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Monday, January 14, 2008

Who Would Jesus Endorse?



It is, of course, a ludicrous question. And somewhat offensive. I'm not the one asking, though. It seems to be permeating the candidacy of Gov. Mike Huckabee.

In this AP article by Libby Quaid, Huckabee eschews politics for preaching , there is a clear pandering to what are known as "conservative Christians."

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Republican Mike Huckabee spoke from the pulpit Sunday, not as a politician but as the preacher he used to be, delivering a sermon on how merely being good isn't enough to get into heaven.

Huckabee is vying for support from the Christian conservatives who dominate the GOP in South Carolina, which chooses a Republican presidential nominee on Saturday. A former Baptist minister and Arkansas governor, Huckabee is competing for their votes with fellow southerner Fred Thompson.

As in Iowa, where he won the Jan. 3 caucuses, Huckabee is rousing pastors to marshal their flocks for him. He pitches himself as someone who not only shares their views against abortion and gay marriage but who actually comes from their ranks.

On Sunday in South Carolina, Huckabee avoided politics entirely, instead preaching about humility and trusting in Jesus to open the gates of heaven.

"The criteria to get into heaven is you have to be not good, but perfect. That's the real challenge in it," he said at First Baptist North Spartanburg, a megachurch with 2,500 members.

"On that day, when I pull up, I'll be asked, `Do you have what it takes to get in?'" Huckabee said. "And if I ask, `Well, what does it take to get in?' 'Gotta be perfect.'"

"Well, I'm afraid I don't have that, but you know what, I won't be there alone that day. Somebody is going to be with me. His name is Jesus, and he's promised that he would never leave me or forsake me," he said.

Huckabee did NOT avoid politics at all. He brought politics into the church. And he'll bring the church into politics.

I'm reminded of the time my father was speaking to an elderly man in rural West Virginia. The subject came up about the different churches in the area, and the old curmudgeon used his 1st Amendment right rather bluntly.

"Ain't go no time for no preachers 'round here. Seems to me ever' time you see one of 'em coming out onto someone's porch they're either pickin' their teeth or zippin' up their pants."

A harsh judgment delivered harshly I suppose, but essentially the man was saying that preachers are human just like the rest of us. As a disclaimer I will freely admit to having been raised a Baptist. Belonging to what many would consider the Treasonous side, I do not believe in placing my beliefs on someone else. And I am very leery of those who do. And I am terrified of those who do and use the power of government to carry out their fervent wishes.

In my otherwise fruitless experience at the University of Florida, I retained a few nuggets. In a political science class, the professor asked, "Why do we have a Bill of Rights in the Constitution?" A very enthusiastic student answered immediately, "Because we believe in the rights of others."

"WRONG," said the professor, "We have them because we do NOT believe in the rights of others."

My own personal experience with this was in of all places, the Republic of Ireland. It is a wonderful nation with wonderful people. As an immigrant I learned enough of the culture to understand why Irish Catholicism is so strongly adhered to by the majority of the population. For centuries Roman Catholics were persecuted by the English. With independence being achieved only in the 20th century, the constitution reflected that struggle.

Problem was, and is, that there are many native Irish who are NOT Roman Catholic, yet must live as such in many ways. Granted, there never was the level of discrimination and resulting violence as in Ulster, but fair is fair. If you are not a Roman Catholic you can be made to feel foreign in your own birthplace. One example is the custom of have the Church Hierarchy review any social legislation before it proceeds in parliament.

So, with that in mind I think of the pitfalls that Gov. Huckabee is leading himself and his flock towards. I could speak for a long time about my beliefs as a Christian; how lousy a one I am and the imperfections of my soul and all the bad and sinful decisions I have made in my life. My faith tells me that Jesus will forgive me of much, if not most, of my transgressions.

But I could not forgive myself if I let stand unchallenged the preposterous notion that Christianity belongs in the White House; that Christians need to control any political party. I believe Jesus once said, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's."

Mike Huckabee apparently wants to use the beliefs of a particular group of Americans to render Caesar's unto the "chosen few."

The whole point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to spread His Word; to promote the teachings of Jesus. Outside of government I think that's fine. With government, there is a huge problem because, aside from that pesky Constitution, many Americans are NOT Christians. Many are atheists, or Buddhists, or Mormons, or Muslims. Christianity is not their faith but the United States is THEIR nation, too.

Seems odd now when you consider a little history of early America. Massachusetts was run by Puritans. Maryland was a Catholic colony. Pennsylvania was for Quakers. And so on. Yet Roger Williams, a Baptist minister of all things, established the city of Providence and later the colony of Rhode Island. Williams' unique attitude ensured that Rhode Island became a haven for religious freedom. Rhode Island's example was the prime reason the Bill of Rights prohibited the establishment of a state church.

Gov. Huckabee might reflect a bit upon Roger Williams. Four centuries is an understandable amount of time to forget a hard-won lesson. But that's the magic of print; you can read and learn.

As elections approaches each primary state, and in particular the general election in November, I would advise Christians to do the following about those whose llves are not in accordance with what they believe to be righteous. This includes gays, non-Christians, adulterers, liberals, opponents of school prayer.........

Forgive them.

Now vote on some earthly issues.
Cross-posted at

*****The Chicago Sun Times has picked up this post...

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Blogger Papamoka said...

Now that was a political speech that Jefferson would have sold his last human possessions to give.

Amazing work Mr. Jones. Simply amazing!

5:23 PM  

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