Huckabee and “Christian Reconstruction”

Like many political conservatives – and, also, like more than a few political liberals — I have, in recent weeks, found much to like about Gov. Huckabee.  (Full disclosure:  I support Fred Thompson for the GOP nomination.)  I liked it, that is, that he seemed (for a while, anyway) not to endorse base anti-immigrant rhetoric; that, as Governor, he was willing to commute the sentences of, and pardon, convicted criminals; and that, for a while, he avoided Giuliani-esque over-the-top statements about how tough he is willing to be on detainees, etc.  (I have been bothered, though, by his cosy relationship with the teacher unions, among other things.)  I even gave him some money.

This column, by Robert Novak, leaves me very troubled.  Now, to be clear, it is not (for me) a reason to worry about Gov. Huckabee’s candidacy that some Southern Baptist leaders are not endorsing him.  What does bother me, though, is (what seems to be) Gov. Huckabee’s close relationship with Steven Hotze, Rick Scarborough, and Vision America.

I’ve been pretty clear, I think, about my disdain for the tedious and ignorant “the theocrats are coming!” thing that is so popular in some circles.   (See Ross Douthat’s take-down of the genre here.)  But, as I see it, Hotze, Scarborough, and Vision America really do have troubling and misguided views about faith and the political order.  We’re not talking Fr. Neuhaus’s critique of the naked public square here, or John Courtney Murray’s We Hold These Truths.

Now, I’m confident (should I be, though?) that Gov. Huckabee’s own views are more thoughtful and sound than those of the so-called Christian Reconstructionists.  But, can anyone doubt that, were Huckabee to be the nominee, these people and their views (read this, for example) — which would be, I’m confident, regarded as deeply creepy and troubling by most Americans — would be at the center of the campaign?  (It would be political malpractice for Huckabee’s opponent, or opponents, not to exploit his connection with these people.) 

I am, of course, pro-life and fairly conservative.  I agree entirely with those who insist that religious faith has a role to play in politics and policy.  I don’t see “theocracy” looming behind efforts to, say, protect unborn children from partial-birth abortions.  But, I do worry about Vision America (not that they could actually achieve their aims, but that they will become associated in the public mind with *my* aims).

Also troubling to me – and, I hope, to other Catholics — is the fact that Gov. Huckabee apparently has no difficulty appearing with, and preaching at the church of, Pastor John Hagee, a virulent and ignorant anti-Catholic polemecist who has, to put it mildly, not yet got the word about “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.”

So:  tell me, Vox Nova readers who support Gov. Huckabee, if you think I’m overreacting here.  Should I not worry about Huckabee’s relationship with the attendees at the event described in the Novak column?  About his date with Hagee?

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  • M.Z. Forrest

    Did he make a Christian State in his 11 years as governor of Arkansas?

    As for Pastor Hagee, it isn’t like anti-Catholicism is foreign to the Baptist world. I don’t tend to get too excited about associations anyway. I personally would take a Pastor Hagee over a Franklin Graham, but I was never much for ecumenism.

    I would be more concerned with Hagee’s Zionism. This is my concern with most every Evangelical candidate.

  • Blackadder

    I don’t support Huckabee, but I do think you’re overreacting. Romney, for example, has been endorsed by Bob Jones III. Bob Jones is pretty anti-Catholic (and anti-Mormon!), but the fact that he endorsed Romney hardly means that Romney is anti-Catholic or anti-Mormon.

  • Not being a Hucakbee supporter, this doesn’t concern me as much as it concerns you, perhaps. That said, I can’t help but feel a little uneasy at their rhetoric. As a social conservative it’s difficult to walk that line between believing that faith should play a role in politics and having faith be the entire basis of your political opinions. I’ve maintained that there is a fairly significant difference between Evangelical and Catholic conservatives, and this helps to emphasize that point.

    I’m with you – the talk about a looming theocracy is overblown, but this group doesn’t help quell those fears.

  • PJ

    You should be more concerned about this:

    In 1992, Huckabee wrote, “If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague. It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents.”

  • JH

    I am going to be doing a post on this subject today. I am a pretty big Huckabee supporter. LEt me address the Hagaee “controversy”
    As you can tell from my Blog I am very devout Catholic and a Huckabee supporter.

    I am going to respond to what I see as largely faux controversy. Huckabee is not going there to get the anti Catholic vote. HE is going there among other things to talks about his values and I suspect about his support for Israel

    Do Catholics question the faith of Catholic Convert and the new Governor Elect of Louisiana Bobby Jindal? Bobby Jindal , as is custon in Louisiana, visited many churches here in Louisiana. He even spoke form the altar. Several of these needless to say are not very Catholic sermon friendly.

