Rick Santorum is getting a bad rap from feminists, because despite all claims to the contrary, he’d fully support the women’s movement if only they’d let men run it. Plus, you’d be hard pressed to find a more ardent defender of a woman’s constitutional right to vote the way her husband tells her to.

Well, at least that’s been Santorum’s overarching message to evangelical Christians the past few months. And while his notions of gender equality might frighten those historically on the losing end of patriarchy, you can’t question the effectiveness of his strategy. With the GOP primaries beginning their swing through the Bible belt—you know, where all the “real Americans” live when not tipping cows for giggles—Santorum’s chief opponent, Mitt Romney, will have a hard time convincing voters he’s the best representative of their beliefs. For though Romney is a man of faith, the right’s evangelical fringe tends to greet Mormons with the same open arms with which they’d greet a practitioner of Voodoo.

And by open arms, I of course mean a shotgun.

So, Santorum is wise to position himself as a champion of Christianity. I mean, the only things Bible-belters love more than a pious Christian are Dale Earnhardt commemorative plates and deep-fried butter. But hey, that’s the South, which for the record downloads more snuff films per capita than any other region in the world. I don’t have the statistics on this (because I’m making it up), but how could it not be true?

Either way, as long as Santorum is running against Romney, he can continue to win big by cloaking himself in Christian revivalism. Should he advance to the general election, however, Santorum will likely become desperate to distance himself from the headlines he’s made the past two months. If he approaches the general election with the same religious fervor and righteous chauvinism that have catapulted him into front-runner status, he’ll get blown out in November.

In sticking with his tired, culture-war clichés, Santorum will find himself campaigning against much more than a slick, well-funded Democratic incumbent with an impressive record. No, to become the next president Santorum will need to do far more than beat President Obama.

To win in November, Santorum must ultimately defeat the women’s movement, itself.

To his credit, Santorum is gearing up for that challenge like a revitalized Andrew Dice Clay on a comeback tour. This past weekend, he again tried to frame the choice between he and Obama as one between good, Christian values and a phony theology—science and reason—that places “earth above man.” And while most have questioned how a man who believes a burning bush can deliver prophecy has the temerity to question anyone else’s beliefs, what should be getting the most attention is Santorum’s ‘50s-era usage of “man.”

Seriously, George W. Bush was two generations removed from being born an ape, and even he knew to say “people,” “Americans,” or something otherwise so confusing it would totally mask his chauvinism.

But the sad reality is, Santorum didn’t misspeak. He meant “man.” And if there is anything his candidacy has demonstrated, it’s that the former Senator from Pennsylvania totally “hearts” all things penis. We learned this shortly after he was announced the winner of the Iowa caucus. The following weekend, in a speech at a private school in New Hampshire, Santorum stated that a child would be better off with a father in prison than with no father at all. You see, the male influence is so vital to proper childhood development, that without a father—even a despicable one—children will just end up believing all the stupid shit their moms say.

You know: like women are people too?

The notion that women are people, by the way, is one of those “phony” lessons kids pick up in schools, which is why he declared in a recent New York Times interview that he would home school his children at the White House if elected. In defending his stance, Santorum said, “Where did they come up that public education and bigger education bureaucracies was the rule in America? Parents educated their children, because it’s their responsibility to educate their children.”

And hey, I have to agree with Santorum here, because while I learned a lot in school—like how to pluralize verbs—I’m not sure where I’d be without my father’s guidance and instruction. I mean, without him, I would never have learned about the flammability of flatulence or how to eat a Big Mac in one bite, and those are exactly the kinds of lessons that really prepare a child for alcoholism.

Not that Santorum will be passing similar lessons on to any of his seven children, because there’s an unstated reality behind his decision to home school his kids: namely, that he’ll be too busy meeting with heads of state and playing golf to do any of the schooling he, as a parent, is responsible for. Nope, in Santorum’s White House, the children will be taught by the first barefoot-and-pregnant lady. And though Rick doesn’t trust his wife, Karen, to make decisions about her body, he does trust her to adequately teach their children the three Rs of education: repent, repress, and repeal Roe vs. Wade.

Having Karen stay at home to raise the kids, aside from being the way God and backwards-thinking men want it, will free Santorum up to do what men do: which, if you’re Santorum, is spreading a model of Christianity so anachronistic it’s as out of place in the 21st century—what with its notions of civil liberty and enlightenment—as Kim Kardashian would be at a Mensa meeting.

And though it’s a message that’s served him well in the primaries, it won’t sit well with most who aren’t daily praying for the rapture. Women, in particular, aren’t going to warm up to the man. Though if his sweater vest is any indication, the last thing Santorum is worried about is appealing to women. Only Christians.

Which speaks to the real problem behind Santorum’s recent surge in popularity: namely, that he’s trying to pass off his medieval gender stereotypes as inherently Christian. The issue for Santorum is that when he says Christian, he acts as if there is a universal doctrine into which is folded all Christians, whereas nothing is further from the truth. In the real world, Christianity consists of hundreds of different denominations, all with contrasting views and biblical interpretations, some of which differ so greatly from orthodox tradition that they share more commonalities with Islamic faith than with anything Santorum preaches. So, in trying to define American Christianity by his own strict limitations, he succeeds only in suppressing the true Christian character of this nation.

And that nature, for the record, is a liberal one.

After all, can you think of a more liberal document than the U.S. Constitution? Born of enlightenment-era ideas, that document places the protection of the rights, equality and dignity of the individual as the primary purpose and responsibility of this nation. And it’s the Constitution’s dedication to the preeminence of the individual that shapes most American Christian’s notion of charity, kindness, dignity and compassion.

So, as much as Republicans like Santorum would have you believe the upcoming election will be a battle between Christian beliefs and secularism, the truth is—since most Americans identify themselves as Christians, including the majority of liberals—the culture war is not about religion.

The culture war pits, on one side, the majority of Americans who hold to the freedoms and liberties that are the promise of this nation, and on the other side that endlessly vocal group of Americans terrified by the consequences of freedom and liberty, of both the power and responsibility that comes with personal choice.

Santorum doesn’t trust Americans to make the right choice.

Something tells me that, come November, the American voter will prove him wrong.