Q & A: Mike Huckabee
Mike Huckabee wants pastors to be more graphic about Christmas. The former Southern Baptist pastor says that the church has sanitized the holiday and should tell it like it happened. The former governor of Arkansas recently finished his 64-city book tour for his book A Simple Christmas, which was No. 5 on The New York Times bestseller list this week. Huckabee spoke with Christianity Today during his tour in mid-November about his book, the Middle East, and his future in the Republican Party.
You say the church has sanitized Christmas. As a former pastor, how do you think ministers can help their congregations better understand Christmas?
The best way is to be more graphic in the way they understand the humble, humiliating, and horrible circumstances under which Mary gave birth. This was not a neat, clean, quiet, peaceful, tranquil, serene setting where the Hallelujah Chorus was going off in the background. The sky wasn't lighting up with fireworks from heaven. This was a scared, young, unwed teen mother, away from home, with nobody there to help her as far as we know. She goes into labor and has to hurriedly find a place to have the baby, and the best she could find was a little cave where sheep and goats were kept. Under the best of circumstances, sleeping out in the barn with sheep and goats isn't very pleasant, but having been to Bethlehem and seen the grotto, it's obviously not a very comfortable site.
I think sometimes we have a picture of it like the Nativity scenes, and everybody's standing around very quiet like they could just sing "Silent Night." I think what matters about that, and the reason I try to talk about it in the book, is I want to say to people that often we have the feeling, "God, you wouldn't understand. You don't know what it is to be this low. You don't realize how much I hurt, how much I feel." And the truth is, he understands completely. That's why he came the way he did. There's never a point at which we can say, "Lord, I'm lower than you would ever recognize."
Every year there seem to be court battles over Nativity displays on government property—Christmas wars. Should Christians spend time, money and energy on these battles? Does that fit in with your idea of a "simple Christmas"?
I think it's a whole different realm. My book's focus is not on the political and legal aspects or political correctness. It's really an intensely personal book about each person finding the true meaning in their own heart and life. I think the idea of public displays of Christmas is very important, but it's not at all the theme of my book.
A lot of people compare you and Sarah Palin as conservative Christian candidates. What separates you two? What makes you different?
Well, it's hard for me to say what's different because I don't know. I don't know how people make the comparison. We were both governors, we certainly are both pretty clear in our expression of faith, so yeah, we share those things. But other than those things, I'm not sure where the comparisons are. We're both Republican, we're both pro-life—there are a lot of similarities that way—but she has a very different political direction than I do. I'm not sure of her future politically, and I'm really not sure of mine either.
There seems to be a lot of talk about an internal struggle within the Republican Party. For instance, should a pro-gay-marriage candidate be welcomed in the party?
It's one thing to say that person should be welcomed in the party. The party is big enough to accept people who have different points of view that don't necessarily agree, but I think the overwhelming majority of the party is still very conservative, both fiscally and socially. While I'm very comfortable with someone saying, "I'm a Republican, but I believe in same-sex marriage," I would not be comfortable with the party as a party deciding to make that part of its platform. At that point, they would lose me. If they became a party that supported the termination of an unborn human life for no reason, I would find that at that point the party has left me. But does that mean everyone has to agree with me? Of course not. You can continue to be part of the party even if the party's official platform is pro-life and pro-marriage.