when these events occurred. Matthew 11:1-15 was the text of my message a few weeks back, but not having had time to devote to such an examination until now, this blog post has been waiting for the occasion.
Let’s be honest about the speech. It was delivered by a master politician at a critical juncture in his campaign in which the country could have gone in either direction. His masterful handling of the issue effectively destroyed the fear that the pope would be in control of the White House. Further the manner in which he dealt with the issue never raised any doubt as to his faithfulness as a Catholic. While this speech did not ensure his election, it most certainly bolstered his chances while maintaining his Catholic credentials. Further, in Kennedy’s adept way, he recast the entire issue at hand making a far bolder statement of policy and principle than anyone had though was in question.
Having said that, let me delve into why Senator Santorum and other convictional Christians take issue with President Kennedy’s speech. This is best displayed by a comparison between a seemingly well understood American distinctive known as the separation of church and state and how this speech redefines it in such a way that no one could rightly speak of religious liberty without discussing Kennedy’s distinction. Perhaps redefinition is too strong of a statement, but it is a hard to miss how Kennedy elevates Jefferson’s statement about a wall of separation between church and state into an absolute barrier. Read the rest of this entry »