Columns » Ernest Dumas

Scary evangelists

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In his desperation to collar the evangelical conservative vote, Mike Huckabee has overplayed his hand rather badly. Five weeks before the Iowa caucuses he will be on national television for six days making common cause with Kenneth Copeland.

Copeland is the scariest of all the money-grubbing television evangelists. He must have been the brand of cleric whom the Englishman Sydney Smith had in mind when he wrote that a certain unpleasant acquaintance “deserves to be preached to death by wild curates.”

Rev. Copeland has a menacing visage, at least to some of us, but his religion is scarier still. He converses with God and Jesus regularly and he quotes them verbatim. God, if you are curious, is “a being that stands somewhere around six-two, six-three that weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple hundred pounds, a little better.” He runs things on Earth from an undisclosed planet, where Copeland says Heaven is situated, and He intends for those who worship him to be rich. One way you can start to claim your treasure is to send money to Bro. Copeland because God will reward you lavishly for it.

God regularly gives Copeland prophecies to pass on, like this one on Dec. 2, 2001, seven weeks after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center: “There's going to be close to a billion people that have been trapped in that religion [Islam] that over the next few months are gonna come into the kingdom of God. That's gonna happen, you watch and see what I'm telling you . ... I can tell you this, that this thing has come to an end, it's over. I'm talking about Islam and all that that stands for.”

Huckabee does not believe any of that stuff or at least he has never betrayed any such theological foolishness, unless you count the time that he refused to sign a bill giving relief to tornado victims because it carried the phrase “acts of God.” He thought it blasphemous to blame God for tornadoes, which would put him at odds with evangelists like Copeland. Huckabee's has always seemed a tolerant doctrine, closer to the Catholic social gospel than to that of weirdoes like Copeland, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, the latter two of whom agreed that Americans “deserved” the punishment that God meted out to it on 9/11 because they tolerated gays and abortions.

But Huckabee counts Copeland and his wife Gloria, who hails from just up Highway 278 from Huckabee's boyhood home at Hope, as dear friends and Copeland as a spiritual counselor. He stays with them when he is in the Fort Worth area.

Copeland is going to give him a leg up on the Republican presidential nomination at the end of this month by broadcasting six segments of their recently videotaped discussions on “the biblical perspective of character.” The Dialogues of Ken and Huck will be a pallid imitation of the Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous in Opposition to Sceptics and Atheists and fewer will be swayed by them.

Conceivably they could help Huckabee in Iowa, which has a sizable but not controlling quotient of fundamentalist Republicans, having almost gone for Pat Robertson in the 1988 presidential caucuses. But in his zeal to capture the conservative religious bloc that Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson seem to be splitting, Huckabee runs the risk of triggering the impulse that scuttled Pat Robertson. The vast majority of Americans, even conservative Republicans, are suspicious of religious fanatics and preachers in politics.

A Southern Baptist preacher would have no chance of being elected president, but Huckabee's long divorce from the pulpit, his secular achievements and his studied efforts to project himself as a regular guy who loves rock and roll and off-color gibes lift him from that realm. The Ken Copeland dialogues and his attempts to line up other right-wing evangelicals like James Robison remind people that he is, after all, a Southern Baptist preacher first. Copeland says God told him recently that he was taking over politics in the United States and would arrange the right outcome. We can presume that Mike Huckabee is His man.

The governor seems particularly incensed that the libidinous Fred Thompson should be rivaling him for the hearts of evangelicals. He was shocked — shocked! — last week that Thompson favored leaving abortion as a question for individual states to address rather than a federal constitutional amendment. Huckabee ridiculed the idea that the legality of abortion should be left to the states.

But that is exactly the idea that he had expressed only months earlier. In an interview with the conservative essayist John Hawkins (linked on Huckabee's presidential website) he said abortion should not be settled at the national level but should be left to the states. The quote: “I've never felt that it was a legitimate manner in which to address this and, first of all, it should be left to the states, the 10th Amendment ...” The 10th amendment is the states-rights amendment.

Huckabee enjoys rising speculation that Rudy Giuliani will pick him as his running mate. Giuliani embraced Pat Robertson's endorsement but he would never put him on the ticket. Huckabee is putting himself in the same position.

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