Playing Politics With the Faith: The Rise of Mike Huckabee and The Leadership Decline of the Evangelical Right in America

Bio_mike_huckabeeI rarely do this, but I am going to wade into the realm of politics here. I want to talk about the surprising candidacy of Mike Huckabee and how his ascendency to the lead of the polls in the Iowa Caucuses coming up next month reveals the decline of the leadership of the Evangelical Right in our country. If I had to declare a political allegiance, I would say that I was a Republican. Ugh. It pains me to even say that because the party of Reagan that I grew up with is no more. I am an extreme social and fiscal conservative, but I have not been able to see what difference a Republican in the White House or a Republican controlled majority in Congress has made in those areas. I could never vote for a Democrat because as unsophisticated as it might sound to some, I cannot support someone who believes that abortion is okay or that homosexuals should be able to marry or, well, there are a lot of issues like that, I guess. So, while I find myself on the conservative end of the political spectrum, I have found that I have no political home because the party that is supposed to embody those principles (the Republicans) has left the building. On almost every issue, I have seen Republicans compromise what they supposedly believe for the sake of economic gain or to increase their power. They are hardly conservatives, in my opinion.

That is not the most discouraging aspect of all of this, however. I am not surprised when political animals act like, well, animals. I expect no less. The sad part is, there also appears to be no home for anyone who cares about conviction in the evangelical Christian political movement at this point either.  From my far off observation perch, it appears that evangelical Christian political leaders, more popularly known as the Religious Right, have sold their souls for access to power. Case in point: A few weeks ago, Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, threw his support behind Rudy Guiliani, the former Republican mayor of New York who also happens to be pro-choice and pro-gay rights. Robertson said that those were still major issues for him, but this election was all about security and winning the War on Terror and Guiliani provided the best alternative in that quest. So, you sacrfice your convictions and everything that you have fought for for over 30 years just so that you have have more security? I thought that it was wrong to trust in horses and chariots. Aren’t we to trust in the name of the Lord?

Other evangelical leaders have come out in support of Mitt Romney, the Republican governor of Massachusetts. Or, they have at least flirted with the idea. He is pro-life and pro-family. He shares the conservative social values of many evangelical Christians. There is just one problem though: he is a Mormon. Again, I will probably come across as unsophisticated to some of my more erudite readers, but, I do not want a Mormon in the White House. Of all the false religions in the world, Mormonism is the one that is the most dangerous, in my opinion. They take the terms of Christianity like salvation, grace, righteousness, God, Jesus, etc., and co-opt them, giving them different meanings. The Mormon God is not the Christian God. The Mormon Jesus is not the Christian Jesus. It is very deceptive and it is a cult. They are not Christians. I would rather have a Muslim in the White House than a Mormon because at least then America knows what it is getting. In a general election between Hilary Clinton and Mitt Romney, I would vote for Clinton. That is how much I would be against a Romney presidency. It would legitimize Mormonism in our country like nothing else because Americans will not suffer the idea of having a member of a cult in the White House. In this relativistic age, we would accept the man but redefine how we see the religion. Mormonism would gain more validity through this than through any other possible means. How can evangelical leaders not see this? Some things are more important than family values – the Gospel, for instance.

That leads us to the unlikely ascendency of Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas and Southern Baptist pastor. He was an unknown darkhorse candidate who had executive leadership experience and also held strong conservative moral positions. Yet, he was shunned by the leadership of the Religious Right. By and large, they did not support him. Why? I believe that they did not support him because they did not believe that he could win. I believe that we have come to the point that we no longer look at the man, his positions and values, and his character and experience, but rather, we look at what benefits us the most. If we want access to power we throw our hat in the ring with the front runner, compromise our position, and promise that we’ll rally the evangelical voting block in that candidate’s favor. In return, we gain access to power and the promise of conservative judicial appointees. But, at what cost? Is access to power worth losing any credibility that we once had? Apparently, our "leaders" have not seen it that way.

But, the more that Huckabee speaks, the more that people listen. They are recognizing an almost long forgotten voice. They are recognzing the voice of an intelligent man who has moral convictions and who can articulate his positions effectively. I am not advocating that anyone vote for Huckabee nor am I siding with his candidacy. I’m still studying for myself what I think about all of this, so I can hardly tell anyone else what they should do (except for the Mormon in the White House thingy – don’t do that). But, I find it amazing that we have supposed Christian leaders who have become so political that they will not state their convictions during the primaries for fear of being on the losing side. The primaries are EXACTLY when we are supposed to support those candidates that most closely reflect our positions, even if they lose. Unfortunately, we have too many religious leaders who have become too accustomed to the halls of power in Washington. They have lost their prophetic impulse.

I don’t know if Huckabee will win or not. Maybe there are legitimate reasons that he should not be supported that I have not yet heard. Even if he does win, I don’t know if it will make a difference. But, this sad affair demonstrates yet again that the Religious Right has it completely wrong. If their existence bears any similarity to the essence of Christianity, they should stand for righteousness and truth and not grasp for worldly power. As followers of Jesus, we should be more prophetic than political. We should fight for justice and for the oppressed. We should be more issue oriented than party affiliated. When a candidate does come along that embodies our position, perhaps we should support that candidate as a statement of what we believe in even if he has no shot at winning. It is better to lose and hold your convictions than to win and sacrifice your soul.

