Should Preachers Like Mike Huckabee Run for Public Office?
A Unitarian minister says Americans have always been wary of electing 'reverend politicians,' and for good reason.
Zubly was on a mission. God, he believed, had called him to Congress to elevate America into a Christian nation. “A republican government,” Dr. Zubly avowed, “is little better than [a] government of devils.” Into the howling wind of a British military occupation, he irrelevantly preached that civil liberty was worthless as long as the people remained slaves to lust. The good reverend's political service to his country was short lived. His frustration with Congress's impious agenda drove Rev. Zubly home, first to Georgia and then into the arms of the Tories.
Later, the Rev. John Witherspoon entered the Continental Congress, serving as ably there as he did in his role as president of Princeton College. Widely respected by his colleagues, he went on to sign the Declaration of Independence. Unlike Zubly, Witherspoon championed church-state separation. He was never tempted to confuse his clerical role with his political one.
Contrasting the first two clergymen to serve our nation in Congress offers a criterion by which modern reverend politicians like Huckabee should be judged. The question is not, “Are clergy capable of performing state business?” It is, “Are clergy able to subordinate the specific tenets of their faith to the broad demands imposed by their constitutional oath?” When he assumed his governmental duties, Witherspoon was able to look beyond the pages of his Bible; Zubly was not.
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