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.

Listen to Mike Huckabee:
A Proverb a Day
On Feeling God's Presence During the Debates
On Trying to Improve Christianity's Image
Issues Republicans Should Address
On Amending the Constitution to Meet God's Standards
On the Lack of Support from the Christian Right
The Role of God and Prayer in Getting Him This Far

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.

One of the comments you’ve made that’s getting a lot of discussion in the press is the point you made in the last day or so that we might need to amend the Constitution to have it apply more to God’s standards. Do you want to elaborate on that? In particular the question of people who might hear that and think, “Well, that’s a conversation stopper,” people who might agree with you on policy but feel that the constitution is secular document and should be driven by secular concerns rather than aligning it with God’s word.

On Amending the Constitution to Meet God's Standards
Well, I probably said it awkwardly, but the point I was trying to make– and I’ve said it better in the past – is that people sometimes say we shouldn’t have a human life amendment or a marriage amendment because the Constitution is far too sacred to change, and my point is, the Constitution was created as a document that could be changed. That’s the genius of it. The Bible, however, was not created to be amended and altered with each passing culture. If we have a definition of marriage, that we don’t change that definition, that we affirm that definition. And that the sanctity of human life is not just a religious issue. It’s an issue that goes to the very heart of our civilization of all people being equal, endowed by their creator with alienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That was the point. The Bible was not written to be amended. The Constitution was. Without amendments to the Constitution, women couldn’t vote, African-Americans wouldn’t be considered people. We have had to historically go back and to clarify, because there’ve been injustices made because the Constitution wasn’t as clear as it needed to be, and that’s the point.

Just to follow up on that question, according to that standard, if the Constitution and its amendments are subject to biblical interpretations, doesn’t that mean it would be subject to biblical argument over what the proper interpretation is? And where does that leave, say, nonbelievers or members of other faiths in a proudly pluralistic like our own when amendments to the Constitution are subject to a biblical interpretation?

I think that whether someone is a Christian or not, the idea that a human life has dignity and intrinsic worth should be clear enough. I don’t think a person has to be a person of faith to say that once you redefine a human life and say there is a life not worth living, and that we have a right to terminate a human life because of its inconvenience to others in the society. That’s the real issue. That’s the heart of it. It’s not just about being against abortion. It’s really about, Is there is a point at which a human life, because it’s become a burden or inconvenience to others, is an expendable life. And once we’ve made a decision that there is such a time – whether it’s the termination of an unborn child in the womb or whether it’s the termination of an 80-year-old comatose patient -- we’ve already crossed that line. And then the question is, How far and how quickly do we move past that line?

And the same thing would be true of marriage. Marriage has historically, as long as there’s been human history, meant a man and a woman in a relationship for life. Once we change that definition, then where does it go from there?

Is it your goal to bring the Constitution into strict conformity with the Bible? Some people would consider that a kind of dangerous undertaking, particularly given the variety of biblical interpretations.

Well, I don’t think that’s a radical view to say we’re going to affirm marriage. I think the radical view is to say that we’re going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal. Again, once we change the definition, the door is open to change it again. I think the radical position is to make a change in what’s been historic.

Do you think that on issues other than marriage and the life of the unborn that the Constitution should be brought into conformity with the Bible, which is what that quote seemed to suggest?

No, I was specifically talking about those two issues. Those were the only two issues I spoke about in the speech, and that was the point. I’m not suggesting that we say, “Okay, the Bible says you should tithe, so now in the Constitution we’re going to amend it to say everyone tithes.”

Those were the two issues that I felt like are talked about in the political realm. I support both the human rights amendment and a marriage amendment, and the reason that I do is because I think we need to codify in our Constitution that which has been acceptable and accepted view of what life and what marriage means. Frankly, if it weren’t being challenged, it wouldn’t be necessary. But it is being challenged. Now you have states that are passing same-sex marriage laws or civil union laws.

And you also have states that not only practice abortion, but if Roe v. Wade is overturned, we haven’t won the battle. All we’ve done is now we’ve created the logic of the Civil War, which says that the right to the human life is geographical, not moral. I think that’s very problematic. That’s why I think that people like Fred Thompson are dead wrong when he says just leave that up to the states. Well, that’s again the logic of the Civil War – that slavery could be okay in Georgia but not okay in Massachusetts. Obviously we’d today say, “Well, that’s nonsense. Slavery is wrong, period.” It can’t be right somewhere and wrong somewhere else. Same with abortion.

Some of the leading lights of the conservative Christian movement – folks like James Dobson and Tony Perkins, people you’re close to -- have withheld their endorsement. Some of it’s been pretty conspicuous, and they’ve been occasionally critical. Early on, they had doubts about your viability, which is understandable. Now that you won Iowa and fared well in New Hampshire, are you getting a different read on why they’re withholding support from you when they would seem to be such natural allies?

On the Lack of Support from the Christian Right
You know, I don’t fully know. I think sometimes they’ve …not they specifically… I think sometimes there’s a lot of misinformation thrown by my opponents and some of these special interests groups, and they’re trying to paint me as something I’m not, particularly as an economic liberal, which is nonsense. But you know, when people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars – no millions of dollars – saying something you’re not, there are a lot of people who are going to end up believing it.

Is that frustrating for you in the sense that you can understand that on a voter level, but these are folks who have known you for quite a while?

Sure, I’d love to have all of their support, but I guess what I have to do is be grateful in the rank and file who are very supportive, who have taken the time to go to my website and view me in the light of my own words, not the words of an opponent.

Is it possible there’s sort of a generational thing going on, that these religious conservative leaders don’t necessarily like the idea of someone else becoming a leading religious political figure?

I would hope that is not what’s going on, but I just don’t know.

To just close on a more personal, spiritual note, is there anything else you want to leave people with in terms of specifically the power of prayer in your life and how it has helped you get through the temptations and challenges of the campaigns?

The Role of God and Prayer in Getting Him This Far
I think it’s just important that people know that their prayers have gotten me this far, when there’s no way that the limited resources we have had should have me in contention role for first place. We are there, and the only explanation is that little has become much.

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