Friday, December 14, 2007

Don’t Southern Baptists Think That Mormons and the Devil Are Brothers?

Disclosure: I was an active member of a Southern Baptist church for several years, and was licensed to preach by my church when I was twenty, (a preparatory step until, usually, a young person finishes seminary and is ordained). I had almost all good experiences with the Southern Baptists; unfortunately the one bad experience I had really managed to count. My pastor also was a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Dallas, where Huckabee “attended,” only my pastor actually earned a degree.

I've noticed that in most any other churches or denominations, one finds examples of clergymen with a wide variety of personalities: studious, garrulous, hilarious, solemn, contemplative, extroverted, introverted, etc. But Baptist preachers tend to come in only one or two personalities. In fact, mostly only one. It’s a bit hard to capture this personality in words, so I’ll just say, if you watch and listen to Mike Huckabee, you're seeing it. I knew or listened to 50 preachers exactly like him. My own aspirations to become a Baptist minister (misguided as they otherwise may have been on other grounds), were squelched by well-meaning preachers and outgoing who recognized that no church would ever have me because I didn’t have that personality.

Okay, so maybe I’m knocking the personality, which is easy for me because I haven't got any. And I recognize how that Baptist personality helped the SBC grow to be the biggest Protestant group in America, and stay that way all these years. And, most of the non-Baptist commentators who say they see something in Huckabee are reacting to that very same personality. If you’ve never run across it before it can be very winsome.

The thing is, I have run across it before, and it scares hell out of me that this guy might someday become President.

The thing is, you can't expect any future profiles or magazine covers to uncover The Real Mike Huckabee, or to peel back the "layers" of Mike Huckabee, even if they promise to do so. There is no other, realer, Huckabee. There are no other layers to Mike Huckabee to peel. This is it. And all there ever will be.

But just because the universal Baptist preacher personality is rather shallow, doesn’t mean it's dishonest. Huckabee adds that element all on his own.

So far, he’s lied repeatedly in public debates and interviews that he has a “theology degree,” and has provided false biographical information that he has a masters from Southwestern.

A profile in the Christian Science Monitor said “If elected, Huckabee would be only the second preacher president, after James Garfield. He senses that could be an obstacle. ‘Anytime you have been a person who was identified as a pastor and you've got a seminary education and theology degree, people tend to worry about you,’ Huckabee told the Values Voter Summit in Washington last month.”

Jim Geraghty at NRO called him out on his degree fib, and Huckabee’s research director e-mailed him back frankly admitting that “Governor Huckabee doesn’t have a theology degree. He only spent a year in seminary.”

It isn't pastors with seminary educations and "theology degrees [sic]" that tend to make me worry, Governor. I worry when they lie to me.

Then there’s Huckabee’s completely dishonest responses to questions about Romney’s qualifications as a Christian: is he one? This question was asked by CBS News: “Do you believe that Mormonism is a legitimate form of Christianity?”

[Huckabee’s answer is no, he doesn’t think Mormons are Christians, but this is how he phrased it]:

Gov. Huckabee: “You know, Mormonism is a faith that people adhere to. And I think people ought to respect anybody’s faith. I am not all that familiar with the intricate details. I have enough trouble keeping up with my own faith. So, I do not spend lots of time trying to evaluate somebody else’s.” “But do you think they’re real Christians?”

Gov. Huckabee: “Once again, I am not going to try to judge. That is for them to determine whether they accept Jesus Christ as the only revelation of God on Earth. And, if they do, then that is how a person is a Christian, not by the label they wear, but by the position they take on the role and the personhood of Christ.”

I am only speaking from my own experience when I say that no born-again Christian kid, who preached his first sermon as a teenager, (like me), went to a Baptist college to major in the Bible, spent a year in seminary, pastored two churches and ran the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, has finally reached the ripe old age of 52 without having a very firmly established opinion about the doctrinal illegitimacy (from a Baptist point of view) of one of the largest religious bodies in the country. Huckabee also has, I can assure you, very specific opinions (even if he doesn't have so much in the way of facts) about Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, liberal Methodists, and Congregationalists (each and every one of us “lost as a goose in a snowstorm”). Yet he says he doesn't have an opinion about the Mormons? You may as well find a radical professor who’s spent his life studying Marxism who says he’s never thought about what capitalism is or whether it's been good for humanity.

