ecclesiology, political theology, violence

My Concern with Huckabee

I’ve got concerns about all the candidates, but I do not think any of my concerns actually matter (the Alaskan vote means very little, that is, if I was partaking in state liturgy), until I saw this on Mike Huckabee. On this I cannot stay quiet.

Huckabee, who was a minister before he served two and a half terms as governor as Arkansas, took to the stage for about half an hour at two Baptist churches in South Carolina and told the congregations: “I am here today to talk about Jesus and not to talk about me.”

“I always try to remind people that there is a place for politics, but when I come to church, it’s to worship,” he said at Gateway Baptist Church in Irmo, where he was mistakenly introduced as “Governor Hucklebee.”

In Irmo and at First Baptist Church in Fountain Inn, Huckabee weaved jokes and anecdotes from his life in Arkansas into his sermons while also demonstrating a deep familiarity with the New Testament, quoting passages from memory.”God is still looking for good soldiers, good soldiers for Christ,” he told the congregation in Irmo. “Every single person here is a soldier that God needs in his army. He is just waiting on us to say here am I, send me.”

…After the later service ended in Fountain Inn, Huckabee and his wife Janet lingered for an hour shaking hands with dozens of church-goers who had lined up to meet them, many of whom told CNN they were already supporting Huckabee’s presidential bid.

Now, beyond the obvious problem of quoting Isaiah 6 (“Here I am Lord send me”) inside of an explicitly militaristic interpretation, I have a concern. I don’t quite care much that America could once again have a self-professed Christian as President; however, I am concerned that the body of Christ – the church – will have the President of America in it. Huckabee, like many other presidents and presidential candidates, makes a false, categorical distinction: that the person who orders the bombing runs on people for America could walk into worship without the acknowledgement of vicious, un-Christlike action, much less the with holding of communion or confrontation.

The movie Godfather I comes to mind. While Michael is in the church at the baptism of his child, the hits he previously ordered are carried out. The juxtaposition in the movie makes my stomach ill. The insidious nature of what Michael has done is clearly evident, but I also think about the complicity of the church at that very moment. In all likely hood the priest did not know what Michael was doing, but a pastor at a church, if the president were to walk in, would know. I would want to walk out, unless if the president were there for repentance. Still, I’m not sure that would be enough. Repentance of specific actions is a good thing, a necessary thing. Nevertheless, when the president walks into the church, he/she does not sever their ties with their position in the world, in fact, the exact opposite is true. When the president enters the church, he/she brings in violence and if the church does nothing, the church becomes complicit.

This is one reason why I have a hard time seeing a Christian as president, because to do so means one gives up so much of one’s self – relationships within the body of Christ (come on, don’t tell me that bombing a country doesn’t affect Christians there, much less other humans we should love) and one’s relationship with the divine. Relationships – the foundation of our humanity and faith – must be seriously, negatively affected. Machiavelli puts a serious strain on faith.


7 thoughts on “My Concern with Huckabee

  1. I believe the scene to which you refer is at near the end of Godfather 1, although it may be given as something of a flashback somewhere in Godfather 2.

    On another note, what do you make of the biblical passages that use military allusion to make their points? Not being facetious; I want to hear your thoughts.

  2. d. w. horstkoetter says:

    Was that 1? Oops. I think you’re right.

    On military passages, I think its unwise to link Isaiah 6 – the divine calling and cleansing of a prophet – to a militaristic understanding like the army of God. An army is the farthest thing from innocent and to say the army is divine is a justification for violence, or in this case, not letting the biblical text subvert our understanding of being in the world. Instead, we overlay our conception of army onto the bible and that is how we understand our way of relating to everyone and everything around us? Personally I do not think that army of God is a very good metaphor. It is a metaphor that conjures up other people dying and creation destroyed, rather than the sacrificial and communal nature of the church as the body of Christ and the mission of the kingdom.

    As for more general thoughts on actual military passages, I find that going through each passage becomes necessary. For example I just accept Revelation, but always remembering that it is Jesus who is doing all the fighting. Even in the eschaton the church does not seem to take up arms.

    As for Ephesians 6, I think we drastically misunderstand that text. I have friends who can speak to this better, but I’ll give it a try anyways. First, this is not an individualistic passage as it is normally assumed. Second, I do not think we can properly understand this passage without understanding what Ephesians 6 is quoting – Isaiah 59. Again there is a common theme, it is God doing all the violence, never us. Also, any passage that does have us in struggle, we are not actually struggling against people.

    I have one last point that is not a part of the text. By and large before Christianity was co-opted by Constantine (yes, I am affirming the history, but I still think it is too vague to be of a lot of use), the church was bringing people out of the army. I say this to mention the way in which many early christians seem to have acted – rejection of the emperor cult and the violence associated with it.

    I am not trying to smooth over rough spots and tensions within the text, I am trying to answer your question: whenever I see a text, at least in the New Testament that seems to tell us how to act and has militaristic implications, I’m always trying to remember that it is God doing the violence (and that violence seems to occur on “the Day of the Lord”) as we try and enact the kingdom like Jesus laid out.

  3. d. w. horstkoetter says:

    I hardly think Hillary is any better. And I refuse to just “trust” the system that has hurt so many people as it tries to function like God.

  4. On the Ephesians 6 Passage, briefly:
    1. The armor that Paul here is describing is not that of a Roman, but the Messianic armor of Isaiah 59:15ff: God, seeing that Justice was far off (cf. Eph. 2:13), dons the armor and himself goes to battle – not against the nations but against wickedness.
    2. The appropriation of the Divine Warrior motif suggests that the
    Church uses the armor differently then God does; for, according to Isaiah (also
    according to Paul earlier in Ephesians), the decisive battle has already been
    fought in the action of Christ’s own death. This shift in the purpose of the armor is reflected be the change in verbs from Isaiah’s “doing battle” to Paul’s repeated usage of the verb “stand” as the primary action of the armor bearer. Unlike the armored Righteous One in Isaiah, who goes out into battle to defeat the powers of unrighteousness, the Church, who wears the same armor, is instructed to stand firm. It is not needful that the Church should wage war on the Evil one, because, as the Isaiah material makes clear, that battle belongs to the Lord, and as Paul makes clear in Ephesians it is Christ’s sacrificial action on the cross that wins the peace.
    The very nature of the Church, as describe in Ephesians, as the people
    on whose behalf peace has been made, as well as the means by which Christ
    himself did battle – namely, by means of His self-sacrifice on the cross –
    redefines the nature of warfare for the Church. the Church is armored by God so that she might continue to shine for the the new economy of God, which is exemplified by unity in Christ (4:2-6). The Church does this by being girded up in truth, shielded by faith, surrounded by righteousness, and postured toward peace; she is crowned by salvation, and has at her disposal the very Word of God. With these She is enabled to stand firm as the very “household of God” (2:19), the “New Humanity” (2:15).

  5. Pingback: Talking about Obama and His Church « flying.farther

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