Mike Huckabee, Southern Baptist minister, ex-governor of Arkansas, former Fox 'News' star, and Republican presidential candidate (before and after his Fox News stint), is one of the crazier people in the GOP. Of course, that's not much of a distinction.
But he's personable. If you don't listen to what he says, he comes across as a pleasant, easy-going kind of guy. He's not a wild-eyed, crazy-looking, right-wing Christian nutbag. He's just a right-wing Christian nutbag.
Now, Huckabee has said crazy things before, certainly, but I want to focus on his latest comment about gay marriage:
Huckabee said that for him, same sex marriage is a religious issue.
"This is not just a political issue. It is a biblical issue. And as a biblical issue, unless I get a new version of the scriptures, it’s really not my place to say, ‘Okay, I’m just going to evolve.’ It’s like asking somebody who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped-shrimp in their deli. ... or asking a Muslim to serve up something that is offensive to him or to have dogs in his backyard," he said. "We’re so sensitive to make sure we don’t offend certain religions, but then we act like Christians can’t have the convictions that they’ve had for over 2,000 years."
The former governor also affirmed his view that the Supreme Court cannot change states' laws on gay marriage.
"We don’t change law because some people in a black robe just decide they don’t like the fact that 70, in some cases 80 percent, of a state’s population have affirmed natural law marriage," he said.
First of all, this is exactly - exactly - what right-wing Christians said about the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, racial integration, and allowing people of different races to marry. All of those things were Biblical issues to them, and the Bible was always on their side - the wrong side.
We couldn't have blacks and whites intermarrying, because scripture told them that was wrong. Of course, no one was going to force Christians - or anyone else - to marry someone of a different race, but that wasn't good enough for them. No, if their god didn't like it, no one should be allowed to do it.
And keep in mind that that didn't change until 1967!
Second, as with every issue, 'God' is on both sides. Huckabee apparently needs a "new version of the scriptures" before he'll accept gay marriage (or the abolition of slavery, or equal rights for women, or interracial marriage, I assume?), but the old version doesn't stop other Christians from vehemently disagreeing with him.
As I've noted before, God, if he exists at all, must be the world's worst communicator. Even Christians (after 2,000 years, still only 30% of the world's population) can't agree among themselves about anything, even when they base their arguments on the same 'holy book'!
This isn't a religious issue or even a Christian issue, but an issue of Huckabee's own interpretation of his own Southern Baptist version of Christianity. This is why we have freedom of religion in America - so that religious nuts can't force everyone else to obey whatever it is they happen to believe.
Would you prefer the Taliban way of doing things? Apparently, Huckabee would.
Third, let's look at the specifics of Huckabee's argument: "It’s like asking somebody who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped-shrimp in their deli." Is it? Really?
Obviously, no one is going to force a Jew to eat bacon or shrimp. No one is going to force a Muslim to drink alcohol. No one is going to force a Mormon to drink coffee. We've come that far, at least.
But you are going to prevent two consenting adults from getting married, because your own interpretation of your own particular religious text tells you that people
No one is going to force Baptist minister Huckabee to marry people of different races or of the same sex, either. No one is going to force his church to hold the ceremony, no more than forcing his Christian church to hold Muslim or Hindu services. That's his right in a free country.
But suppose a Jew gets a job in a deli, while refusing to sell pork or seafood products? Suppose a Muslim gets a job in a liquor store but refuses to handle alcohol? Suppose a Mormon gets a job checking out groceries, but refuses to check out coffee?
Suppose you open a grocery store, but refuse to serve black people? Suppose you open a furniture store but refuse to serve Jews? You're not required to approve of Jews. You're not required to like black people. I'm sure that neither Jews nor black people give a crap whether you approve of them or not.
But we live together in a society which requires a certain minimum of minding your own business. If you don't want to deal with the public, don't start a business and don't get a job which requires dealing with the public. (It's your choice. Many jobs don't.)
Of course, no one is going to tell a deli owner that he has to sell bacon-wrapped shrimp. But if he sells bacon-wrapped shrimp, he'd better sell them to every customer who wishes to buy. No one is going to tell a Muslim that he has to get a job in a liquor store. But if he does get a job in a liquor store, he has to be willing to do his job.
If you're a Mormon, no one is going to force you to drink coffee. But it's none of your business if other people want to drink coffee, and if you choose to work in a grocery store, you have to be willing to sell people coffee. If not, work somewhere else.
Huckabee, and Christians like him, are generally on board with that. They just want special privileges for their own religion.
They'd be aghast at letting Muslims get a job in a liquor store while refusing to handle alcohol. If a Mormon in a restaurant refused to let them drink coffee, they'd be the first to complain. But they want to let Christians get a job in a pharmacy while refusing to dispense birth control. They want to let Christians work in a county clerk's office - being paid by the government, no less! - while deciding on their own which complete strangers should and shouldn't be allowed to marry.
This is the kind of thinking that's widespread in the Republican Party - especially within the GOP base. For the 2016 campaign, every Republican candidate for president will have to demonstrate to the base that he's just as crazy as they are (because those are the people who reliably vote).
But many of the candidates, including Huckabee, don't have that problem. Huckabee is already a darling of the extreme right, so he just has to demonstrate that he can appear harmless enough to everyone else. Remember how people supposedly voted for George W. Bush because he seemed like a nice guy, the kind of guy they'd like to have a beer with?
Mike Huckabee's words matter. But given our current profit-driven media and profit-driven political system, will they?