Now, I don’t object to Huckabee holding this opinion about the LDS church. I’m a Catholic, and we don’t consider the LDS orthodox, either (not that Huckabee gives a damn what a heretic idolater like me thinks about anything). And I don’t believe that comments and opinions that might be appropriate in the pulpit or at your own church ought to be shared when you’re a presidential candidate making statements in the national press. It doesn't bother me even one tiny bit if Huckabee, the preacher, tells his congregation, “Now, we Baptists don’t believe Mormons are real Christians because….”

It’s not the opinion that galls me. I repeat: It’s the lying.

So how could he handle answering reporters' loaded questions, without lying?

He could try being a gentleman, even a Christian gentleman: When asked, he can reply, “Each of my fellow candidates identifies himself publicly with the Savior, Jesus Christ, which is the Biblical qualification for calling oneself "Christian." So who am I to judge them? I take them at their word. And if you want more than that, you can ask them--or you can ask Jesus.”)

But Huckabee, even as a candidate, is still an evangelical Southern Baptist preacher, which means he’s nothing if not smugly self-assured that he owns God’s truth just as surely and as unreflectively as he owns his Social Security number. (Unfair? I can name four other smugly self-assured Southern Baptists for you: Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Bill Moyers). Besides, Huckabee loves these questions, because they allow him to send messages to his evangelical base: I am the Christian leader here.

Not that there's anything Christ-like about the way, when Huckabee "apologizes," he has to twist the knife some more while pretending (publicly) to be pulling it out.

Like after that Mormons believe Jesus is brother to the Devil crack, (which I believe was done on purpose), Huckabee told reporters

“After the debate today, I went to Mitt Romney and apologized to him because I said I would never try -- ever -- to try and somehow pick out some point of your faith and make it an issue,” Huckabee told reporters, describing Romney as "gracious" in responding to the apology.

Let me rephrase this Huckabeespeak apology in straight English . “Governor Romney, I wouldn’t dream of picking out and making an issue of any of your people’s stupid doctrines, like, for instance, this one I've heard about lately that My Beautiful Saviour and Old Scratch are brothers.”

Romney automatically qualified as “gracious” when he didn't flatten this punk for that "apology."

Then there were Huckabee’s phony comments on Cuba. Again, it’s not so much how his policies are foolish and poorly thought out. It’s the way he lies about them.

Although the candidates kept it polite on stage, Fred Thompson's campaign circulated press clippings from 2002 in which Huckabee called for an end to the trade embargo with Cuba. In a letter to President Bush, Huckabee wrote at the time: ``U.S. policy on Cuba has not accomplished its stated goal of toppling the Castro regime and instead has provided Castro with a convenient excuse for his own failed system of government.''

That stance is bound to rile many Cuban Americans in Miami-Dade, who believe that the embargo helps undermine Fidel Castro's repressive regime.

Huckabee is certain to face questions about the embargo at a Monday morning press conference in Miami, where he is expecting an endorsement from Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, one of the most prominent Cuban-American Republicans in the state.

Caught off guard, Huckabee's campaign said two hours after the debate that he had since changed his position on the embargo after consulting with Cuban-American leaders.

“'He's committed to vetoing any legislation that lifts sanctions on Cuba,” said Huckabee spokeswoman Alice Stewart.

This doesn’t even qualify as a flip-flop, which requires at least one complete news cycle. Two hours later? So how does he explain this later?

“I really wasn’t that aware of a lot of the issues that exist between Cuba and the US. Being in Arkansas it’s not something that there’s a close proximity of.”

That’s right, Republicans. He denies that before last month he even knew we weren’t getting along with Cuba.

We’ve had a trade embargo against Cuba since 1960--the Eisenhower administration. Yes, Huck was only 5, but since then we’ve had the Bay of Pigs, the Missile Crisis, and four decades of expeditions by Leftist students and their professors to help the People’s Republic get their cane crop in. I was little in 1960, too, and Michigan is even farther from Cuba than Arkansas is, but I’ve heard of our troubles with Cuba.

Besides, there was that letter Huckabee wrote in 2002 telling the President that the embargo against Cuba wasn’t accomplishing “its stated goal of toppling the Castro regime.” Which kind of implies, you know, awareness.

And Cuba not in close proximity to Arkansas? Imagine President Huckabee, limited to imagining threats only from “something that there’s a close proximity of”--meaning it’s at least closer than Cuba. Inner-city Baltimore, maybe.

Then my favorite was this exchange on Fox News Sunday, which got by everybody, apparently, except yours truly, and my longsuffering wife who's had me repeating it to her all week.

Chris Wallace asked Huckabee to comment on the destroyed CIA interrogation videotapes, and, apparently drawing a blank similar to the one he had over last week’s NIE report, Huckabee decided he’d answer a different question about torture instead.

