Sunday, December 09, 2007

Perhaps Precisely Because of His Theological Training, Huckabee Talks Up the Evangelical Bible without Saying Much at All

Watch Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee's comments about one parochial approach to Christian scripture. It is a textbook exercise in hermeneutical doublespeak, which I see as designed to address the narrow biblical expectations of evangelical conservatives without necessarily alienating more moderate, less literal Christians:

Huckabee made his response to the King James Version YouTube question regarding believing the Bible. His response is general, evasive, and it doesn't really say much at all that you can pin him down on. In other words, it is politically astute and savvy.

Very few are going to question the authority he gives to the ideal of loving others, and he astutely avoids articulating what that love means. It is open to interpretation. Likewise, his statement, "it is the word of revelation from God" can be so interpretively broad that it can include any meaning to any legion of ways that one might express words like "revelation" and "God." Saying, "you either believe it or you don't" was the reddest of the meat that he threw to the evangelicals, but again it is so vague, opaque, and general in meaning that it can be interpreted both as an absolute comment and as cavalier observation.

I'm not convinced that the "pluck out your eye" instruction was originally meant to be glossed as Mr. Huckabee is doing: I think it is generally practiced interpretive move to hang on to a passage that if taken literally is quite masochistic from generally accepted standards. Literalists can be accused of arbitrary and bad faith for rationalizing the passage as allegory while treating other passages squarely in their comfort zone as if they were literal. And Mr. Huckabee seems to exercise his own brand of arbitrary and bad faith: if no finite person is ever going to understand fully the revelation of an infinite God, then why should we believe with him--assuming he is genuine--that a finite book can fully express that revelation?

Finally, I think it was interesting that Mr. Huckabee seemed to interpret the question as critical of a literal view of scripture (suggested in his eye-plucking comments) when it was posed by a Texan who seems quite the committed literalist, given his later responses to the debate. For a self-proclaimed people of faith, politically mobilized evangelical conservatives seem to operate in just as many gray areas as anyone else, but without the acknowledgement of ambiguity or compromise.

UPDATE: TPM has Mr. Huckabee at some less politically astute, more theologically honest moments in which he maintained that he is God's anointed candidate with a campaign that revivals New Testament miracles and in which he argued that AIDS patients should be quarantined.

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