Flip-Flop Christianity

An inconvenient question:

Tyler Overman: Hi. This is Tyler Overman from Memphis, Tennessee. And I have a quick question for those of you who would call yourselves Christian conservatives. The death penalty, what would Jesus do?

The question came up during the November 28, 2007, Republican YouTube debate on CNN.

Not too surprisingly, the question was handled like one would a hot potato by Governor Huckabee. Like any well-groomed politician is now trained to do, the Candidate eventually spun the query into another question he felt more comfortable with:

There are those who say, "How can you be pro-life and believe in the death penalty?"

Which, while not answering the question, had, at least, the clarity of defining Governor Huckabee as an unapologetic supporter of the Death Penalty:

Because there's a real difference between the process of adjudication, where a person is deemed guilty after a thorough judicial process and is put to death by all of us, as citizens, under a law, as opposed to an individual making a decision to terminate a life that has never been deemed guilty because the life never was given a chance to even exist.

But Governor Huckabee did dodge the original question, a fact that didn’t escape the notice of the moderator, Anderson Cooper, who tossed the original question back to the Governor:

Cooper: I do have to though press the question, which -- the question was, from the viewer was: What would Jesus do? Would Jesus support the death penalty?

Huckabee: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson. That's what Jesus would do.


How disappointing!

This posting from The Fix (the Washington Post's main political blog) says it all:

"Sadly, the press marveled at yet another non-answer to a question about a serious issue. The question was intended to be a request for a Christianity-based stance on the morality of the death penalty, not a set-up for a one-liner."

One or more of those three forms of execution depicted on the above images is or are deemed unchristian. Which one(s), dear reader? The first one? The second? The third? All of the above? None of the above?

Yes, Governor, Jesus never ran for public office. That’s the whole point; Jesus never ran for public office, but, YOU, Governor, have been, and are presently, running for public office (the highest public office of them all), and therefore, that question from Tyler Overman from Memphis, Tennessee, was addressed to YOU, Governor.

Very relevantly so.

How do you, Governor Huckabee, reconcile your political stand with regard to the death penalty with your Christian faith? And how, by extension, does, for that matter, the religious right – which has been very active politically in this country – reconcile its political stand with regard to the death penalty with what Jesus is preaching in the New Testament.

This was what that inconvenient question from Tyler Overman from Memphis, Tennessee, was about, Governor. But you knew that, of course.

The religious right, who brought the Bush administration to power, likes to preach from the Bible (mostly the old Testament) where and when it finds it politically convenient, and, yet, it becomes oddly silent on some of those very issues about which Jesus is the most vocal in the New Testament, and in particular in his Sermon on the Mount.

You’re right, Governor, Jesus would not have run for office, but, you know, Governor, I don’t believe that Jesus would have dodged that question either. But, then, as you rightly pointed out, Jesus was not a politician – unlike you, Mr. Huckabee.

But to be fair to the governor, he is not running for President as a pastor, of course, but as a politician…

Or is he, now?

Hard to tell, as just only a few weeks ago (10/20/07), speaking at the Family Research Council's Washington Values Voter Summit, Huckabee compared himself to "the prophets of old, the ones who spoke truth to power."

"Don't ever let expediency or electability replace our principles," Huckabee urged the crowd.

Governor Huckabee also expressed his concern that "some of the evangelical leaders seem to be less committed to the principles that got them involved in politics in the first place, and more into the politics than the principles." He observed that "when you cease becoming clear about who you are, and what you're about, you really just become another Republican interest group."

I couldn’t agree more, Governor.


Anonymous said...

Tell me if you've heard this one before: a Muslim, three Jews, and ten Christians walk into a subway... and then the Muslim has to come to the aid of the Jews who are being attacked by peace-loving Christians. OK, maybe you haven’t heard it before, but would you be surprised to learn that the altercation started when one of the Jews dared to wish the Christians a "Happy Hanukkah" rather than a "Merry Christmas"?

So, asks Austin Cline...

... and according to him:

It shouldn't, given the rhetoric which Christian Nationalists have been engaged in every year for the past several Christmas seasons. When Christian leaders keep going on and on about how Christianity is under attack, Christians are being persecuted, and that true Christian believers need to make a stand and take America back, it shouldn't surprise anyone if there are some violent incidents. If you fill people's heads with stories about how they are already part of a war, there will be casualties.

Austine's entry was prompted by a CNN report about an altercation on the Q train in New York:

Friday's altercation on the Q train began when somebody yelled out "Merry Christmas," to which rider Walter Adler responded, "Happy Hanukkah," said Toba Hellerstein.

"Almost immediately, you see the look in this guy's face like I've called his mother something," Adler told CNN affiliate WABC. Two women who were with a group of 10 rowdy people then began to verbally assault Adler's companions with anti-Semitic language, Hellerstein said.

One member of the group allegedly yelled, "Oh, Hanukkah. That's the day that the Jews killed Jesus," she said. When Adler tried to intercede, a male member of the group punched him, she said.

Apparently that must be what the Religious Right means by putting CHRIST back into CHRISTMAS.

Oh, Jesus would have been sooo proud!

Nausicaa said...


All of this reminds me of Lewis Black's take on Evangelical Christianity and politics.

"I'd like to talk to you a moment about Jesus. Have you taken him as your personal lord and savior? No, then you're probably not in politics."

