In this column, Kathryn Lopez absolutely nails her subject. She writes that Mike Huckabee is playing divider rather than uniter on all sorts of issues, ESPECIALLY religion. Kathryn is, of course, no liberal. And she is a devout Christian (as her columns make clear). But there can be no doubt that Mike Huckabee is crossing lines that should not be crossed.
Now, what follows is not K-Lo talking (read her excellent column for yourself), but me launching from her column…: I think that no matter how politically and tonally brilliant is Huckabee’s “Christmas” ad, it is a horribly cynical use of Christianity for overtly political purposes. Pretending to offer an escape from politics, it is instead purely and entirely political ad, deliberately designed to use Christianity to gain votes. If Huckabee is so eager to wish Iowans a merry Christmas, why is this the first time he has ever done so? This is a candidate cleverly using overtly religious symbolism to gain votes. It makes me sick.
Now, to understand where I am coming from, let it be said that I am a devout and conservative Christian. I absolutely reject the idea that the Constitution constructs a “wall of separation” between religion and government. I wholeheartedly believe that religion and religious references are not constitutionally barred from the public square. I believe prayers are appropriate at official events by goverment officials in times of great moment or crisis. I believe that there is nothing wrong with using religious language or references to unify the public.
But none of this is what Huck is doing. What he is doing is trying to win votes by stressing his Christianity (and, hint, hint, making a contrast between his own Christianity and the less orthodox [small ‘o’] faith of certain of his opponents), in a way that claims to be doing otherwise.
The real problem with earlier governmental establishments of religion is not that religion threatened government, but that government threatened religion (especially those that were NOT the ones being established). By so overtly inserting religion into a political campaign, you also open that religion up to being attacked in the political process as well — and when you make religion central to politics, you open a Pandora’s box that puts faith at risk of state sanction. This is dangerous stuff.
Not to be trite, but there was a reason why Jesus made the distinction between what was to be rendered to Caesar and what should be rendered to Gog. Huckabee is blurring that distinction… and NOT to the benefit of Christianity. Look at it this way: With this ad, is Huck putting himself at the service of Christianity, or is he using his Christianity to serve himself? The answer is, quite obviously, the latter. Huck is for Huck is for Huck. And Christians who want to protect their faith from cynical politicians ought not to let Huck hijack it.
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