Mike Huckabee: 'The Lord Truly Gave Me Wisdom'
The Republican presidential candidate discusses feeling God's presence during the debates and improving Christianity's image.
BY: Interview by Steven Waldman
and Dan Gilgoff
Having won the Iowa caucus, Mike Huckabee is now a leading candidate for the Republican nomination. The former governor of Arkansas was interviewed by phone on Tuesday by Steven Waldman, Beliefnet's editor-in-chief, and Dan Gilgoff, Beliefnet's politics editor.
What is your daily faith practice now, and how do you maintain that in the midst of the campaign frenzy?
|A Proverb a Day|
I continue to do something I’ve done since I was 18, and that is read a chapter of Proverbs every day as part of my daily devotion. I still maintain that. I usually try to read some Psalms and some New Testament each day. I have a little pocket Bible that I have with me all the time in my briefcase, and so usually in the mornings, sometimes on the campaign bus or plane, I always try to catch some time to do that regularly. It really helps me a lot. And then other times, I’ll spend more time, before a debate or something like that, a little more time really in prayer and meditation.
Are there any particular instances when in contemplating Proverbs you thought, “Wow, this is pretty spot on to what I’m dealing with right now”?
Oh, it happens almost every day. Proverbs 4:12 says, “When you walk you will not stumble and when you run your steps will not be hindered.” And that was just a very powerful message for me that day, I remember that. And Proverbs 15:1, soft answer turns away wrath –a gentle answer turns away… a soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger. Just a reminder to not lose my cool.
A passage that’s really meant a lot, and I’ve told a lot of people, because so many times people come up and say, “I’m praying for you. How can I pray?” And I always tell them to pray the prayer of Isaiah 54 – no weapons formed against me will be able to prosper.
Have there been any particular moments during the campaign when on some level you really felt God’s presence?
|On Feeling God's Presence During the Debates|
Oh, absolutely. Especially some times in the debates when I get asked some question and I’m thinking, “Oh my.” I think it was just before the YouTube debates, I got a really gracious email from Rick Warren, who was a seminary classmate of mine, and he just quoted me Luke, Chapter 12, that when you stand before the assembly, give no thought to what you shall say for the holy spirit will give you the words in that hour. And I just really meditated upon that, and that was, I think, a real breakthrough night for me. I felt like the Lord truly gave me wisdom and responses that were truly needed at that time.
There’s a book you may have heard about called “Unchristian” which is basically saying that, among young people, the involvement of religious conservatives in politics has actually turned them off of Christianity. Do you think there’s anything to that?
|On Trying to Improve Christianity's Image|
I would hope not. I think it would be very tragic. I would hope that if that’s the case that I’ve not contributed to it. I would like to think quite the opposite, that I’ve made that people realize that Christians are real people and they have a real world view that’s defensible and intellectually sound, and that it impacts people’s lives in a positive way. I think it would be tragic if that were the case because the application of Christian principles in government ought to bring a greater sense of justice, a greater sense of hope, and a decency to the process.
There’s something interesting going on now in the evangelical world – there’s a conversation going on about what the agenda ought to be that seems broader. There was a little bit of a sense that the religious conservative leadership, while emphasizing important things like abortion and family, had neglected issues like poverty and the environment. Do you think that’s true?
|Issues Republicans Should Address|
I’ve said that, that I’ve felt like as Christians and particularly even as Republicans, we needed to address issues that touched the broader perspective, and that included disease, hunger, poverty, homelessness, the environment. And it’s not a matter that we’re going to become left-wingers. I don’t think that at all. I think taking care of the earth is a matter of stewardship. It’s not about global warming, it’s about stewardship and responsibility. Things like hunger and homelessness. And it’s not about having a government program, it’s about simply reminding each of us as individual citizens that this is an area of our own responsibility. At my own church… our church is very, very engaged in everything from dealing with hunger, poverty, and we reach out to a lot of people. We don’t ask the government to do it. We do it ourselves as a church. It’s part of our ministry. The only reason the government would get involved would be that the other social institutions – primarily the family the church the neighborhood – failed. If the family or church does its own work and does it well, then there’s no reason for government to ever get into these things at all. The ideal is that they wouldn’t, that they’ll do a lousy job of it generally.