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Daniel Rodosh explores the hidden mean of Huckabee’s “vertical politics” phrase.

The phrase is Christianese. And while it’s used in a variety of contexts, it’s most commonly applied to distinguish one type of contemporary Christian music — the type that Huckabee plays — from others. As the Lyrical Theology blog put it, “Christian lyrics can generally divided into two categories. 1. Lyrics that are horizontal, or directed towards people, and 2. Lyrics that are vertical, or directed towards God.” A few years ago, the top A&R guy at Word, a major Christian record label, explained what this means as a practical matter: “Overt, or vertical, lyrics are lyrics that are not afraid to say ‘Jesus’ or ‘God’ in them. ‘Vertical’ meaning: I am speaking to God, or God is speaking to me, or this is a prayerful song. The lyrics are out in the open–overt–about the Christian faith, praise and worship or the like.” Horizontal lyrics, on the other hand, “are the type that could often be love songs, but the You is with a capital ‘Y.'” Snarky young Christians call these “God-is-my-girlfriend songs.” The vertical language is so commonplace that Christian entertainment sites like Crossmap use it frequently without any explanation. There’s a Christian record label named Vertical Music.
There is zero chance that Mike Huckabee is using this language unintentionally. The candidate published two books last year. In Character Makes a Difference he writes, “The Ten Commandments are divided into two sections — the vertical laws dealing with man’s relationship with God and the horizontal laws dealing with man’s relationship with others.” In From Hope to Higher Ground, he writes, “We don’t need our leadership to embrace a horizontal direction, but a vertical one — we need to aim up — not just right or left.”

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