Written December 12, 2007     

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© 2016 Bob Lonsberry


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I mostly grew up in the Baptist Church. I went to Vacation Bible School and supported the Youth For Christ and the Campus Crusade and I got saved at a retreat when I was 14.

My happiest memory of those days is a simple and beautiful song. “They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love.” Though it's been 30 years since I've sung it in church, I still think of it often, as a check on my attitudes and behavior, as a reminder of how a Christian is supposed to treat others.

I'd recommend it to Mike Huckabee.

I think his Christianity needs a little more Love Thy Neighbor and a little less Screw Your Buddy.

And I feel fine about criticizing his Christian walk because he apparently feels fine about criticizing the beliefs of the church I believe in. In the Sermon on the Mount it says that the way we judge others is the way we will be judged.

So that makes Pastor Huckabee fair game.

And the fact is that he is getting closer to the presidency because he is reaping the benefit of – if not directly fanning – a firestorm of religious bigotry. Mike Huckabee has catapulted into second place nationally among Republicans because he has surged dramatically in the polls in Iowa.

And he has surged dramatically in the polls in Iowa because evangelical Christians in that state have lurched heavily away from Mitt Romney.

And why have evangelical Christians in Iowa lurched heavily away from Mitt Romney?

Because of a concerted effort on the phone and over the pulpit to attack Mitt Romney's religion.

A series of phone solicitations to Republicans in Iowa was constructed in such a way as to bring into question and ridicule various beliefs of – and stereotypes about – the Mormon Church. At the same time, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention said that every time Mitt Romney said he was a Christian, he was going to direct Southern Baptist ministers to preach a sermon saying that Mormons weren't Christians.

Mike Huckabee, of course, is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. Before he went into politics, he was a Baptist clergyman by profession.

And it is an interesting coincidence that that statement by the head of Huckabee's denomination and the telephone push-polling happened at the same time. It is not surprising at the outcome – Iowa evangelicals dropped Romney like a hot potato and Pastor Huckabee surged to the lead.

There had been no new revelation of policy. No change in experience. No significant endorsements one way or the other. All that changed is that somebody – including a close professional associate of Mike Huckabee – decided to attack Mitt Romney's religion.

Judas got 33 pieces of silver, Huckabee got 22 points in the polls.

Yes, that is a harsh thing to say. Yes, I have been a Huckabee supporter and contributor. No, I'm not coming to Romney's aid because I believe in the Mormon Church.

But sometimes you've got to call a spade a spade. And yesterday news broke that indicated that one of those times had arrived.

It has been reported that in this Sunday's “New York Times Magazine” -- one of the more widely read publications in the country – Mike Huckabee is going to be quoted as saying, “Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”

That may not be a particular head-turner to many people, but the question and topic are chapter and verse out of anti-Mormon sermons and pamphlets preached and prepared by Southern Baptist ministers and others. It is not a question, it is a hand grenade, a purposeful distortion used for decades to foster revulsion and hard feeling toward Mormons.

For a Baptist minister, it's an old and dirty trick.

And it says as much about Mike Huckabee as I need to know.

It's a pretty poor thing when, if you can't beat a man on the issues, you try to beat him with his religion. It is ungentlemanly, it is un-American and, if that old song was right, it's un-Christian. It looks like Mike Huckabee is willing to mock a man's faith and ridicule a church of some 12 million people in order to satisfy his own bigotry and ambition.

And it seems to be working. The falling dominoes of political success were all started by ridiculing religion.

But that shouldn't surprise anyone.

In 1998, at the national convention of Southern Baptist ministers, Mike Huckabee was a featured speaker. He said some good things – that the family was the basic unit of society – and he said some inspired things – that it is time to “take America back for Christ.” And he pushed a book.

It was titled “Kids Who Kill: Confronting Our Culture of Violence.” Huckabee wrote it with another man and it was published by a company owned by the Baptist Sunday School Board.

A copy was given to all the reporters at the convention.

So was another book. It was titled “Mormonism Unmasked: Confronting the Contradictions Between Mormonism and True Christianity.”

That book was published by the same company that published Mike Huckabee's book – owned by the same Baptist Sunday School Board.

It was written by a man named R. Philip Roberts who is currently the president of the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was recently quoted as saying that evangelicals should oppose Mitt Romney because his election would “give every (Mormon) missionary the calling card of legitimacy.”

The relevance of Mr. Roberts and his book is that it and its co-authors raise the very question Mike Huckabee is going to pose in this Sunday's “New York Times.” “Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Pastor Huckabee claims to ask the question in innocence, but he isn't being honest.

As a Baptist minister, he has been steeped in anti-Mormon rhetoric all of his adult life. At a convention of fellow ministers at which he spoke, his church-published book was distributed with another church-published book that sought to ridicule Mormons. When he now essentially quotes from that same book, can he be seen as doing anything other than ridiculing Mormons?

No, he can't.

So he's got to decide. Is he running for evangelist in chief, or commander in chief? If he cannot suppress his hostility toward Mormons as a candidate, what makes anyone think he will be able to do so as president. If he is willing to foment bigotry and hard feeling against a group of people to gain political advantage now, what would he do in the White House?

And do we really want a president who would bash someone else's religion for personal gain?

“They'll know we are Christians by our love.”

Right now, Pastor Huckabee doesn't seem to pass that test.

- by Bob Lonsberry © 2007

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