I find Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, an amiable fellow. He seems like a nice man and is undeniably funny. Along with both being governor, he shares the same home town with Bill Clinton (Hope, Arkansas) which led to his famous line, “Give Hope a second chance.” On a trip to Isarel, he joked that he should move there, as the yarmulke covered his bald spot perfectly. All sorts of observers, including Ariel Levy in the current issue of The New Yorker, find him charming and I would probably be no different. We wouldn’t become friends though, as he believes that my life threatens Western civilization and that, after the Rapture, I will burn in hell.
Levy’s portrait of the man, current star of a hit Fox News show and potential candidate for the Republican nomination in 2012, is a Cubist masterpiece of conflicting contradictions. Although his political sympathies are apparent, Levy attempts a balanced evaluation of the pastor-turned-politician, although he can’t help catch Huckabee in some of his more obvious hypocrisies. Without plagiarizing the whole article, and replacing my photo with a doctored one of Eustace Tilley with silver brow-line glasses and hipster bangs, I’m going to highlight some of Huckabee’s more problematic quotations.
Huckabee believes that the rules of the Bible should be followed as one would follow a recipe (he uses the analogy of his toddler son baking a cake with salt instead of sugar) and if we come up with our own ideas about what’s right and wrong the world will turn into an unappetizing, salty mess.
“Consider homosexuality,” he says. “Until recently, who would have dared t suggest that the practice should be accepted on equal footing with heterosexuality, to be thought of as a personal decision and nothing more?” His use of the word “decision”, along with the troupe “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”, makes him appear like he’s battling gay rights in 1995.
As governor, Huckabee successfully passed laws preventing gays and lesbians from becoming foster parents or adopting. He told a student journalist last April, “Children are not puppies—this is not a time to see if we can experiment and find out how does this work.” He then went on compare gay adoption to legalizing drugs or incest.
When Levy presses him to justify his position without mentioning the Bible or the “ick-factor” (Huckabee’s lovely term), he refers to studies that show that children with a mother and father are more well-adjusted than those without, the oft-misused conventional ‘wisdom’ about single-parent households that willingly ignores economics and education-levels.
“No culture in the history of mankind has ever tried to redefine marriage.” Where to begin with this whopper? Perhaps Huckabee has not been reading his Bible as closely as he pretends, for, as Levy points out, in the Old Testament polygamy was commonplace and the early Christians believed marriage was only for those without the pious self-disciple of Jesus. Marriage has even been redefined in America’s not-too-distant past: before 1967, it was defined in much of the country as a bond between a man and a woman of the same race, a definition that would annul the marriage of the current president’s parents.
I don’t know if I care for Huckabees’s opinions on even his own marriage. He’s been with his wife Janet for 36 years, having tied the knot as teenagers. “I think we both went into it understanding it was for life. I’ve always said, I f you believe divorce is an option, you’ll take it.” Poor Janet. She seems like a cool, down to earth lady (who skydives!) but her husband admits that if divorce was part of his worldview, that if he didn’t think it was fundamentally wrong, he’d leave her. Although, that makes me more proud of my parents’ marriage, as they haven’t needed God’s threatening vengeance to keep them together.
Despite believing that homosexuality is “sinful and unnatural”, he doesn’t like being thought of as a homophobe. “I’ve had people who worked for me who are homosexuals, and I don’t walk around thinking, Oh, I pity them so much. I accept them as who they are! It’s not like somehow their sin is so much worse than mine.”
This use of the traditional ‘we’re all sinners’ Christian refrain is interesting as it positions him as humble and non-judgemental while simultaneously casting others as ‘sinners’. And he is not actively working to restrict his unnamed sins, only those of homosexuals, in this case, the sin of existing as who they are.
Like many Evangelicals, Huckabee is a strong supporter of Israel, a support which binds conservative Christians and neo-conservatives (including Jewish ones) in the Republican party. The latter don’t like to look too much at this tenuous bond, though, as some Evangelicals mainly support the Zionist state because Jewish control over the Holy Land is supposed to bring on the apocalypse. Then, watch out!
Huckabee doesn’t want to dwell on the gory details with The New Yorker or Ariel Levy, and tries to paint himself as a moderate, almost a relativist. “If somebody asked me, How do I get to Heaven, I would tell them that the only way I personally am aware of is faith in Christ, because I believe the New Testament. That’s the only map I got. Somebody says, Well, I got a different map. O.K.! You know what? If it works, I’m not going to argue with you.”
“If it works”? What the heck does that mean?
The most charitable way to interpret this is that Huckabee is accepting that no one belief system is inherently better than any other, and that they may even potentially “work” and get you into Heaven. The less charitable interpretation is that, while your spirituality may help you get through life’s difficulties now, when the End of Days comes along all bets are off. It is the ultimate politician statement: nice sounding, but decidedly ambiguous.
I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone who could talk with me, get to know me, and all the while sincerely believe that I’ll end up in Hell. I read the article because I want to understand how a politician could be pragmatic in some ways, idealistic in others (Huckabee thinks being ‘pro-life’ means you shouldn’t stop caring for babies after they’re born, and supported elements of healthcare reform), and then claim that “Everything you do and believe in is directed by your answer to the ultimate question: Is there a God?”
The problems of this new century are going to require that we attempt to understand each other and work together, but I don’t know how we’ll do it.
One of the most incredible quotes from the piece is not from Huckabee but from his former chief of staff, Brenda Turner, and is unremarked upon by Levy (so I’m going to remark upon it here).
Huckabee has been disliked and dismissed by the Republican establishment and is considered (his words) “a complete, uneducated, unprepared hick”.
“This man didn’t come from a law background,” Turner says. “He was a pastor, and that was somehow mysterious. My personal feeling is what we don’t understand we fear. And what we fear we seek to destroy.”
My personal feeling as well.