It's been an exciting past few weeks for Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist minister turned Governor of Arkansas. Just a few short weeks ago, Rudy Guliani and Mitt Romney were the undisputed frontrunners of the GOP with Senator John McCain and Fred Thompson trailing closely behind. With Guliani's marital problems and Romney's Mormon faith, evangelicals haven't had a candidate they can call one of their own. As every political commentator knows, this has been a huge problem for the Republican Party since evangelicals form the largest voting block of the GOP base. If Karl Rove and the nation's 60 million evangelical Christians have been silently praying for a savior, it seems the savior has arrived in the form of another southern governor with humble beginnings.
Now that Governor Mike Huckabee is a frontrunner in the race along with Guliani and Romney, it seems that everyone is talking about religion-again. What is the role of religion in public life? What is the meaning of separation of church and state? What is the definition of a religious test? While all of this may seem like deja vu, it seems that leaders of the Christian Right are singing a different tune this time around. Case in point. Did you ever think you would hear the late Jerry Falwell endorse a Mormon for president with the words, "We're not electing a pastor in chief, we're electing a commander in chief"? Or how about the same words coming from Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptists' religion and ethics commission? The other day I even heard Richard Land use the words "pluralism and diversity" on CNN when asked about the Mormon question. Even more bizarre, did you ever think the day would come when Pat Robertson would endorse a man twice divorced and Catholic in name only? Aside from the occasional Christian Reconstructionist or Patriot Pastor in Ohio, it seems that the leaders of the Christian Right have finally conceded that separation of church and state isn't a tool of the devil used by liberals to undermine the Christian faith, but is, in fact both Christian and constitutional.
While I'm glad that Christian Right leaders are taking a softer tone on the role of faith in politics, there's something that is still bothering me. With all this new talk about not putting political candidates through a religion test, it seems that the important religious questions are being overlooked or shall I say....Left Behind? To illustrate my point, let's look at the religious differences between Huckabee and Romney. If Romney is true to his Mormon faith then he believes that God once started out as a man, that Jesus and Lucifer were once brothers, and that good Mormons will be populating celestial planets in the afterlife. Huckabee, on the other hand, if he is true to his Baptist faith, believes the Bible is the Word of God, that salvation comes by grace through faith, and that Jesus is coming back soon. If I had to pick which of these two belief systems I'm most comfortable with occupying the Oval Office, I'd have to pick the first one-and I'm saying that as a committed evangelical Christian who also believes the Bible is the Word of God, that salvation comes by grace through faith, and that Jesus is coming back soon. Does this sound a bit bizarre? Let me explain.
If a Mormon occupying the White House believes that God started out as a man, that Jesus and Lucifer were once brothers, and that good Mormons will be populating celestial planets in the afterlife, how much would these beliefs affect his or her policy decisions on things like the Middle East conflict, nuclear disarmament, or America's role in the U.N? . If, on the other hand, you have a president that subscribes to the Left-Behind version of Christianity made popular by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, how would that affect his or her foreign policy decisions? Given that Tim Lahaye has recently endorsed Governor Huckabee, that Governor Huckabee has publicly stated that he "enjoyed" reading the Left Behind novels, and that Tim Lahaye recently sent letters to pastors in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina inviting them to an all-expense paid trip to hear Mike Huckabee speak, this question is far from theoretical.
Let's review the Left Behind Series. In Tim Lahaye's Left Behind series, the anti-christ seizes power by taking over which institution? You guessed it-the United Nations. Who allows the evil anti-christ to rise to power in the Left Behind novels? You guessed it again. A weak democratic president. Where does the evil anti-christ set up his headquarters for his evil empire? Modern day Iraq. How does the Anti-christ seize the reigns of power? This should come as no surprise....an international nuclear disarmament treaty. Combine this with the idea that Jesus can't come back until the dream of Greater Israel is realized and that will give you a fairly accurate picture of the Left-Behind world view.
This, by the way, is not an endorsement of Mitt Romney. When it comes to foreign policy, Romney can speak for himself. All I'm saying is that when it comes to analyzing a candidate's religious beliefs, we should be asking the questions that really matter. So here are a few questions I would like for Governor Huckabee to answer.
1. Governor Huckabee. Do you support the expansion of Jewish Settlements in the West Bank?
2. Governor Huckabee. Does your particular interpretation of Scripture preclude a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
3. Governor Huckabee. What is your view on the role of the U.N. in international affairs?
4. Governor Huckabee. Do you believe the Bible prophecies an imminent attack on the state of Israel by an alliance of Russia and Iran?
Will Governor Huckabee go on record regarding any one of these issues in the near future? Will anyone be asking him these questions in the next debates? For the sake of us all...Let's hope so.