Friday, December 14, 2007

A Helpful Hint from Huckabee

I disagree with most of Mike Huckabee's positions. Still, I find a couple of things about him that I do like.

Big money Republicans are bothered by his candidacy's recent surge. They don't like his moderating touch of economic populism. His concern for the poor does make Huckabee much more of a "compassionate conservative" than most of his colleagues. In his campaign, he criticizes corporate policies, Wall Street, and the damage done to workers by US trade policies. He's even won a union endorsement, from the Machinists.

His platform, however, as displayed at his website, doesn't go into these matters. It's much more conventionally and conservatively "faith-based" as defined by right-wing evangelicals, and more reticent on compassion.

Despite this, his economic populism is a plus factor. And he has an enlightened attitude toward the arts: he supports more arts funding in public education and made music and art education mandatory in Arkansas for every K-12 student. The arts are often the first to be cut either as an unaffordable "frill" or as taking time away for "more important" academic work. Huckabee, an amateur musician, knows they are integral to mental development.

What's more interesting to me is the deft way he deflected a question on Biblical inerrancy. It could be a model for the way Christian Progressives deal with the inerrancy issue. When a young man held up a Bible and asked "Do you believe every word of this book?" this is what Huckabee said when his turn came:

"Sure. I believe the Bible is exactly what it is. It's the word of revelation to us from God himself. (Applause)

"And the fact is that when people ask do we believe all of it, you either believe it or you don't believe it. But in the greater sense, I think what the question tried to make us feel like was that, well, if you believe the part that says "Go and pluck out your eye," well, none of us believe that we ought to go pluck out our eye. That obviously is allegorical.

"But the Bible has some messages that nobody really can confuse and really not left up to interpretation. "Love your neighbor as yourself."

"And as much as you've done it to the least of these brethren, you've done it unto me. Until we get those simple, real easy things right, I'm not sure we ought to spend a whole lot of time fighting over the other parts that are a little bit complicated.

"And as the only person here on the stage with a theology degree, there are parts of it I don't fully comprehend and understand, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite god, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their god is too small."

The two things that I see as significant here is that first he both asserts inerrancy and recognizes that what he believes to be inerrant meanings are beyond complete understanding. Then he sets out what I think is the important idea that's shared by both theologically conservative and theologically liberal Progressive Christians: "love your neighbor as yourself" and "as you do unto others, you do unto Jesus." That's a powerful notion, regardless of how metaphorically or literally anyone takes the "doing unto Jesus" part.

What Progressive Christians need to be reminding each other, as well as reminding the Unprogressives, is "Until we get those simple, real easy things right, I'm not sure we ought to spend a whole lot of time fighting over the other parts that are a little bit complicated."

Programmatically, those simple things aren't that easy. But the words themselves don't need interpretation. Progressive Christians of whatever stripe will spend their time better in thinking together about how to be faithful with those words than in fighting over the other parts.

Although I will oppose Huckabee if he's the nominee, I thank him for a helpful hint. I expect to find myself reminding Progressive and Unprogressive Christians of the need to do the simple things first.

Thanks, Mike.


Anonymous said...

Bro. Billy,

Thanks for dropping a note on my blog. I had to check yours out as well. I too watched the Republican debate which this post references, and I too heard Huckabee's answer to the Bible question. I found it to be an answer typical of a trained mind (conservative or liberal)...I was ultimately turned off by the series of religious/Bible questions that were posed by youtuber's in that debate, but out of all the answers given I liked Huckabee's the most.

Though I do not agree with him mostly because of the leftward direction of my political path I do think that he portrays himself differently than the other R's. He does have a touch of populism in his rhetoric, but ultimately I think he too would be bad for the nation...

Brother Billy said...

Chad, I agree that Huckabee would be bad for us.

I might write some more about that another time. His populism appears somewhat shallow and his compassion limited. His immigration policy, despite his compassionate words in the debate about not punishing the children for what their parents did, is anti anything that even looks like amnesty. In other words, he's officially backed off his own policy in favor of college scholarships for long-term Arkansas residents who are undocumented but have a good school record.

It's in his platform at his website.

And then there's his approval of our wars....