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Austin Cline

Republican Mike Huckabee: Winning America for Christ?

By September 20, 2007

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Do Republican politicians care more about effective government or more about using government to promote their religion? Sometimes it's hard to tell because some Republicans spend more time talking about the latter than the former. Even some Democrats do this, going on and on about how religion is necessary and important for morality, values, and good government. It's all nonsense, no matter who's saying it, but we hear it more often — and stated more strongly — from conservative Republicans.
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.

[emphasis added]
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee
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.”

[emphasis added]

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.

Comments
September 20, 2007 at 10:38 pm
(1) DeeGee says:

Huckabee and Senator Brownback are the scariest candidates, IMHO. They should leave the political arena and run for Pope or some other religious office if they want to put forth their religious beliefs onto others. As an atheist, I am terrified at the idea of either of them becoming the Republican nominee because they could actually win. Neither of them, along with many other Republican (mainly) candidates do not get the idea that the U.S. President is a civil, secular office, not a religious one.

September 21, 2007 at 12:30 pm
(2) Chukmaty says:

Why would a person being honest about their religious and moral beliefs scare you? Actually I think I can understand where you are coming from, because the minority of atheist and agnostic elitists have been forcing their morals on Americans for years, that scares Christians and Jews alike.

Considering that George Washington, our first President was one who “accepted” Christ, and was the one who set the standard for presidential behavior for those to follow as Commander and Chief, I am not too worried myself.

Mike Huckabee stated that he felt that the best policy is to be open and honest about what your beliefs were if running for public office, and he would prefer an honest Atheist to a hypocritical Christian. Huckabee is a sincere man who is unashamed of what he believes in.

September 21, 2007 at 12:46 pm
(3) Curiosis says:

Actually I think I can understand where you are coming from, because the minority of atheist and agnostic elitists have been forcing their morals on Americans for years, that scares Christians and Jews alike.

Ensuring that people have the freedom to live how they want isn’t “forcing their morals on Americans.”

Allowing gay marriage doesn’t force anyone into one. Stopping the government from promoting christianity doesn’t force atheism on anyone.

All you’ve lost is the ability to impose your will on others.

September 21, 2007 at 12:47 pm
(4) Austin Cline says:

Why would a person being honest about their religious and moral beliefs scare you?

Why would you disingenuously suggest that I am frightened by honesty about one’s religious and moral beliefs.?

Why would you ignore every issue raised in the piece in order to raise this red herring? Is it possible that you don’t have any substantive objections or rebuttals to make?

Actually I think I can understand where you are coming from, because the minority of atheist and agnostic elitists have been forcing their morals on Americans for years, that scares Christians and Jews alike.

Feel free to support this allegation if you can, or retract it if you cannot.

Considering that George Washington, our first President was one who “accepted” Christ, and was the one who set the standard for presidential behavior for those to follow as Commander and Chief, I am not too worried myself.

Considering that George Washington, our first President, rarely went to church, was never confirmed, didn’t take communion, and used language that was more consistent with Deism than orthodox Christianity, I wish more presidents did in fact look to him as a standard for behavior. Perhaps the reason you aren’t too worried is due to lack of knowledge about the degree to which modern politicians diverge from the Deism and Christian Deism of the nation’s founders. Ignorance is bliss, as they say.

Mike Huckabee stated that he felt that the best policy is to be open and honest about what your beliefs were if running for public office, and he would prefer an honest Atheist to a hypocritical Christian. Huckabee is a sincere man who is unashamed of what he believes in.

And I’m a sincere atheist who is unashamed to point out that any politician who uses his office and power to promote his personal religious beliefs has no business in office — he should seek the pulpit, not elected office.

September 21, 2007 at 2:57 pm
(5) L. F. Graham says:

I guess when Huckabee accepted nearly $72,000 in gifts from a rich electrical contractor that was setting the moral christian standard. Authoring a diet book while govenor was another fine christain example of setting a good moral example. Huckabee was Arkansas govenor in name only, he was much too busy helping himself to help the people of Arkansas. He has been a southern baptist preacher, Lt Govenor, and Govenor, in other words the man is in his 50′s and has never had a real job to this day except helping himself.
Just another plutocrat pretending to be for democracy and doing a very poor job of it.

September 21, 2007 at 5:35 pm
(6) J. Atkinson says:

According to a 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, roughly 80 percent of Americans consider themselves Christian.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States

If that many Americans have already accepted “Jesus Christ”, than shouldn’t there already be less crime, less divorce, less domestic violence, less child abuse and the list goes on and on.

Politicians like Huckabee don’t present a very convincing or compelling case by holding up Christianity as the only solution to the moral and social issues that we all face. Religion hasn’t done a very good job up to now, and it’s had a long run at it, that’s for sure.

September 21, 2007 at 9:14 pm
(7) John Hanks says:

According to legend, Jesus hated blockheads and hypocrites. To this extent, I wish he was here now to take these crooks on.

September 21, 2007 at 9:16 pm
(8) Ron says:

http://www.holysmoke.org/icr-pri.htm
Go here to check prison population by denomination

September 22, 2007 at 5:50 am
(9) J. Atkinson says:

Thanks for the link Ron. Yes, that’s my point exactly. If, as the Huckabee types claim, crime (and bad moral behaviour in general) is due to a lack of religious (Christian) faith, prisons should be full of atheists. Yet, as the stats you point out reflect, it’s completely the opposite.

September 22, 2007 at 8:04 pm
(10) Ron says:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm

J Atkinson. Here is another link re divorce rates by denomination.

December 16, 2008 at 8:12 pm
(11) DeepcreekXC says:

Lets face it. Neither Atheists nor religious have really done a great job for religious freedom. Still, in the past two hundred years, there have been far more persecutions of religion than the other way around. Just look at the French Revolution, Soviet Union, Cuba, Communist China, Communist Mexico, and maybe Nazi Germany, depending on how you look at it. I’m not saying theism is right about everything, but we must not act like the innocents here.

December 23, 2008 at 12:50 pm
(12) Todd says:

i can’t figure out who you’re talking about here, or what you’re trying to say. Could you clarify who the pronouns are?

Communist Mexico? WtF does atheism have to do with the French Revolution? In Nazi Germany that was one religion going after another, the Nazis were quite Xian. In Soviet Russia all the trigger men were eastern orthodox Xian. In America, you can always find a party; in Soviet Russia, the party can always find YOU!

December 23, 2008 at 4:49 pm
(13) Tom Edgar says:

The U S A unarguably is the most religious Christian “Western” advanced country in the world

The U S A unarguably is the most criminal advanced “Western” country with both the highest incarceration and crime rates by far. It is the only country to have the Death Penalty.It has had God bothering Presidents such as corrupt Nixon, sexual freedom Clinton, and bomb’em Bush. Torturer Cheney, and the rest of the CIA are wonderful examples of God fearing Americans? I hope not.

This is the argument for Religiosity? It has very weak support by the evidence.

December 26, 2008 at 12:08 pm
(14) Drew says:

Religionists persist in the delusion that they are persecuted, because this is an effective tool for retaining group cohesion, and even better for training members to not listen to information that comes from outside of their own group (ie unbiased real knowledge to counter internally produced propaganda).

Pretending that the various totatlitarian dogmas of the 20th Century were “atheist” is a big part of this lie. Claiming that religion has “suffered” from them is exaggerated at best. In places like the Soviet Union, what really happened is that religion lost the privelege of government endorsement that it previously enjoyed, and continues to enjoy in most of the world.

As has been pointed out ad nauseum, blaming atheism for the deeds of communists is not relevant. It is merely theistic demonising.

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