    However I will note that when the state democrat party ran anti Catholic ads up in Louisiana many of these same pastors thought a line was crossed and spoke against that. While much of the Catholic blogsphere was silent!! Including if memory serves me right this very blog. I have escorted and been with numerous Catholic people running for office in some of these Churches. THey wanted to hear what we had to say. Often our pro-life vison was a common bond.

    BY the way I used to be very involved in the Pro-life movements. That met interacting and working with people from “anti Catholic Churches”. Catholics did that by the millions over the past deacdes. Were we wrong?

    One of the major Christian Communties is the Missouri Synod of Lutherans. In their statement of faith they say the Office f the Papacy is the anti Christ. Can a person ask for their vote? Can they go their Churches or communities where they are at in Great numbers?

  • JH

    As to Christian Reconstructonist. I have little fear that Huckabee a Southern Baptist will be endorsing that. Huckabee has a record in Arkansas as Lt Gov and two terms as Governor. If there are hints that he belives these views then they should found there.

    Again it is a messy business and we must be careful. For instance there are certain Catholics that have to say some interesting views on the slavation of non Catholics. Some of these in a very reluctant fashion accept aspect of Vatican II on these matters. Shall they be person non gratia in the political spectrum?

  • rgarnett

    JH — If you find me a Catholic candidate who has SSPX-type views of Vatican II, I’ll oppose that candidate, too.

    As for Gov. Jindal . . . I [heart] Bobby Jindal. And, it was certainly not my impression that Catholics — bloggers and regular people alike — ignored the grossly racist and anti-Catholic campaign against him.

    I’m glad Huck supports Israel. I do, too. And, I suspect he can find plenty of “ECT”-type pastors — besides Hagee and his ilk — who do, and who would be happy to have him.

    Also, I think it is clear in my post that I do not think *Huckabee* is a Christian Reconstructionist. But, if he is trafficking closely with them, then his association will damage very badly any hope he might have of being elected. And, given the givens, I would prefer that the GOP candidate be someone who can be elected.

  • Huh, I always thought Reconstructionism was a hardline Presbyterian thing, but this is an ecumenical movement.

    “But, can anyone doubt that, were Huckabee to be the nominee, these people and their views (read this, for example) – which would be, I’m confident, regarded as deeply creepy and troubling by most Americans”

    I briefly scanned the document, and it seems pretty standard conservative Protestant stuff to me. I thought Christian Reconstructionists wanted to reinstate Hebraic law and all its capital punishments, but I couldn’t find anything about that here.

    I was quite concerned about its treatment of the Bible as containing all fundamental truths about all areas of life, which certainly is far too anti-secular, but I’m not sure what the novelty is. This is basically the same stuff conservative Christians have been saying for a few decades, and the same stuff they’ve been attacked for. Did I miss something? Only the minimal talk about demons and Satan’s influence would be perceived as especially creepy, I think.

  • JH


    This is the problem. This particualr odd sect of Christianity and its involvement in conservative politics did not exactly just appear. They have been around for some time. If memory serves me correctly many of these same folks supported Reagan, Bush I, were donating to BUSH II and assorted other conservatives. THey are often ont he same boards and thinks tanks. What will happen if Huck does not get the nod. I predict they shall be giving money and appearing at Fundraisers for Romney, Thompson, or person x. What then? Will all the people be aghast? Not really. This issue always comes up when this particaular vein of thought that is indeed fractured in itself is noticed interacting with the political realm

  • That’s the whole problem, the whole marriage of convenience underpinning the ‘Catholics and evangelicals together’ has always been knitted together by glossing over the major theological differences. For Catholics, it has been a case of “let’s ignore all those bits of Catholic social teaching that the evangelicals might have problems with”. More fundamentally, the American evangelical movement is based on so mnay aspects of flawed theology that it’s hard to know where to start.

  • JH


    What is is sometimes called a marriage of convenience is also called finding common ground. It seems to have to have worked. I guess Since I live in a very Protestant area my whole life is a marriage of Convenience with Evangleicals. We all work together, have each others kids sleep over with our kids on overnights , go and support the local football team, go and work together on issues such as schools, and the economy.

    THe thing is with the American Evangelical movement is you can’t put it in a box. As for the Catholic Social doctrine. As I keep trying to point out not all Evangelicals are the deep Calvanist that you think they are. Many Evangelicals often share the same concerns as many Catholics do in this area. This is one reason why so many were FDR Democrats for so long and Democrat leaning. Isee this all the time where I live.

    I wonder. I don’t think these differences have been glossed over. They are often a topic of discussion. However I think it has been a net plus that Catholics and Evangelicals have worked together. I think many Evangelicals came to better understanding of Catholics because of it. A lot of myths have sort of gone out the door or at least are not as prevalant. So I think it has been a good thing. I find it a much satifactory situation than having people in Fortress Catholisicism and Fortress Evangelical and never interacting on the political or social stage.

