Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee often peppers his speeches with religious references — most likely to appeal to his Evangelical Christian base — but there’s a problem with that.
Most people don’t understand the references… including many Christians!
NPR’s All Things Considered spoke “Huckabese” to people in Washington, D.C. Let’s see if they caught the allusions:
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.
… 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.
Like every person we stopped, Teutonico and Pettit were raised in Christian households and had attended Sunday school.
Eventually, some hard-core Christians showed they knew Huckabee’s language.
But Stephen Prothero, author of Religious Literacy, says the tactic isn’t getting him very far:
“You could imagine that … this is his secret code way that he could speak to evangelicals without alienating more secular people,” Prothero says. “But the faulty part of that strategy is the evangelicals don’t even necessarily know these stories.”
And Prothero’s response when he learned we had finally found someone who could understand Huckabee?
“It’s an exceedingly small target audience, about as small as the percentage of animals climbing on Noah’s ark.”
It is sad that a few of the Biblical stories mentioned in the article went over peoples’ heads. People should know Christian mythology just as they should know basic Greek mythology.
Meanwhile, I disagree that the Bible speak doesn’t alienate secular voters. I say the obscure religious rhetoric isolates Huckabee from the rest of the country. Which is fine. Let the religious conservatives focus on Huckabee while John McCain takes the Republican nomination. The less influence the Christian conservatives have over the election process, the better.
(Thanks to Nadine for the link!)