Huckabee Still Wants to Take America `Back for Christ’

Mike Huckabee says he won’t step away from his comments 10 years ago in which he urged fellow Southern Baptists to “answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ.” I’ve long thought that if Huckabee succeeds in getting the nomination, we had all better be prepared for the press (and Huckabee’s opponents) to dig up every sermon he ever preached and pick them apart. This may be just the start. 2 things: To outsiders, such a statement may seem hyper-righteous or arrogant or (take your pick). But it’s well down the middle for something you’d hear from a Southern Baptist preacher (like Huckabee).

Giving Mitt Romney a Run for the Money

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (now head of Health & Human Services) spent considerable time mulling how Mormon doctrine could better be applied to public life. Also turns out that many of those “private” conversations were tape-recorded, to do away with the hassle of taking notes. Leavitt has now asked that those notes be removed from the public archives. From the Trib: Over several mornings in late 1996, the group delved into the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, exploring the lessons from Mormon scripture and how they apply to modern government. Leavitt told The Tribune he has not held comparable gatherings in his current role as HHS secretary, or previously as administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Away in a Manger …

Sometimes you never know what your’e going to find in the Vatican’s attic … Seems they still have pieces (or what they think are pieces) of the crib used by the baby Jesus some 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. They’re kept in Rome, at the basilica of St. Mary Major, and apparently they’re in such bad shape that they were kept under lock and key for this year’s Christmas services.

There is No Name but Allah

Al Jazeera is reporting that the Malaysian government has agreed to allow a Catholic newspaper to use the term “Allah” to refer to God (in a Christian context) after earlier saying Allah could only refer to the God worshipped by Muslims. The government gave no reason for the about-face. From Al Jazeera: The government has previously warned The Herald, which has a circulation of 12,000 among Catholics, that its permit could be revoked if it continued to use the word “Allah” for God in its Malay-language section. “Allah” is Arabic for God and means the same in Malay, Malaysia’s national language. Christians in Malaysia have argued that the word “Allah” was used by Christians before Islam.

Huck Meets the Press

On yesterday’s Meet the Press, Tim Russert taxed Huckabee with a line, apparently from his speech to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Salt Lake City in 1996, where he urges the audience to “take back the nation for Christ.” This has roiled the waters a bit, causing various cries of outrage in the liberal blogosphere and making Yahoo’s top news stories this morning. Huck’s response was to say that such a remark was appropriate to a gathering of Southern Baptists–not very illuminating. What he should have said was that this is typical evangelistic language–what you tell the troops when they are going out to spread the word–not a summons to establish Christianity as the official religion of the United States, as some outsiders might suppose. The follow up exchange, given below, includes Huck’s comment that the country’s “Judeo-Christian background” respects those of no faith.

Huck Shakes Up GOP

This weekend’s NYT has worthwhile piece by David Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick explains how the rise of Huckabee might be signaling a change in the traditional anatomy of the GOP. “Now his success is setting off a debate in his party over whether his success marks the fading of the old Reaganite conservative coalition — social conservatives, antitax activists and advocates of a muscular defense — or, rather, offers a chance for its rejuvenation.“It’s gone,” said Ed Rollins, who once worked as President Reagan’s political director and recently became Mr. Huckabee’s national campaign chairman.”


The New York Times’ estimable David Kirkpatrick has a good piece in today’s Week in Review on Huckabee and the putative collapse of the Reagan coalition of social conservatives, economic conservatives, and defense, ah, conservatives. Ed Rollins, the old GOP hand now managing Huck’s campaign, pronounced it dead, claiming that the “key” is a “whole new coalition.” What would that coalition look like? Mostly, Rollins and the other Republican wise heads Kirkpatrick spoke to seem to be looking back to reviving connections to the Reagan Democrats, who before that were Wallace Democrats–socially conservative (to say nothing of racist) white working and lower-middle-class folks who defected from the New Deal coalition for various reasons. The most important quote is the kicker:“My fantasy out of this race is that Huckabee will create another Christian Coalition,” said Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, recalling the group that grew out of Pat Robertson’s 1988 campaign and became a political force for much of the next decade.