I have been very frustrated with the evangelical political lobby for sometime. I don’t see Jesus in it. The fact that Huckabee, a candidate with a dream resume for conservative Christians is rising in the polls without the endorsement of the evangelical political leaders shows that not only have they lost any prophetic discernment, but they are also really bad politicians as well.  Apparently, the voters in Iowa see something in Huckabee that Pat Roberston and James Dobson did not: a winner. Or, maybe they would rather vote their convictions than play politics.   

12 Responses to Playing Politics With the Faith: The Rise of Mike Huckabee and The Leadership Decline of the Evangelical Right in America

  1. I just want to tell you, you’re post has opened my eyes. Thank you for sharing what should have been obvious to me.
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  2. Alan,
    I agree with you on the so-called “leadership” of the religious right. Most conservative Christians I know are not swayed by a political endorsement from any human being, whether it is Pat Robertson, Richard Land, James Dobson or anyone else. I have been outspoken in my opposition to Mitt Romney and will continue to do so no matter what anyone else says. I must live according to biblical principles and that includes the voting booth.
    Thank you for your post. It is very encouraging to those of us who vote according to principle and not pragmatism.

  3. I couldn’t agree more, AC. I have been completely disgusted with what we have been willing to give away for the right to have a phone call answered – but then mostly ignored.
    I could say more, but I won’t. You’ve said quite a bit. Good job.

  4. I think you unfairly represented Democrats when you described them as believing that “abortion is okay.” This Democratically-controlled Congress has done more to reduce the abortion rate than the previous Republican Congress. Look at the legislation from this year alone.
    Don’t you think that national security and the War on Terror are LIFE issues? Protecting the people living here in our homeland is a LIFE issue? Three Republican Presidents have done squat to outlaw abortion. What can the President do on abortion? Not much except sign legislation aimed to reduce the abortion rate AND (if an opportunity arises) appoint originalist judges to the Supreme Court. Rudy has vowed to do just that. Pat takes him at his word. In fact, more originalist Supreme Court Justices would be your best scenario to overturn Roe and turn back the progress on the gay rights front.
    Polls still suggest Rudy has the best chance to beat a Democrat. So Yes, Pat’s endorsement is pragmatic indeed. But if Rudy is elected, originalists are appointed, Roe is overturned, and the War on Terror is won – then did Pat Robertson really abandon his convictions?
    Perhaps this hierarchy of issues that you’ve constructed misses the bigger picture. That Baptist Republican ends can still be accomplished through a different framework. Whether the President is Pro-Choice or Pro-Life, what does it matter? As long as the candidate is willing to appoint Justices who adhere to the originalism school of jurisprudence – all of your ends will ultimately be met (that’s your only chance anyway)

  5. BDW,
    I understand what you are saying. Robertson’s position makes sense once you get to the general election. But, I would think that the time to vote your conscience would be during the primaries. Would Huckabee NOT be effective in security and winning the War on Terror? What proof does anyone have of that? Just because Guiliani was mayor of New York during 9/11 and a federal prosecutor does not mean that he would be more effective in winning the War on Terror, does it? Huckabee might be better at building coalitions and getting people to work together.
    As far as talking about Democrats being okay with abortion, obviously all of them are not. I grew up in South Mississippi and the congressman down there is Gene Taylor. He is pro-life and a Democrat. However, he is clearly out of step with his party’s platform and would not get very far promoting a anti-abortion agenda.
    I am really looking for a candidate that has a holistic view of life issues. I am tired of the polarized, single issue view that seems to dominate the political landscape because it makes for nice sound bites. The biblical worldview is much more complete than that. Are there any candidates who embody that?

  6. It seems that what a lot of establishment Republicans do not like about Huckabee is his economic policy proposals. His is much more of a working and middle class economics, not the current laissez-faire, let the corporations legally rob everyone blind policy that is the current party policy. They’ve even dragged out that ugly name they use when someone suggests what Huckabee advocates, “Populist.” I see Huckabee as a candidate who can win because there are a lot of working and middle class people who want to support politicians who will work to end abortion, but who don’t want to vote for those with economic policies which requires them to subsidize the expense of doing business for billionaires and the corporations they run. I’ve always thought that a Christian conservative with a “populist” economic approach would be a powerful candidate and, if nothing else, at least completely consistent with a Biblical worldview. Supporting the current administration’s economic policy is not.
    The other big concern I have with this election is the fact that it seems very few evangelical, conservative Christians really know what they believe, and they don’t really know what Mormons believe. I grew up in a predominantly Mormon community, and I have known from a fairly early point in my faith that there were major, incompatible differences between any form of Biblically based Christianity and the Mormons. But it seems there are not very many Christians who can tell that there is much of a difference. That concerns me.

  7. Great comment, Lee. I have not followed all of this very closely because I have been so disgusted with the Republican Party of late. That is some great information and I agree with you completely about the combination of populist economic theory with a conservative social position.
    As for Mormonism, you nailed it.