And what about that obsessive fixation of the Christian Right with the Old Testament... which many so-called evangelists misread in the first place to create a personal cosmology that fit their political agenda (Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are good examples, indeed. Shall we add George Bush to the list - In his second-term inaugural address on January 20, our President referenced God seven times. This came on the heels of 10 invocations of God in his first inaugural and another 14 references in his three State of the Union addresses.)

As Black put it in Red, White and Scr**ed and also in an hilarious interview with Larry King:

The Old Testament is ours. It's ours. It's not theirs. It's our book. The Christians, the book wasn't good enough for the Christians, was it, Larry?

No. They said no. This book isn't good enough for us. We've got a better book with a great new character. You're going to love this guy. And so it's our book. So let us -- if you want to know, if the Evangelical Christians really want to understand what's in the book, you know, ask us. We're everywhere. We wander the streets.

A Jew will take any amount of time out of their day to spend time with an Evangelical Christian who has a question about the bible and we'll answer that question... if the price is right.

He's got a point, you know, why all that obsession of Christian Fundamentalists with almost exclusively the Old Testament?

Personally, I like this "great new character" of the New Testament. Maybe someone ought to pay attention to some of the stuff he is credited for saying and maybe put Christ back into christianity, for Christ's sake - lol.

Those who practice love and charity are close to great religious leaders of all faiths, be they, say, Jesus or Buddha (those being but two traditions among others).

Buddha: If you do not tend to one another then who is there to tend to you? Whoever who would tend me, he should tend the sick.

Jesus: Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, so you have done it unto me.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

You know, that kind of stuff.

Thich Nhat Hanh had this wonderful thing to say about Buddhism and Christianity (and implicitly about religion in general - i.e., in their more elevated aspect):

We don't want to say that Buddhism is a kind of Christianity and Christianity is a kind of Buddhism. A mango can not be an orange. I cannot accept the fact that a mango is an orange. They are two different things. Vive la difference. But when you look deeply into the mango and into the orange, you see that although they are different they are both fruits. If you analyze the mango and the orange deeply enough, you will see small elements are in both, like the sunshine, the clouds, the sugar, and the acid. If you spend time looking deeply enough, you will discover that the only difference between them lies in the degree, in the emphasis. At first you see the difference between the orange and the mango. But if you look a little deeper, you discover many things in common. In the orange you find acid and sugar which is in the mango too. Even two oranges taste different; one can be very sour and one can be very sweet.

The same thing can probably be said of politics. Not all fruits are oranges, but they all inhabit the same garden and they all have certain qualities that are intrinsic to all. And any fruit can turn out to be rotten, sometimes.

Redneck Infidel said...

Fundamentalist in any religion are dangerous. I am a Bible-thumping Catholic, when you start reading the bible literally you will get yourselft in trouble. You must read it in the context that it was written.

IMO of course.

Maggie Bremmer said...

Of course "reading the Bible literally" is what such groups as Focus on the Family and the Religious Right claim they do as they speak of "family values."

What a strange notion...

They even are those among them who claim that other issues, such as the global warming issue, are a distraction from the more important issue of degrading traditional family values.

Haven't they read their Bible?

Aren't all those wannabe "literalists" familiar with Matthew 12:42, and Jesus' answer to the messenger who interrupted him to say his mother and brothers wanted his attention:

"Who is my mother and who are my brothers? . . . whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

And what's all that business with Family Values anyway, aren't Christian values good enough for them, anymore?

And whoever came up with that slogan??? I mean, why not "Kinder, K├╝che, Kirche" (Germany National Socialist's slogan: Children, Kitchen, Church) while we are at it?

As for, Michael Dale "Mike" Huckabee, Matthew 6:1 has a message for you, sir:

"Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 6:1)

Tom Bombadil said...

I don’t know if anyone else remembers this, but another almost unnoticed "Huckabee Moment" occurred on ABC (12/02/07) when George Stephanopoulos asked Gov. Huckabee, whether Mitt Romney was a Christian.

What has this country come to?

The ugly anti-Catholic campaigns against John F. Kennedy in 1960 comes to mind.

This could have been a perfect opportunity for Huckabee to take the chance, which had been offered to him, to make a stand in support of religious tolerance.

What would Jesus have done? Oh, I don't know, but the parable of the good samaritan does come to mind.

Instead, Huckabee said Romney had to answer for himself the question of whether he's a Christian. Worse than a dodge, this overly reserved quietness, on Huckabee’s part, in response to a question which deserved to be exposed for its doctrinaire sectarian religious undertone, looks more to me like damning with silence. It is akin to responding to a racist question about whether, say, a quadroon candidate (someone of one-quarter black ancestry) is a true Aryan by saying that it is up to the candidate to decide how he feels about that. (There is not such a thing as a pure Aryan, but the Nazis used it to designate someone who was not of Jewish descent.) The question of religion is one of faith, of course, and not of race, but it has a similar bigoted inappropriateness to it that should have no place in American politic.

Have the second millennium candidates become less wise, or do they have less backbone and integrity than their predecessors from the end of the previous millennium?

In 1999, former Sen. Bill Bradley, a Presbyterian who opposed Vice President Al Gore for the Democratic Party's nomination for President in the 2000 election avoided discussion of his faith in the political campaign, calling it a personal matter---as it should be. Few are the candidates who have the honesty and the political courage to do so, nowadays.

Being as it is that Jesus and God are unofficial but often-mentioned running mates of the Republican candidates for president, Tyler Overman’s "What Would Jesus Do" question to Gov. Huckabee was a very relevant question, if an inconvenient one, indeed.