Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Huckabee, Obama, & Edwards

My church, Jeff Street Baptist Community at Liberty, had a great service, yesterday, which found that our “Reclaiming Christmas” project of not spending much on ourselves and family at Christmas and using savings for the poor had raised over $5,000 and looks to top $6,000 before our finish in early January. (Not bad for a small congregation with less than 100 adult members-most of whom are middle class, lower-middle class or working poor. Some are homeless.)  We wrote a $2,500 check yesterday for one of our two projects: heating elementary schools near Ifrane, Morocco. The money will return with Rev. Karen Thomas Smith, Alliance of Baptists sponsored Chaplain to Christians at the University, pastor of a small church there, and Protestant representative to the Morocco Council of Churches.  We will write a similar check to our project in Nicaragua for clean drinking water.

But before leaving for church, I used my digital video recorder to record “Meet the Press” at 10:30 a.m. EDT  On that program, Tim Russert interviewed first former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), an ordained Southern Baptist minister and a Republican candidate for U.S. president and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), a Democratic candidate for U.S. president.  The Iowa Caucuses are on Thursday and the New Hampshire Primary is 5 days later, so I am following these political campaigns closely.

I thought Huckabee sounded more reasonable than he has in some other venues. I am convinced that he is, unlike George W. Bush, an authentic “compassionate conservative.” Despite his expressed doubts about global warming, he is willing to break with his party in taking a more proactive approach toward the environment. He also bucks the GOP standard line in important ways on taxation (generally low-tax, but not agreeing that all taxes are evil or should not be used for important social needs), immigration, education, and poverty. I did not find him entirely consistent on these views–his explanations for contradictory statements that Russert rightly highlighted were more convincing in some areas than others, but no one is entirely consistent. I was more impressed that he seemed open and flexible enough in mind (unlike G.W. Bush!) to admit to error and seek correction. 

I am still worried about a Huckabee presidency because of several matters, however: 1) Some of his answers on church-state matters seemed on track to me, but other statements seem more problematic. Further, he has not adequately explained to me his apparent ties with “Reconstructionists” or Dominion Theology folks–and these nutcases are hardcore theocrats that make “Christian nationalists” like D. James Kennedy and the late Jerry Falwell seem harmless by comarison! 2) He does a good job of explaining how his faith impacts his policy views, as all our faiths or philosophies will. But he doesn’t seem consistent in understanding a need to argue for policies in ways which make sense to a pluralistic society–which reach beyond the convictions of any particular faith group. E.g., Huckabee may believe that Christian faith rules out abortion, but not even all Christians agree. If he wants a Constitutional amendment to ban all abortions, as he says, he doesn’t seem to understand the need to have an argument that would persuade non-Christians. 3) Like Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), his chief rival among Republicans in Iowa, Huckabee seems completely naive in foreign policy matters and to simply have bought hook, line, and sinker, the Bush line that we are involved in a global war against “Islamic Jihadism,” rather than involved in a struggle against terrorism, an ancient tactic used by many groups for many ideological reasons.  This past week, he did not even know that Afghanistan is on the Western border of Pakistan, not the Eastern border!   In short, I would find a Huckabee presidency more tolerable than the past 7 years or than some of his GOP rivals–but that’s not good enough for our times.

The interview with Obama was, as usual, inspiring. And, as usual, I wonder about the details.  Especially on healthcare in which his plan is actually worse than Hillary’s.

Later last night, I watched former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) on C-Span in Iowa, at a last campaign stop. Edwards is in a virtual tie with Obama and Clinton for 1st place in the Iowa Democratic polls. (Who is 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, depends on the poll–and the differences between the 3 remain within the margin of error.) Edwards is not quite the powerful speaker that Obama is–but he’s close. And, I loved the passion with which he is willing to fight the monied special interests who are destroying our democracy.  He has been called a class warrior. Well, the upper 1% declared class war on all the rest of us long ago; it’s time someone is willing to fight back! He has been called an ‘economic populist.’ To me, that’s a good thing.  Edwards also scored huge points with me this past Thurs. when Pakistani opposition leader (and former PM) Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. Other candidates in both parties rushed to microphones (except Huckabee, who seemed as initially clueless as he had about the changed NIE report on Iran!). Edwards, instead, made phone calls and actually got Pakistani Pres. Musharraf on the phone–urging an international investigation of Bhutto’s death (a call Hillary Clinton echoed–but not to Musharraf–24 hours later!) and insisting that Musharraf not use this tragedy as an excuse to reimpose martial law or delay the transition back to democracy.  Whether or not Musharraf listens, I was impressed that in an unexpected crisis, Edwards could respond decisively, firmly, yet calmly. There was no stunned reading of My Pet Duck while time crept by–and no rash actions, either.  Frankly, Edwards acted in ways I would hope a U.S. president would act in a crisis.

Kentucky’s primary is in May. So, I’ll probably have the nominees chosen for me.  But if I lived in Iowa, NH, or South Carolina (the 3 earliest states) right now, I’d probably be voting/caucusing for Edwards. And I still think that an Edwards/Obama ticket would be an excellent outlook for the nation.  2008 looks very interesting from here.


December 31, 2007 - Posted by | U.S. politics

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