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"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

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Huck Stepped In It, A Ringing Endorsement, Election Coverage Goes Tabloid, and more…

Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:17 am, December 13th 2007     —    6 Comments »

Huck Can’t Duck This One, All He Can Do Is Apologize . . .

After the teaser that everybody reacted to, the NYTimes posted a full preview of the article featuring Huck’s now infamous comments that is not due to appear until Sunday. Well, now “the context” is fully known. Says Jim Geraghty:

I’m not sure the context is all that exculpatory . . . .

Ah, the master of understatement. Based on this insight on his part I am willing to give Mr. Geraghty at least a temporary reprieve from the “accomplice to bigotry” accusation I made back in July. Rich Lowry also puts it well:

Oh yeah, here is the pastor who hasn’t thought much about Mormonism, and innocently asks about the devil. For me, this is vintage Huckabee in how he’s played the Mormon issue.

Lowell: On this business of Huck not having thought about Mormonism: Richard Land has said more than once that more Southern Baptists leave that faith for Mormonism than for any other religion; and more “lapsed” Mormons become Southern Baptists than any other religion. In other words, folks, the competition for souls here is intense. Now, if Land, the Chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention, has access to numbers like that, do you really think there’s a Southern Baptist pastor anywhere who is unaware of them? Just asking the question.

John adds: In analyzing Huckabee’s apology this morning, Jim Geragthy says:

In light of this, I am persuaded; I am persuaded that Mike Huckabee genuinely didn’t know whether Mormons believed that Jesus and Satan were brothers, and that he believed the right time to take a harder look at these reports of strange beliefs among Mormons was when he was speaking on the record to a New York Times reporter.

Lowell interjects once more: The “Mormons believe Satan is Jesus’ brother” canard happens to be a favorite hobby-horse of extreme anti-Mormons. And Huck wants us to believe he just innocently came up with that, off the top of his head, due to his ignorance about Mormonism?

Here is video, in which Huck skates as fast as he can to put this behind him.

Back to the original script: Now, the NYTimes piece does not contain any more extraordinary whoppers like that one, but it does contain quite a bit of insight into religion and this election cycle:

Huckabee may lose the race, but he has already scrambled it. The Republican presidential contest was expected to focus on foreign policy, national security and executive competence. Huckabee has moved it to issues of character, religion and personality.

It’s the non-substantive campaign. Elect a rock star. I thought the Democrats were the only ones that did this, and on the basis of religion, mind you! More:

Nowadays Huckabee has more policy positions, but his campaign is really all about his Christian character. His slogan is ‘‘Faith, Family, Freedom,’’ which Huckabee, who was once a public-relations man for the Texas televangelist James Robison, wrote himself. Huckabee is no theocrat. He simply believes in the power of the Christian message, and in his ability to embody and deliver it. ‘‘It’s not that we want to impose our religion on somebody,’’ he wrote in ‘‘Character Makes a Difference,’’ a book first published in 1997 (as ‘‘Character Is the Issue’’) and reissued earlier this year. ‘‘It’s that we want to shape the culture and laws by using a worldview we believe has value.’’

Now bear in mind folks, I am a creedal Christian and former ministry professional myself. That is just double talk. For one thing, constitutionally, the Christian message, my message, the message I have preached, is not a message for the presidency of the United States. Secondly, theology and worldview are distinct things. Differing theologies can arrive at very similar worldviews. He could shape culture according to his worldview without the religion cracks he has made to date. The difference between theocrat and whatever it is Huckabee is trying to portray himself as here fails me.

K-Lo responds to some of this this way:

What resonated the most with me when Romney gave his “Mormon” speech is that it was no Mormon speech at all. He sounded like an American in love with America, offended for Americans that there was serious consideration being given to whether or not being Mormon disqualifies one for the presidency.

