Huckabee and the Baptist Celebration

A friend and Baptist leader from Arkansas called yesterday. Our conversation rested mostly on two topics: former Arkansas governor and rising presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, and the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant set for late January.
The two intersect at the point in which Huckabee accepted and then rejected, last spring, an offer to speak at the pan-Baptist gathering.
It was widely perceived that Huckabee, then trying to jump-start his campaign, didn’t want to offend the fundamentalist leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention who are not participating in the event.
Huckabee even used some of their familiar criticism that the Celebration was a liberal disguise to promote Democratic politics. The irony, of course, is that the Republican Huckabee is the only presidential candidate in either party to be invited to address the group.
Recently, Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics called on organizers to re-invite Huckabee.
Yet I have never heard that his invitation was rescinded. The ball seems to be in Baptist preacher/governor’s court.
At this point, everything has to do with political perception. Presidential candidates and campaigns are always calculating the next move.
One has to wonder whether Huckabee and his campaign — after a recent surge to the topside of the polls — feel dissing a large gathering of ethnically and theologically diverse Baptists was a wise move.
One sure bet is there are a slew of presidential candidates on both sides that would go out of their way to have that opportunity.
The danger for Huckabee, as a fellow Baptist and now viable candidate, is that his message sounds to some of us like he wants to be president of all Americans — except perhaps some Baptists.
We’ve experienced enough of that kind of rejection from fellow Baptists over the past two decades, thank you.


  1. Huckabee was the moderate candidate for president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. Pressler has endorsed Fred Thompson, and Richard Land is hot for Thompson, too. It will be interesting to see if the fundies will embrace Huckabee since he was not a foot soldier in the “conservative resurgence.”

  2. Johnny:
    Even if Huckabee skips Atlanta, you and Buddy Shurden should do everything within your power to get him on stage with Randall Balmer, Charles Kimball and Charles Marsh to explore this nuance further.
    You have a very interesting thought that Hbee would reach out to all America except progressive Baptists.
    I have blogged extensively about HBee after meeting him in person the Sunday after Thanksgiving in South Carolina.
    I have some great links at my blog, most significant the New Yorker story that explores the landmines he and another good Baptist, Lindsey Graham must navigate on immigration in particular.
    I have hope HBee, like Ben Cole and Wade Burleson may pilgrim out of this mess; i.e. viewing the world through the glasses of Richard Land and Al Mohler which are clouded in Paul Pressler’s History with the Texas Regulars and flirtations with the White Citizens Council and the John Birch Society.
    You doubt me? Ask Bruce Prescott.
    Even so even a good Baptist like Tony Cartledge would have to search is soul were he a Presidential candidate in the ways David Brooks outlines in what I think is his stellar look at Obama today; a look that no less applies to Huckabee.
    I leave you with an excerpt.
    Along with Isaiah Berlin, I would add Mark Noll as an advisor on the matter you raise today.
    That is where nominee or no, we must lead HBee to dialogue with my august body above; Balmer, Marsh and Kimball.

    But Obama does not ratchet up hostilities; he restrains them. He does not lash out at perceived enemies, but is aloof from them. In the course of this struggle to discover who he is, Obama clearly learned from the strain of pessimistic optimism that stretches back from Martin Luther King Jr. to Abraham Lincoln. This is a worldview that detests anger as a motivating force, that distrusts easy dichotomies between the parties of good and evil, believing instead that the crucial dichotomy runs between the good and bad within each individual.

    Obama did not respond to his fatherlessness or his racial predicament with anger and rage, but as questions for investigation, conversation and synthesis. He approaches politics the same way. In her outstanding New Yorker profile, Larissa MacFarquhar notes that Obama does not perceive politics as a series of battles but as a series of systemic problems to be addressed. He pursues liberal ends in gradualist, temperamentally conservative ways.

    Obama also has powers of observation that may mitigate his own inexperience and the isolating pressures of the White House. In his famous essay, “Political Judgment,” Isaiah Berlin writes that wise leaders don’t think abstractly. They use powers of close observation to integrate the vast shifting amalgam of data that constitute their own particular situation — their own and no other.

  3. And this pivotal opinion piece by Robert Novak in today’s WPost: Baptists Not on Board.
    It covers the Pressler/Steven Hotze aspect of Huckabee.
    Whatever one’s misgivings about HBee, God have Mercy on Him as he tries to navigate the treacherous waters of Presslerism and the snakepit of the world according to Richard Land.

  4. Huckabee has said recently that running for president is easier than unifying Baptists. He may be right.
    Trying to find inroads with one group without offending another is something he has already discovered to be difficult.

  5. Some are suggesting that Pressler has already blessed Huckabee’s effort behind the scenes as the best way to get a card-carrying Southern Baptist conversative in the White House. I always thought the SBC fundamentalists had bigger aspirations than the Executive Committee and the seminaries. Maybe they really do intend to take over the world.

  6. That’s “conservative.”

  7. When the Bride of Christ takes the hand of politics, she always wakes up the next morning as the Whore of Babylon. You’d think Christians would have better sense than to baptize any candidate. The Evangelical penchant for choosing “God’s candidate” makes me retch. Its just another affirmation of the fact that our religion more often than not reflects our culture rather than vice versa.

  8. Fox,

    What role will Charles Kimball have on stage at the NBC?

  9. Father of Cat:
    I don’t know of any role Kimball will have at New Cov Convo, or Balmer or Marsh for that matter.
    Just saying, whatever happens to HBee, would be good to have him open his experience post campaign in dialogue with these wise Baps and observers of the Baptist scene with all its implications for our Democracy.
    Burleson is aware of Noll. Ben Cole takes classes with Barry Hankins.
    For a while HBee was open to the Dream Act.
    Kennedy said Ich Bin Berlinner.
    MLKing had a Dream.
    You got to figure HBee will not leave this life in the arms of Steven Hotze and Pressler.
    Let Us Pray.

  10. And Dr. M

    I once made reference to the Whore of Babylon as metaphor for too much emphasis on abortion in voting calculus.
    Made it about 03 at in regard and local church leadership.
    I got voted off the property eventually and cannot enjoy the Fellowship Buddy Shurden in Dec. Baps Today says is necessary for vibrant Christian life; even in the church where my Mother was baptized.

    As for the Babylon Whore and abortion as the wedge issue Karl Rove, Land and Timothy George made it; I feel vindicated by the concluding chapters of Garry Wills Head and Heart.
    Now if Only Buddy Shurden could open up a satellite congregation within driving distance of my house–three miles–mAybe I could sing the Songs of Zion again economically cause gas ain’t gettin no cheaper.

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