2.12.2008

The Gospel According to Huckabee

Huckabee wins the award for showing Evangelicals what not to do in public discourse, loading up his speeches with references to Biblical stories. I can understand public policy that is Biblicaly based, but it's just bad communication to be constantly referencing Biblical stories that people are not familiar with. Want to know just how not familiar people are with Biblical language? Check out this story on npr.

If you disagree, keep in mind, Huckabee is running for President, not head of the Southern Baptist convention. If he actually wants to be president, he needs to speak clearly to all Americans.

The Gospel According to Huckabee (excerpts)

In November, as Huckabee surged in the polls, a student at Liberty University asked him what was driving his startling success. Huckabee responded, "It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people."

We played the tape for Leitha Anthony, who was waiting to go into the Washington Monument. Did she know what he was talking about?

"That's when Moses ... had to feed all the people, the multitude of people that left Egypt," Anthony hazarded. "That's what it was?"

For the next quiz question, we played a clip from Huckabee's Super Tuesday victory speech:

"Sometimes," the former Arkansas governor told his supporters, "one small smooth stone is even more effective than a whole lot of armor."

"Maybe something to do with the war," guessed Dan Booth, who was visiting from Alabama.

"He's talking about peace, the resolution of peace?" ventured his friend Mike Allen.

Actually, Huckabee was comparing himself to the shepherd boy David, who slayed the giant Goliath with one smooth stone right in the forehead.

Only one person knew that one — a disconcerting record as we moved into advanced "Huckabese." The next clip also came from Tuesday night's speech:

"We've also seen that the widow's mite has more effectiveness than all the gold in the world."

We asked Daria Teutonico and Richard Pettit about the widow's mite as they walked to lunch on Pennsylvania Avenue.

"I have no clue," was Teutonico's answer. "I thought a mite was a bug."

"Is it a spider?" Pettit added. They both laughed.

The widow's mite actually refers to a poor woman Jesus observed giving a small coin to God. It was all she had.

8 comments:

Mx5 said...

Not a Huck fan here, but when I read the NPR article you referenced, I took a look at some of Steve Prothero's work, referenced in the article.

Prothero wrote in an LA Times OpEd piece in March of 2007:
In a religious literacy quiz I have administered to undergraduates for the last two years, students tell me that Moses was blinded on the road to Damascus and that Paul led the Israelites on their exodus out of Egypt. Surveys that are more scientific have found that only one out of three U.S. citizens is able to name the four Gospels, and one out of 10 think that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. No wonder pollster George Gallup has concluded that the United States is "a nation of biblical illiterates."

Biblical illiteracy is not just a religious problem. It is a civic problem with political consequences. How can citizens participate in biblically inflected debates on abortion, capital punishment or the environment without knowing something about the Bible? Because they lack biblical literacy, Americans are easily swayed by demagogues on the left or the right who claim — often incorrectly — that the Bible says this about war or that about homosexuality.


Prothero, Chair of the Department of Religion at Boston University and the author of numerous books, raises an excellent point, not that we need to "de-Bible idiom" ourselves but rather increase basic biblical studies, not necessarily for religious purposes but for cultural and political and literary awareness. I'm sure his position is not popular. From what I can tell, and this is very surprising to me, Prothero is a student of Hinduism.

Regardless, I think Huck is out of it, and I think you're right... if you want to be president, understanding the amazing lack of biblical literacy in this country would have been a helpful hint to your speech writer.

David Best said...

All very good points. Why aren't you a Huckabee fan? Just curious.

Mx5 said...

Not a fan of Huck because he's fully supported by the NEA as well as Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Assoc. It seems to me to gain the endorsements of these two foes he must have had to be very "creative" in how he presented himself in both cases. That's the big one for me. Not so much the homeschooling aspect, but how in the world did the man get those endorsements? I guess I've become cynical with US politics. No surprise there, huh? ;)

David Best said...

According to this and this he has not been endorsed by the national office of the NEA, but by the New Hampshire office of the NEA, which endorsed a candidate on both sides of the aisle. (Maybe I'm missing something?) Which makes sense since he was the only Republican to go to the national NEA convention this summer. It appears that the decision by the NH NEA came about because 25% of them are Republicans, so they chose to endorse both a Republican and a Democrat. I seriously doubt that the NEA would endorse any Republican in a national election. But I suppose they possibly could if that candidate was progresive on education but conservative in most other areas.

I was looking over his website where two things stood out to me. He actively wants to reform No Child Left Behind to include art and music because he understands the necessity of developing both sides of the brain, (not just the parts useful to the defense-industrial complex) (sorry, couldn't resist that one. : ) ) And as Governor he was in favor of extending instate tuition rates to children who grew up in Arkansas but were brought here illegally by their parents when they were small.

I like this. People reaching across the aisle is a good thing. Additionally, in this area, Huckabee does seem to understand that he is running for president of the entire United States. Whatever one thinks about public education and where one's own kids should go, (I too hope to home school my kids.) the president is responsible to some degree for the public schools which aren't going anywhere, and which millions of kids depend on.

Mx5 said...

Interesting, isn't it? As you can tell I'm no pundit. I don't get Hannitized daily. ;-) Maybe I just have a problem with a politician who sounds like a preacher? I dunno. I think I pretty much have problems with most high level politicians. And most preachers. What's with that???

David Best said...

those preachers are trouble! ; )

I didn't mean to hannitize you. Though I suppose it does look that way. I didn't even know what the NEA was, so I had to do some googling

David Baxley said...

Good words and observations. When I look at Huckabee's stances I find myself (for what I have seen for the most part) drawn to him more then any other candidate but I struggle with him for the one reason you are taking about. He has to speak to an entire nation. A nation that is not Christian and pretends to be religious at the most. He has good ideas I just wish he and people like him could learn to speak to the people while still taking stands on biblical principals.

David Baxley said...

It is great to see you and I liking the same candidate. Ahh it is like we are young again.