There’s a lesson that Huckabee missed! Finally from the piece comes what may be serious insight into Huckabee’s motives:

Dunn offers a possible explanation for the resistance from born-again leaders. ‘‘Mike Huckabee isn’t just another politician,’’ he told me. ‘‘He is an evangelical minister. If he does well in Iowa, as he appears to be doing, he will become a national figure no matter what happens after that. He could wind up eclipsing all the other evangelical leaders in this country in one fell swoop. And you know what it says in the Book of Proverbs. ‘Envy is the rottenness of the bones.’ ’’

This had not occurred to me until now, but maybe Huckabee is playing a variant on play for position strategy. Only he is not playing for position in the Republican Party, he is playing for position in the world of televangelists, megachurch pastors, and clergy of influence. And apparently he does not care if it splits the Republican party, or costs actual advancement on the issues that matter to Evangelicals, because a vote for Huckabee is really a vote for Guiliani.

Lisa Schiffren also had some interesting insight based on the rest of the article.

Romney himself declared Huckabee’s comments a step too far. Here is the AP telling and here Britain’s SkyNews. All of which lead up to Huckabee offering an apology after yesterday’s debate. It is really Huckabee’s only option, as John Mark Reynolds points out. But as Geraghty says:

The apology is the right move, but I’m going to call horsepuckey on Huckabee’s claim that a New York Times reporter knew more about comparative religions than guy with a theology degree.

OK, “accomplice” crack permanently rescinded. Huck is backpedaling faster than a circus bear. I think he has found the limits of American tolerance when it comes to religious statements in presidential campaigns. Will this be Huck’s “Dean Scream?” I am not sure Professor Bainbridge thinks it is so dramatic a moment, but the Prof sure does not like Huck.

Hugh Hewitt analyzed the entire event and concluded:

Will that put Huckabee’s anti-Mormon genie back in its bottle. I don’t think so. “That which is said while drunk has been thought out beforehand,” goes the old saying. In the modern media world, candidates for the presidency don’t say careless things to the New York Times. It was a premeditated aside, an attempt to get a virus into circulation. It didn’t work, but it did tell us a lot about Mike Huckabee.

There Are Endorsements…

…And then there are ENDORSEMENTS! Like Michael Novak’s in The Corner yesterday:

In any case, that’s the last straw. Someone has to protest, in the name of Christianity itself, that spreading bigotry and hatred for the sake of winning a political campaign is wrong. I for one don’t want to let this issue of bigotry and suspicion pass by without protest — and without open support for its victim. The least Americans can do is speak up for each other on matters of religious liberty.

There is a sentiment I can relate to quite personally. Read the whole thing.

Can You Believe?!…

Hotline REPRINTED that disgusting “underwear” piece from yesterday. Political reporting descends into tabloid territory. YUCK! What’s next presidential papparrazi?

Worse, someone has risen to Lawrence O’Donnell’s defense. But thank goodness there are others with a little common sense.

Huckabee notwithstanding, the left is still the worst at the religious attacks.


Even lefties get it sometimes.

John Mark Reynolds talks about thinking while voting. Excellent stuff, read it all.

Welcome to theo-nerdville on the “Are Mormons Christians?” question with actual reason involved. Amazing.

James Taranto was in rare form yesterday, comparing Huckabee to Clinton (The “Parsin’ Parson” – you have to love that) and taking on the NYTimes on The Speech.

GetReligion analyzes the Mormon/Evangelical coverage.

Are we reporters really going to ascribe all religious differences to bias? Talk about seeing reality in terms of black and white rather than shades of gray.

Dear person at GR: When it comes to electing a president, pretty much all religious differences are bias. In seminary, preaching and evangelism you may have a point, but not in this instance.

And some late links by Lowell (but gathered by John; this is a team blog, after all):

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Thomas Burr has assembled a raft of commentary about Huck’s religion-oriented anti-Romney tactics, all of which seems a little dated already in light of his apology.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Eric Mink:

Here, then, is a politician making no secret that, if elected, he would govern the United States according to the tenets of his particular branch of Christianity, that he would be a pastor armed with the power of the state. The contrast to Romney’s explicit disavowal of such an approach could not be more stark.

We have had quite enough of this.

Mink’s thoughtful piece is no valentine to either Huck or Mitt. Read the whole thing.

Newsweek actually does a decent job of comparing basic Mormon and Evangelical beliefs. I’m a little skeptical about the 100 million Evangelicals in America, however.


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