In 1998, Huckabee told a Baptist convention that “I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ,” and explained why he gave up pastoring for political campaigning: “I didn’t get into politics because I thought government had a better answer. I got into politics because I knew government didn’t have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives.”
Source: The Jewish Week [emphasis added]
Non-Christians should be very concerned about a politician who insists that only by following his religion can we solve problems in society — and, even worse, that his entire reason for getting into politics was to promote his religion as the solution to problems in society. That may not be the worst part, though: in order assuage people's concerns, Huckabee basically denied the principles of his faith in a manner that should be offensive to all Christians:
Asked about why his comments about reclaiming the nation for Christ shouldn’t alarm Jewish voters he said “If you understand what that means, it means that if that were to happen, this is the Jesus who said ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ What it means is that you wouldn’t have children going hungry at night; you wouldn’t have women having the daylights beat out of them by abusive, alcoholic husbands.”
Jewish voters shouldn’t object to that concept, he said, because it does not imply political coercion, only a personal view of a perfected world.
“It doesn’t mean everybody would go to the same church as I do and pay their tithe; it does mean there would be a civility, a stand against corruption,” he said.
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee
Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images
Since when does "accepting Christ" into your life mean nothing more than civility, standing against corruption, feeding the hungry, and stopping abusive husbands? The phrase "accepting Christ into your life" has very definitive and theological connotations to evangelical Christians involving a personal relationship with God, being saved from eternal damnation in hell, and a transformative life experience. It's definitely not just about becoming more civil towards others.
In fact, conservative evangelicals have criticized liberal, mainline Christians for treating Christianity as if it were just a positive philosophy of living. Here, though, Mike Huckabee's comments sound a lot like just that because he's portraying the acceptance of Jesus Christ into one's life as little more than learning how to help others and becoming a nicer person.
Besides, you certainly don't need Jesus Christ, Christianity, or any religion to accomplish any of what Huckabee describes. Secular atheists are no more likely to commit crimes than religious theists and are just as likely to be nice, decent people. It's arguable that secular atheism forces one to directly confront questions about morality and take responsibility for their moral decisions rather than simply adopt whatever moral command self-professed religious leaders tell people to believe.
“I understand why he doesn’t want to insult the 15 percent of the country that isn’t Christian,” said Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC). “But he apparently still doesn’t understand the difference between his role as a preacher and his role as a potential president.”
Huckabee, Forman said, “is not running to be pastor in chief, he’s running for commander in chief. Until he realizes that, he’s not ready for prime time.”
This is the distinction which so many politicians don't seem to understand — and perhaps because so many voters don't seem to quite understand it either. The President of the United States is a civil, secular office created for civil, secular purposes. A president is responsible for the administration of the executive branch of the federal government and, in times of war, for directing military policy.
A president has absolutely no responsibility or authority over any religious matters. Presidents cannot tell people when to pray, how to pray, what to pray, or to whom prayers should be directed. They don't even have the authority to recommend praying over not praying. Presidents cannot promote any one religion, theological tradition, or religious belief over any others as any sort of solution to any problems.