In recent years, American politics have been dominated by a series of ideological conflicts that have come to be known as “the culture wars.” And, with Christian moralizers such as Mike Huckabee entering the 2016 fray, this is unlikely to change any time soon.
Now Michael Dale “Mike” Huckabee is an affable, sometimes funny, ordinary sort of a guy. He is a Southern Baptist minister and a former Arkansas governor. He is expected to play a pivotal role in the GOP primaries, mainly because of his popularity with a key Republican constituency: evangelical Christians.
Huckabee often bases his various policy positions in a particular, oft-times peculiar understanding of Christianity, regularly quoting Bible passages to shore up his right-wing opinions on a number of issues. His spiritual expressions will likely play well with evangelical voters, but for me, his claims – both theologically and politically – are dubious at best.
Now, I do not believe that Mike Huckabee will be the Republican nominee, but just in case he is, let me give the reasons why I could never vote for him.
Reason #1. Huckabee repeatedly cites the Bible to justify his opposition to same-sex marriage, even though a growing majority of Christians think his argument is absolute bunk.
For years, Huckabee has cherry-picked a few scriptural passages to bolster his opposition to LGBT equality, telling CNN, for instance, that same-sex marriage “is not a political issue … It is a biblical issue,” and further saying that he will maintain his position “unless I get a new version of the Scriptures.” He also responded to the 2013 Supreme Court case striking down California’s ban on same-sex marriage by tweeting “Jesus wept,” and recently condemned marriage equality to a group of Hispanic evangelicals by declaring “when it comes to the sanctity of marriage, the court cannot change what God has created.”
Unfortunately for Huckabee, there is a growing cadre of theologians who are challenging the idea that the Bible demonizes homosexuality, arguing passages typically used to condemn LGBT people have been taken out of context. This is partly why multiple Christian denominations now formally embrace marriage equality, and why the majority of most major American Christian groups favor same-sex marriage – even if their hierarchy disagrees. Despite the best efforts of Huckabee and the Religious Right, their brand of Christianity that is narrowly focused on LGBT exclusion is a dying breed in the United States.
As a Christian pastor, I strongly suggest that Huckabee obtain that new version of the Scriptures he alluded to, or to really read the one he already has more carefully. I can find nothing in the New Testament that can be construed as criticism of LGBT equality, certainly not the passage, “Jesus wept.” The few limited passages in the Old Testament that might somehow be twisted to do so would take a far more literalist interpretation than I, as a progressive Christian, am willing to make. And, lest the Reverend Mr. Huckabee has forgotten, Saint Paul, in his second letter to the Christians at Corinth writes that with Jesus Christ, by his birth, death and resurrection, the old things are done away, and all things are made new. This means, at the very least, the Mosaic Law, wherein those isolated Old Testament passages concerning homosexuality are found.
Reason #2. Huckabee openly doubts the theory of evolution, and hints that creationism should be taught in public schools.
Huckabee challenged Darwinism in 2004, expressing support for teaching children creationism and telling the Arkansas Times, “I do not necessarily buy into the traditional Darwinian theory.”
While most white evangelical Protestants share Huckabee’s perspective, that viewpoint’s influence is waning within the broader spectrum of American Christianity. According to a 2013 Pew survey, only fifteen percent of white mainline Protestants believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. The same study also found that a substantial majority of American Roman Catholics support evolution, which makes sense when one realizes that the Vatican has been open to evolution since 1950. In most cases, Christians who support evolution simply do not see a belief in God as a reason to doubt evolution and that there is no reason to doubt God’s power to work through an evolutionary process.
Huckabee has voiced his support of intelligent design (the pseudoscientific view that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection) and he has stated that he does not accept the validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution. He was quoted in July 2004 on Arkansans Ask, his regular show on – get this – the Arkansas Educational Television Network: “I think that students also should be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution but to the basis of those who believe in creationism.” In the third GOP debate in June 2007, Huckabee was asked by Tom Fahey whether he believed in evolution, and he responded, in part: “I believe there is a God who was active in the creation process. Now, how did he do it, and when did he do it, and how long did he take? I don’t honestly know, and I don’t think knowing that would make me a better or a worse president…”
Huckabee’s statement about God being active in the creative process is something that I am sure he firmly believes and it is a sop to his evangelical base, but what really disturbs me is Huckabee’s final statement: “…and I don’t think knowing that would make me a better or a worse president.”