Funeral home finds a niche in Hindu funerals

c. 2007 Religion News Service SAYREVILLE, N.J. _ When Sejal Vyas’ mother died suddenly last year, her family wanted a traditional Hindu funeral with sacraments like incense and kindling, but her father also had a special request. After the service, the father wanted his wife’s casket carried from room to room in the couple’s house in a Hindu ritual meant to symbolize the different phases of a spirit’s journey after death. Vyas, whose parents are immigrants from India, turned to the Hindu Funeral Home in Sayreville for help. “She was concerned that she was asking us to do things we couldn’t do,” said Greg Young, co-owner of the Hindu Funeral Home, which is one of two funeral homes in the state catering exclusively to Hindu services.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Al Gore named `Baptist of the Year’ (RNS) Former Vice President Al Gore has been named “Baptist of the Year” by, the Web site of the Baptist Center for Ethics. “He has pressed for the global good with a compelling message about the danger of climate change and a clear call for moral responsibility, knitting together science and faith, reason and passion,” wrote Robert Parham, the center’s executive director, in an announcement of Gore’s selection. “He has refused to be distracted by the character-assassins, the fear-mongers, the science-deniers and the merchants of short-term gain. He has remained faithful to his mission of protecting the earth and its inhabitants.” The Baptist Center for Ethics, based in Nashville, Tenn., was founded in 1991 and is supported by moderate Baptist groups.

NEWS FEATURE: 2008 Religion Calendar

c. 2007 Religion News Service NOTE: Holidays that begin at sundown continue through sundown of the next day, unless otherwise noted. (UNDATED) This calendar of events is a listing of major religious holidays, conferences and denominational meetings for 2008. It will be updated each month. Jan.

Orthodox Jews and Pius XII

A New York State politician plans to petition the Vatican against the possible beatification of the controversial wartime pontiff, Pius XII. The news has generated some fascinating comments on an Orthodox Jewish Website. A number of the writers support the politican’s initiative. A few express fear of provoking an anti-semitic backlash. But the most common argument is that non-Catholics should simply not care what the Vatican does.

Book chronicles sect’s troubled past

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Like the circumstances of his birth, nothing about Ricky Rodriguez’s life was normal. His death, in 2005 at the age of 29, would be no different. He was born to an American woman, Maria Zerby, who embraced the gospel of “flirty fishing” that used sex as a tool to recruit new members to the Children of God, a 1970s Christian sect now known as The Family International. Overseeing it all was David Berg, whose gospel of sexual liberation also included adult-child sex.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Analysis says clergy turning dollars toward Democrats WASHINGTON (RNS) Clergy and staffers of religious organizations are giving more to Democratic campaigns this year, marking a shift from four years ago when Republicans had the advantage. Contributions to candidates, parties and committees from clergy and other individuals affiliated with religious groups has totaled $655,250, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign donations. Fifty-six percent of that money went to Democrats, based on the center’s analysis of Federal Election Commission data on giving in the first three quarters of 2007. By contrast, at the same point in 2003, clergy and religious staffers had given a total of $461,600 in contributions to candidates, parties and committees, with 59 percent going to Republicans.

In Newark, a black Baptist mayor mulls Maimonides

c. 2007 Religion News Service NEWARK, N.J. _ Of all the political dirt slung in this city’s recent mayoral races, perhaps none was more curious than the claim in 2002 that challenger Cory Booker was Jewish. The claim was viewed in political circles as an attempt both to emphasize Booker’s newcomer status (he moved to the city from the suburbs in 1996) and to benefit from perceived anti-Jewish feelings in the city. Booker, who won the mayor’s race in 2006, is not Jewish. He is Baptist and says he has never considered converting.

COMMENTARY: All you need is love?: 725 words: A photo of Dick Staub is available via www.religionnew

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Being a child of the ’60s, my theology was shaped by those great British theologians, The Beatles, who announced good tidings of great joy: “All you need is love,” followed by “Love, love me do, you know I love you” and “She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah.” But lingering beneath the surface of their sunny lyrics was a hint at the darker side of love: “Can’t buy me love, no everybody tells me so.” And Paul McCartney asked the question that is now being answered in his own life. “When I get older losing my hair many years from now … will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” Jesus warned that in the last days the love of most would grow cold. The Beatles’ love definitely went cold.