Huckabee: A New Kind of Evangelical?

Several articles have appeared in recent months suggesting that Mike Huckabee is some sort of “new breed” of evangelical – one who is not committed only to opposing abortion and gay rights, but also cares about the environment and the poor.  And Huckabee has worked hard to play up the idea that he is nothing like traditional demagoguing Religious Right preachers such as Pat Robertson or the late Jerry Falwell.  

As Huckabee likes to say, while he may be conservative, he’s “just not angry about it” – or, to put it another way, he drinks “a different kind of Jesus juice. To the press, this seems to be enough to qualify Huckabee as a “different kind of evangelical,” and exempts him from having to explain himself when he proclaims that we need to “amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.” 

An example of this sort of coverage appeared on the New York Times over the weekend:

Much of the national leadership of the Christian conservative movement has turned a cold shoulder to the Republican presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee, wary of his populist approach to economic issues and his criticism of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. But that has only fired up Brett and Alex Harris.

The Harris brothers, 19-year-old evangelical authors and speakers who grew up steeped in the conservative Christian movement, are the creators of Huck’s Army, an online network that has connected 12,000 Huckabee campaign volunteers, including several hundred in Michigan, which votes Tuesday, and South Carolina, which votes Saturday.

They say they like Mr. Huckabee for the same reason many of their elders do not: “He reaches outside the normal Republican box,” Brett Harris said in an interview from his home near Portland, Ore.

The brothers fell for Mr. Huckabee last August when they saw him draw applause on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” for explaining that he believed in a Christian obligation to care for prenatal “life” and also education, health care, jobs and other aspects of “life.” “It is a new kind of evangelical conservative position,” Brett Harris said. Alex Harris added, “And we are not going to have to be embarrassed about him.”

The article noted how Huckabee’s rise in the polls has occurred “without the backing of, and even over the opposition of, the movement’s most visible leaders, many of whom have either criticized him or endorsed other candidates.”  While Religious Right powerbrokers like Tony Perkins, James Dobson, and Gary Bauer have credited Huckabee for energizing evangelical voters, all have made clear that they do not support his candidacy and seemingly have no intention of doing so.

But just because the most prominent right-wing activists are reluctant to climb aboard the Huckabee bandwagon doesn’t mean that those already on board are in any way moderates or representative of some sort of new, more moderate evangelical movement.  In fact, most of Huckabee’s backers are even more radical.

Take this misleading quote from the same article: 

“Some of my Christian friends, just like some of my not-so-Christian friends, have become a little too Washingtonian,” said Rick Scarborough, an aspiring successor to the previous generation of conservative Christian leaders. He recently argued that his allies were wrong to balk at Mr. Huckabee’s turn toward environmentalism and “social justice.”

“Can you imagine Jesus ignoring the plight of the disenfranchised and downtrodden while going after the abortionist?” Mr. Scarborough wrote on the conservative Web site

Scarborough did indeed write this in his endorsement of Huckabee, but rest assured, Scarborough is not backing Huckabee because he cares anything about the environment, social justice, the disenfranchised, or the downtrodden – he cares mainly about this: 

Many are praying that God will spare our great nation from the judgment we certainly deserve for the killing of over 45,000,000 pre-born children, not to mention the millstone we deserve to have hung around our necks for allowing our living children to be exploited by the sexual anarchists that now control public education and Hollywood. We need revival for survival.

I suggest that God may be sending us a lifeline. Who better to lead a nation nearing moral collapse and perhaps World War III than a president who is also a pastor with 10 years of senior executive experience as a governor?

We have been watching Rick Scarborough since he first came on the scene and it is safe to say that concerns about social justice and the downtrodden have played next to no role in his political activity – he’s been too busy declaring himself a “Christ-Ocrat,” organizing conferences designed to highlight the “War on Christians and Values Voters,” and penning books entitled “Liberalism Kills Kids.”   

If Huckabee really is some new kind of evangelical, it is certainly not reflected in his choice of who serves on his Faith and Family Values Coalition, which is dominated by professional right-wing activists known solely for their commitment to pushing the Right’s extreme social and religious agenda:

Star Parker, Founder and president of CURE;* Washington D.C.

Michael Farris, Chair of Home School Legal Defense Association* and Chancellor of Patrick Henry College;* Virginia

William J. Murray, Chair of Religious Freedom Coalition,* Chair of Government is Not God PAC,* and author;  Washington D.C.

Don Wildmon, Founder and Chairman of American Family Association;* Mississippi

Rick Scarborough, Founder and President of Vision America;* Texas

Janet Folger, President of Faith2Action;* Florida

Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel*/ Dean of Liberty University Law School;*  Virginia

Kelly Shackelford, Chief Counsel, Liberty Legal Institute and President of Free Market Foundation;*  Texas

Phil Burress, President of Citizens for Community Values;* Ohio

Huckabee may very well care about issues beyond the traditional right-wing agenda, but his most avid supporters most certainly do not.  Ironically, while the more mainstream Religious Right figures like Perkins, Bauer, and Dobson have been reluctant to embrace Huckabee because of fears of what his campaign would do to the Republican Party’s traditional coalition, fringe activists like Scarborough – who believe that politics is “not about winning elections … It’s about honoring Christ” – have been flocking to Huckabee’s campaign.  

Which raises the question:  Are Huckabee’s right-wing supporters mistaken about his true agenda, or is the press?