Au contraire, Mike! Science is absolutely critical in our nation, and given the current battle over putting intelligent design in the classroom, understanding evolution is essential for any President or leader. Science fuels technology, medicine, and the future of our environment in many ways. Evolution is central in biology, and that touches on medicine, genomics, HIV, vaccinations, green technology, global warming issues, and so much more. To not understand – or accept as fact – evolution would certainly do a disservice to the Office of the President and of the United States. We need strong leadership on science and education policy to guide our nation in all of these issues. We cannot afford to weaken our education systems and our children’s education because certain interest groups want to bring religion thinly disguised as “science” into the classroom.
Over 150 years after Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, a tome that has become the foundation of evolutionary biology, the scientific debate over natural selection is as settled as the medieval controversy over heliocentrism (the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun at the center of the Solar System, presented by such scientists as Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo). Evolution is a fact. But Mike Huckabee denies this fact.
As a Christian fundamentalist, Huckabee believes that every word of the Bible is the literal truth. Thus, Jonah actually hung out in the belly of a whale for seventy-two hours, and Samson really pushed down a stone building with his brute force. Huckabee believes that God made the earth in six days, and that the universe is just 6,000 years old. Never mind carbon dating. Huckabee falls into the “It’s a theory, so it’s not true” school of thinking. Such reasoning is intellectually dishonest.
Reason #3. Huckabee believes he would have “God’s blessing” if he won the 2016 election, because he wants to remake America as a “God-centered nation.”
The former governor has implied that, since he loves God, God would – by extension – bless his presidency. To be fair, he is not the first leader to invoke this sort of spiritual power, as European monarchs long claimed unmitigated authority by citing the “divine right of kings.” One of them, King Charles I of England, literally lost his head over that belief. They, similar to Huckabee, insisted that their leadership was ordained by God, and thus not beholden to earthy complaints.
Yet centuries of theologians have dismantled this claim, as does the Bible itself. The Old Testament is literally littered with examples of kings who came into power loving God, only to disappoint the Almighty. King Solomon, for example, was punished for his sins, and King Saul was rejected by God for his disobedience. To claim to be more righteous than these Biblical exemplars requires quite a bit of chutzpah, and the God of the Old Testament was not a huge fan of arrogant self-righteous leadership.
Like his well-tailored, suit-wearing, stage-sweating predecessors, Huckabee believes we need a “God-centered nation,” though it is never exactly clear what he means by that. When he is pressed about whether or not he is interested in a theocracy (that is, governance by religious officials) or theonomy (Mosaic law should be observed by modern societies), Huckabee always demurs, but he did say on the Life Today TV show: “We cannot survive as a republic if we do not become, once again, a God-centered nation that understands that our laws do not come from man, they come from God.” (Sounds like a theonomy to me.)
And yet his most ardent supporters seem to have received Huckabee’s message that America is in decline because we have collectively lost sight of the divine origins of our laws and customs, and have developed a preference for a secular solution instead. If America at its most authentic and functionally best is, as Huckabee suggests, a Christian nation, why not establish Christianity as our national religion?
I will tell you why. Huckabee’s major premise is incorrect. This nation was not founded as a Christian nation, but as a secular society that decreed that church and state be separated. There is to be no state religion in the United States of America and Huckabee knows that.
So there you have it: my reasons for not voting for Mike Huckabee. First, I do not want a president who cites the Bible rather than the Constitution as his authority, as evidenced by Huckabee’s views on same-sex marriage, as well as other social issues such as abortion, the minimum wage, immigration reform, and capital punishment. Second, I do not want a president who is anti-science, as demonstrated by Huckabee’s stand on evolution and creationism. And third and lastly, I do not want a president who would be comfortable in establishing a theocracy or even a theonomy as Huckabee seems to favor.