  • Rick Garnett

    JH: I don’t understand your point (at 7:33).

    MM: Like JH, I don’t think the issues and personalities in my post undermine, at all, the ECT project (that is, the specific Neuhaus-Colson effort), which has always candidly acknowledged the points of disagreement, while doing the good work of identifying the points of agreement.

  • Jonathan

    What might concerns those thinking about Huckabee more than this are some of the things the WSJ noted in today’s editorial:

    1) Opposition to school vouchers
    2) 14 Arkansas state ethics committee investigations, five of which resulted in admonishments (including failing to report a $23,500 gift from Action America).
    3) Other complaints of misuse of state funds (similar to those discussed about Giuliani).

  • Jonathan


  • JH

    Rick I guess my point is that I don’t see this damaging Huckabee. Last night a Romeny blog was posting on this and doing his best “I am shocked that there is Gamblign going on at Rick’s) Casbalanca impression on this. I asked him what in heavens name was he going to do when these same people showed up at a Romney fundraiser or event if Romney got the nod. I predicted nothing lol. It is such a subset and now a fractured subset of “christian thought” that know one pays them any mind. It has never damaged any other Republican. Why Huckabee

  • Rick Garnett

    JH: The question, as I see it, is not so much “who is voting for this guy?”, but “who is this guy tapping to be his major fundraisers? What general-election liabilities is he creating through his chosen associations? etc.”

  • JH

    Rick I see your point. Let me say with confidence that right now Huckabee does not have a lot of major fundraisors. We are still at the stage of hundred dollar dinners for goodness sake. I suspect that when his campain finace report come in we shall see a broadbase bunch of support. For instance I am far more interested in this news item I saw on a political blog out of Florida last night

    Diaz de la Portilla helping Huckabee
    Along with Marco Rubio and David Rivera, Miami state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla is hosting the 12/26 $200-per-person Mike Huckabee fundraiser at the Miami home of Carlos and Michelle Pastor

    I am far more interested in this event and who perhaps in the various Hispanic political parts of Florida is backing Huckabee than the above story. I suspect we get a idea of perhaps where Huckabee is planning to go on issues such as immigration and Cuba etc by examing this guest list . Well perhaps I should be glad we are not examing that potoential guest list too closely. It might just give us more problems on the far right.

    Anyway I think the public will get a clearer picture of Huckabee if he can get out of the early states and he can start to moderate his message a tad. Right now he is having to target his views towards a hundred different small but important groups. I have to admit. I really did not think that at this stage of the game his conservative credentials would be so under attack. Which means that the process of having to stay right(in perception and soundbites) for a while shall continue longer than I thought.

  • As a former Arkansan and sympathizer to the reconstructionist movement at that time, I remember hearing a talk given by a lawyer from Colorado who proposed having a bunch of reconstructionist-minded people move to a relatively unpopulated area/state and exerting control at a local level, reconstructing from the ground up. I remember this lawyer speaking warmly of some growing groups who were involved in this effort, he mentioned Colorado, Wyoming, and Arkansas by name. I was completely unaware of it, and I’m still not sure how true it was. I also heard from a couple of other sources that a lot of the people working with Huckabee while he was governor were reconstructionists, or at least had those kinds of tendencies/sympathies.

  • “I remember hearing a talk given by a lawyer from Colorado who proposed having a bunch of reconstructionist-minded people move to a relatively unpopulated area/state and exerting control at a local level,”

    The Libertarians are trying to do this to New Hampshire, they call it the “Free State Project.” I think “reconstructionist” folk chose South Carolina, a brief search suggests the project name is “Christian Exodus.” A whopping 15 families have supposedly already moved.

    Notice both are early primary states? They have the goal, but not the means.

  • Huckabye? He’s toast I think. According to his latest statement, Huckabee seems to want fundamentalism. It could never happen, even if Huckabilly really wanted to do it.

    I don’t think he does, he just wants the votes from those he thinks want one. I don’t think most of them really want it that much either. He’s not stupid enough to want to try to do it as POTUS, he’s just stupid enough to say it when he’s campaigning.

    Huckleberry is too conservative on religion and too liberal on criminals and the economy and immigration.

    Huckabye? Huckabee wants to have adulterers, homosexuals and rape victims stoned to death. He also wants to make alcohol and music videos illegal, and make women 2nd class citizens and to take all girls out of school?

    Oops, my bad, that’s another ‘religion’.

    Hey, anybody but the PIAPS!

    if you’re MAD
    punish your country
    VOTE for Hillary

    absurd thought –
    God of the Universe says
    elect women presidents

    who cover for their husbands
    who rape other women

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