In the escalation of faith-based pitches by both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, Mike Huckabee has thrown down a new challenge: amending the Constitution to conform to the word of God. In a recent statement, Huckabee stated: “[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God . . . and that’s what we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards, rather than try to change God’s standards.” What is most remarkable is how little remarkable this statement proved to be with mainstream media.
As stated in a recent column, the candidates are talking so much about faith that one would think they wanted to be in the College of Cardinals rather than the Hall of Presidents. Obama, Clinton, Huckabee, Romney, and others are struggling to close the God-gap with their opponents by voicing ever-increasing demands for faith-based politics.
Huckabee was recently quoted from a prior sermon in a call to “take back this nation for Christ.” See here Now, it appears that this may have been more literal than first assumed.
It does appear a rather curious way for Huckabee to appeal beyond his narrow band of evangelicals. Amending the Constitution for Christ is a cause better suited for a preacher than a president. It also reaffirms a stereotype of evangelicals as obsessed with compelling others to accept their moral values. For decades, pro-life advocates have insisted that abortion should be a state by state decision. Yet, now Huckabee would try to force his moral views on the majority of states with a pro-choice view by amending the Constitution. It is a very unsettling vision. Of course, Huckabee clearly rejects the individual privacy values that support the right to choose. Yet, even some pro-life advocates should be concerned with this statement. For those who have made the plausible argument that abortion should be in greater part a state issue, Huckabee is calling for a different form of federal control over the question. While the states would have to vote to amend the Constitution, such an amendment would deprive future states of the right to reach their own conclusions as to the protection of the right to choose.Our Constitution is designed to create a system by which we can come to answers rather than supply the answer themselves. It allows for views and values to evolve while giving the majority the ability to live by the laws that the consider fair and right. It also protects those minorities who hold different moral views.
I long to meet an evangelical who believes it secular government and the separation of church and faith. I know that there must be such people of faith who also value secular government. Yet, the religious right continually argues that the true path of faith must lead through government and forcing a nation to conform to a particular sectarian view. It is a model that is all too familiar to the world as we watch fanatics in Iran, Pakistan, and other countries use government as a vehicle of faith.More than anyone else, George W. Bush can be credited with making faith-based appeals not just a mantra but an agenda for modern candidates. When asked during the 2000 primary to name his favorite political philosopher, Bush immediately declared, “Christ, because he changed my heart.” While perhaps a bit confused by Jesus’ emergence as a political philosopher rather than religious figure, other candidates sheepishly followed suit. Ironically, it was strikingly similar to the faith-based campaigning by another national leader: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. For some reason, it seems more threatening when it is someone else’s God who is guiding the head of a nation.
Huckabee’s call for a Christian Constitution should have been met with a chorus of objections from evangelicals and non-evangelicals alike. After all, we have all benefited from the most stable and successful democratic system in the history of the world. That stability did not come from compelled values but from a tradition of tolerance in a pluralistic nation. We have long assumed that each family and each religion can reinforce their faith without government assistance. By separating church and state, we guarantee that each such family is allowed to make moral choices according to their own faith structure.If one takes Huckabee’s statement on its face value, it seems to suggest a system like Henry Ford’s promise that customers can have any color car so long as it is black. Under the newly amended Constitution, citizens can hold any moral view so long as it is right.