WALLACE: …What do you make of the CIA destroying the tapes of those two investigations — or those two interrogation interrogations? And as president, what would you do about it?

HUCKABEE: Well, it goes back to this whole issue whether or not we should have torture. You're about to have a guest on this program for whom I hold in high esteem, and that's Senator John McCain.

I think it's absurd, and I've said this many times, for anybody running for president to think they know more about torture than John McCain.

I don’t know if it would be absurd for anyone to say that, I just don’t see how it answers the question, nor how it has to do either with the issue of the videotapes, or any issues of torture. Suppose Wallace asked if we should increase funding for prostate cancer, would Huckabee start blustering: “I think it's absurd, and I've said this many times, for anybody running for president to think they know more about prostate cancer than Rudy Giuliani.”

And? So?

But Huckabee wasn’t finished, deciding he'd take a stab at the videotape issue after all. But first he had more to say about torture.

One of the reasons that I came out this week — and I had said so earlier, but nobody was paying attention. Now people are paying attention to what I'm saying. But I don't believe that we ought to torture. I think it's a policy that is beneath us. It is obviously unproductive.

And every single military person with whom I've spoken, people who actually have been trained and who have been on either side of this issue, either being tortured or being asked to do it — I've got to tell you, I can't find anybody who says that ought to be the policy of the United States.

So when we start destroying documents, what are we destroying them for? Are we doing it for security purposes or to cover somebody's rear end?

If we're covering somebody's rear end, we need to expose their rear end and kick their rear end for doing something that's against the best interest of the United States and the responsibility and the respectability of this country.

Did you get that?

Huckabee says he's had many conversations with military persons asking them if torture should be the policy of the United States. Then I'll bet he asks them after that if they think we should have a policy of shooting unarmed prisoners. If he really asked them this and didn’t just make the whole thing up, (I do think he makes this stuff up), did he really think that military commanders were going to say, “Yes, governor, our policy should be torture.”

This is exactly what I mean when I say Huckabee has a one-layer personality. Don’t look beneath what he says, because he never does.

But even more outrageous (I was amazed that Matthews let it go by), was his statement that he has discussed torture with American military people “on either side of this issue…[those military persons] either being tortured or being asked to do it.”

Being asked to do it? Is he saying he’s talked to military people who are being asked to torture? By whom? By General Petraeus? By Bob Gates? This would qualify as a really, really big news story if anybody actually believed this guy. (And yet he is being taken so seriously! It's that personality, my friend. It makes you want to trust him).

Soldiers asked by superiors to torture. Can you imagine if Huckabee made a stupid comment like this as President, with a Democratic majority in Congress? Conyers and Levin would have to be cryogenically preserved just so they could be brought back later to wind up the last of their investigations in 2099. (Leahy’s already been cryogenically preserved twice and brought back, which is why he acts that way and always believes we're still in the middle of the Watergate hearings).

My point: not only is Huckabee a big liar, but a big, bad liar. Those who like Huckabee call him a “great candidate” and “very smart.”

Does this sound smart to you? Does voting for him sound smart to you?


Leo said...

Very interesting article. I must admit that Huck seemed a good second choice but the more he opens his mouth the less interest I have in him. Like too may preachers he is prone to exaggeration and half-truth to get his point across.

One would think that he could develop/devise a better response on the Mormon issue but that inability seems to be a systemic weakness in his psyche.

If he is called to preach then he should keep to his calling.

Anonymous said...

This isn't a Huckabee or Mormon issue at all. The "systemic weakness" is nothing more than political correctness. PC is so prevalent it appears to be invoked instinctively nowadays. Beware of what you say and really think, even if you hold valid opinions, because every opinion is going to offend somebody. Anything said can and will be twisted, spinned, overblown, misquoted, and used against you. And since political correctness is really about power, not equality, those who don't play the game get crucified.

Anonymous said...

When Ellison the Muslim ran for office, the MSM treated him with love and tenderness while flogging anyone who brought his religion into the conversation.
I hope Huck does not win the nomination. He is not my first or second, or third choice.
But, it is interesting that the MSM cannot print a picture or provide any coverage regarding him that does not have the frame of Evangelical Christian around it.

T.R. Clancy said...

If he was called to preach, I don't know why he ran for governor and now president--unless he means to turn the White House into his pulpit.

I think the MSM keeps bringing up Huck's religion for two reasons, one being that nothing else about Huck is interesting, and two that Huck, in spite of his denials, wants to be known as the evangelical candidate because that's how he plans to win.