Coming under fire from the Tea Party wing of the GOP, presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum distanced himself from statements by "his longtime friend" Jesus Christ.
Calling Christ's now-famous comments to "multitudes" on a Judean mountaintop "an unfortunate choice of words," Santorum stressed that he still admires the itinerant preacher for his "inspiring life story."
"Jesus is a great guy," Santorum said, "but I'm not going to be responsible for everything my friends and associates say."
Christ has a long and complicated history with Republicans. Many party stalwarts have said he is the very symbol of what they stand for. But his message of feeding the poor and forgiving tax collectors and prostitutes has always made him enemies among both the libertarian wing and the so-called "values voters." But it's this "Sermon on the Mount" that's caused real anger among the grass roots, leaving many to ask whether Christ is a Republican at all.
"Blessed are the meek?!" wrote Ann Coulter about the sermon, "This guy is a hippy and a RINO, and he's older than Ron Paul. He needs to get out of the public spotlight and start taking his medication." Others have called Christ's pro-meek position "nothing more than Obama-style class warfare."
"Jesus is not a socialist," Santorum said, "I don't believe that for a minute. I think the quote that he supports the 'poor in spirit' was taken out of context. But let's just say I'd rather bless the job creators in this country. That's what we need."
Santorum also pointed out that while respecting the carpenter and part-time messiah, he's disagreed with him before on capital punishment and national defense. During the Sermon, Christ also praised what he called "the peacemakers," leading many in the party to question his resolve on Iran's nuclear program and his support for Israel. Santorum has spent the last few days dealing with questions about his relationship to Christ, whom he's called his "savior" in the past. Campaign insiders are privately upset by the issue.
"We're dealing with this Jesus thing, when we should be fighting Romney," said one staffer. "And it's all nonsense. I mean, Santorum is a friend of Christ, but it's not like he runs Santorum's life or anything."
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