Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is enjoying a late surge in the polls for the Republican nomination, especially in the crucial early caucus state of Iowa. Part of his appeal is a sense of humor, as evidenced by this clever appropriation of the Chuck Norris Facts meme:
Chuck Norris, in addition to his considerable thespian credentials, is a proud creationist who wants the Bible taught in public schools. So it is not surprising to find Mike Huckabee denying the reality of evolution during a televised debate.
But this video, while also quite funny, is pretty scary. Via Cynical-C, it’s a 2004 speech to the Republican Governors’ Association.
A phone call from God! Quite the thigh-slapper. Huckabee artfully includes an assurance that God doesn’t take side during elections — although we all know his preferences, apparently.
I understand that it’s a joke. But there are moments of solemnity during the “phone call,” when Huckabee is being perfectly serious. One of those is at the 2:00 mark, where we are reminded that the President talks to God. And then we receive a list of instructions, including “protecting marriage.” (It needs to be protected from The Gays, for those who don’t have your decoder rings.) George W. Bush himself has occasionally mentioned talking to God, although usually in private meetings where it’s difficult to get objective verification, and admittedly his theology is somewhat unsystematic.
A lot of people who don’t really believe in the old-fashioned supernatural nevertheless think it’s a good idea to appropriate spiritual terminology for their own uses — re-defining “faith” as “any hypothesis that has not yet been proven,” or “God” as “the warm feeling I get when contemplating the universe,” or “religion” as “a nice kind of social club that brings people together to reinforce each other’s goodness.” It’s not a good idea. These are words, and they have meanings when you say them — people think they know what you have in mind. When you say “God,” most people think of the dictionary definition — “the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe.” They’re not thinking of “the laws of nature.” And they honestly believe in this dictionary-definition God. And they let that belief affect, or at least justify, how they govern the country. Shouldn’t every non-religious person be deeply alarmed about this state of affairs?
At the Beyond Belief II conference, Stuart Kauffman gave an interesting (although flawed, I thought) talk about complexity and reductionism, and then ruined the whole thing by suggesting at the end that we should re-define “the sacred” as something arising from the radical contingency of the empirical path of biological evolution. Or something like that, it was a bit vague. What an abysmally bad idea. If you want to choose a word that refers to something other than the traditional religious conception of supreme beings and all that, then don’t use religious language. Because there are other people out there — far vaster in number than you — that are using those same words to mean exactly what they straightforwardly denote: a supernatural power with a vested interest in smiting the wicked, especially boys and girls who fall in love with boys and girls, respectively. And they’re running this country at the moment, and their beliefs are enacted into policy.
Of course, arguing with Mike Huckabee and his friends runs the risk that Chuck Norris will come along and kick your ass. That’s just the chance we have to take.