Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mike Huckabee Picking and Choosing for Political Gain

A telling moment occurred when Jon Stewart interviewed Gov. Mike Huckabee regarding a political television commercial that Huckabee narrated. A tight smile stretched across Gov. Mike Huckabee’s face when Jon Stewart asked him if gay marriage and abortion are the only things that God cares about in American politics. What about poverty and politicians who’d cut programs for the poor? Huckabee tried swat away the pesky question by saying it was only a sixty second commercial and “you have to pick and choose.”  Interview

Why is it that the religious right never chooses to pick out the scripture passages regarding the poor, the vulnerable, the immigrants in our land, those who suffer under oppressive working conditions? The number of times these themes arise in scripture are like a mountain compared to the molehill of verses that link (indirectly at best) to gay marriage or abortion. Gov. Huckabee’s smile conceals the fact that he is well aware of this fact. Instead of following scripture’s lead, he uses hot-button issues in a commercial that is designed to drive Christians to the polls to get them to vote the way that Huckabee wants them to vote.

What does it say about evangelicalism when they never to pick and choose to be on the side of the poor and disenfranchised? Why are they always more motivated by imposing their views of morality instead of living out their own morality in such an attractive way that others will want to become part of it, too?

The evangelical ads could not be more manipulative and I believe should be classified as a case of invoking God’s name to advance a narrow political agenda. Such vacuous uses of God’s name are what is at the heart of the Fourth Commandment in which the Israelites are told not to take the Lord’s name in vain (literally “vaporous manner”). Perhaps those who produced the ad should be more concerned about their own violations of God’s commands than they are about what other people do.

The heart of the Stewart interview was the question of whether the ad implied people who voted for Democrats were going to hell. It’s easy to see how one could view it that way, although Huckabee strongly disagreed saying that any biblically literate Christian would understand that the images referred to First Corinthians 10. The Governor couldn’t have been any more smug in the way he said this. What’s hilarious is that Gov. Huckabee got it wrong. There is nothing even remotely close to those images in First Corinthians 10.

Although he invoked First Corinthians 10 many times, what he meant was First Corinthians 3 verses 10 and following. But the former Baptist preacher certainly stretches the text and uses it out of context for the commercial. First Corinthians 3 seems to be about a divided Christian community learning to tolerate differences amongst them and letting God settle it out in the end. The epistle goes on to urge these quarrelsome Christians to start focusing more on love and community than advancing each one’s narrow agenda. That’s the kind of conversation that seems more productive than a conversation about fire. It might even put a nice smile on the Huckabee’s face.

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