Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dear Mike Huckabee . . .

Dear Mike Huckabee,

Ever since last week's shootings in Newtown, I've read your quotes all over the media; here's just a sampling of them:
"We’ve systematically removed God from our schools." (UPI)

"We’ve created an atmosphere in this country where the only time you want to invoke God’s name is after the tragedy. . . . we’ve escorted [God] right out of our culture and marched him off the public square." (Huffington Post)

"We don't have a crime problem, a gun problem or even a violence problem. What we have is a sin problem. . . . we've ordered God out of our schools, and communities, the military and public conversations." (Christian Post)
At least we agree on one thing, Mike - that we have a sin problem. A sin problem that has existed ever since the Garden. Even if Adam and Eve had resisted the Tempter and obeyed God to the letter, someone down the line - surely you or I, if not someone long before us - would have come along and brought sin into the world.

But in acknowledging that we have a sin problem, we shouldn't try to deny that the fallenness of our world has brought related specific problems that we should be working to alleviate. Among them are rampant crime; a culture of guns and violence that increases the danger to all of us; and the problems of mental illnesses and social disorders that plague so many and make them a danger to themselves, their loved ones, and others.

Your central thesis, of course, appears to be the removal of God from our public life.

Really, Mike? Do you really think that Almighty God is so easily "removed" from public schools? Isn't his presence apparent in:
  • the life of every child and teacher who has given his/her heart to Christ?
  • the example of every child and teacher who lives her/his faith before others?
  • the behavior of every child and teacher who practices the Golden Rule by not forcing her/his faith on others and by showing respect to those who believe differently?
Children are free to share their faith with classmates, to pray at lunch or even silently in their classrooms, as long as they are not disrupting the normal class routine or creating an atmosphere of coercion or discomfort. But those are restrictions that pertain to any behavior.

So your claim that God has been "removed" from public schools is absolutely false, Mike. There's not an ounce of truth to it. God is still present in the public schools; what has been removed is the use of taxpayer-supported schools for religious practice, teaching, and indoctrination. Again, it's the Golden Rule, Mike. Treat other people's children and grandchildren the way you would want them to treat yours.

Throughout public life, God is wherever there are people who know Him, have Him in their hearts, and live for Him. And people - whether schoolchildren or adults - are going to see God's presence not in some officially imposed religious rites or indoctrination but in God's Spirit giving grace through the lives of His people.

Mike, let's take a serious look at the Christ we both claim to follow and serve.

In this Christmas season, of all seasons, we are reminded of God's gracious gift to us - coming to live among us, in human form, the form of a tiny, helpless babe. A babe born in the most humble of circumstances. Circumstances that were anything but regal. Joseph and Mary were turned away - "no room in the inn" came to them as a harsh rejection as they prepared for the birth of their son. Their only alternative was to lodge with the creatures in the stable. Not the good-mannered, sanitized beasts that appear on our lawns or in our Christmas pageants, but more likely dirty, smelly, and none too happy about having to share their home with this traveling couple. And on top of that, having to give up the manger - the trough that held their food - for this newborn infant? I doubt they gave it up easily. So the Son of Man came to us humbly and lived humbly throughout his life, as the carpenter's son who followed his daddy into the trade. Scripture tells us that he had nowhere to lay his head.

But you, Mike, appear to be insisting on a Messiah wearing a golden crown and imposing political rule on all in the land. Go back and read Philippians 2. The Apostle Paul writes,
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." (2:3, NIV)

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness . . ." (2:5-8a, NIV)

Or Jesus' very own words in Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV):
"Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Mike, God is still in the public square. But perhaps his presence there should be evidenced more in our deeds than our words. The responsibility is ours as Christians - not to use God to win political points or to use God to demean those who disagree with us - but to live in such a way that Christ's presence will be unmistakeable. The presence of the Christ who:
  • was born in humility and lived humbly
  • taught that the two greatest commandments were to love God and love your neighbor
  • always sought to redeem and never to condemn
And it is certainly not our responsibility to force others to pay lip service to our Lord! As George W. Truett said in his sermon, Baptists and Religious Liberty, delivered from the east steps of the U. S. Capitol in 1920:
"God wants free worshippers and no other kind."
Come on, Mike, let's stop using these tragedies to call for a civil religion that demeans God rather than worships him. Instead, as Christians, let's be the presence of Christ to those who are hurting and, in the name of Christ, look for ways to end the violence that is claiming victim after victim after victim.

Your brother in Christ,
Bill Jones


  1. When Christians declare that God has been thrown out of schools and other public places we declare to the world how small and weak our God is. Is that the message we should deliver? Moreover, Jesus asked us not to pray in public. Why do some Christian "leaders"lobby the government to do exactly that? God doesn't need the government to redeem the world. Let's keep the government out of it.

    1. I agree, Robert. I don't understand it, either. You're exactly right - Jesus told us not to pray in public to receive the approval of men, yet that's exactly what these "leaders" are doing. It's interesting to me that Jesus' harshest words seem to have targeted the religious leaders of his day. Little has changed since then.