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Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee announced today that he is withdrawing from participation in the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant to be held next January 30-February 1 in Atlanta. He said he did so because of former President Jimmy Carter's recent attack on President George W. Bush. This is very unfortunate news. I was very excited about Huckabee's participation and looked forward to hearing from him. His own comments make it clear why it is unfortunate that he will not be there. He stated:
Had I spoken [at the New Baptist Covenant Celebration] they would have heard a very conservative message which would be unapologetically pro-life, pro-family and by some definitions, fundamentalist in theology.
The whole point of the Celebration is to bring together all Baptist voices. If there is a gap on the program, it will be the fault of Huckabee for silencing himself. It is also unfortunate that Huckabee did not contact organizers about his decision before it came out in the media. The Associated Baptist Press has an article that quotes me about Huckabee's decision. I offered:
Ironically, by dropping out of the celebration because of political comments with which he disagreed, Huckabee demonstrated why the celebration is so desperately needed -- Baptists are tragically divided and polarized. ... We must come together to show that our unified faith and values are more important than political, racial, or other differences. The compassionate gospel of Christ is what our divided world needs. I hope that Huckabee will reconsider.
Other Baptists also shared their thoughts on Huckabee's unfortunate decision. Program chairman Jimmy Allen stated:
While we are disappointed to learn of Governor Huckabee's withdrawal through a Baptist state paper, we are enthusiastic about the excellent program that is shaping up for next year's New Baptist Covenant Celebration in Atlanta. ... We are looking forward to celebrating our traditional Baptist values, including sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and its implications for public and private morality.
Alan Stanford, executive director of the North American Baptist Fellowship, said:
It is unfortunate that Mike Huckabee is letting comments made in the political arena determine his participation in a purely Christian event designed to bring Baptists together across racial, geographic, economic and social barriers. ... Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and Republicans Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham are rising above their profession as politicians to join together in their common Christian commitment to alleviate poverty, AIDS, racism and other grave problems that confront both our nation and our world. That kind of Christian commitment that places doing the right thing above party politics is the key to us coming together to make a real difference in our nation and across the world.
And David Currie, director of Texas Baptists Committed, added:
The [New] Baptist Covenant meeting has never been about politics but about Jesus and unity. ... The fact is, if we have a meeting and only preachers preach, the national press will not cover our message. If prominent politicians of both parties speak, the national press will cover it. I am sorry Gov. Huckabee withdrew, as I have been impressed with him on TV several times. But I'm sure the Religious Right put great pressure upon him. I wish him well.
Huckabee's unfortunate decision points to Carter's unfortunate choice of words. In fact, Carter has stated that his comments did not come out as he had intended but were "careless or misinterpreted." But unfortunately his comments have already caused problems. A great reminder to us all came after Carter clarified his remarks. Deputy White House press secretary Tony Fratto responded by saying, "I think it just highlights the importance of being careful in choosing your words." It sure does! It is quite unfortunate that Carter did not express himself as clearly as he had intended and it is quite unfortunate that Huckabee has responded the way he did. This whole mess seems to prove why Baptists really do need to try and come together to celebrate that on which we are unified--the love of Jesus.


  1. Anonymous9:43 AM

    Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Not Political?


  2. Obviously Jimmy Carter never read your book.

    Frankly, I have no problem at all with Mike's decision to come out from among them.

    Do you really think anyone really needs a scripture to know that abortion is incongruent with the Gospel?

  3. Anonymous: Name-calling does not prove your point. I could call you an “idiot,” but that would not prove you to be wrong.

    Your comment about this being political has a couple of problems. There are both Republicans and Democrats involved so why only attack the Democrats? Finally, not everything a politician does is necessarily political. Otherwise you had better start criticizing Habitat for Humanity for being political since Carter does so much work for them.

  4. Anonymous7:38 PM

    We must come together to show that our unified faith and values are more important than political, racial, or other differences.

    Right on! Religion and politics are two entirely different things (a concept many of us seem to have a hard time grasping). It's unfortunate that so many people feel that one must hold particular political positions in order to be "congruent" with Christianity.

    Politics are really nothing more than an attempt to gain the power to control the behavior of others. Religion is learning to control our own behavior through faith. One is meaningless when we leave this earth, the other means everything. I'll take faith over politics any day.

  5. Nuke: Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Yeah, perhaps this whole mess could have been avoided if Carter had followed suggestions in my book. Maybe I should have given him a copy! I am mostly upset by Huckabee’s withdraw because it is giving ammunition to the critics of the Celebration. I think he is a funny and eloquent speaker, which is why I was looking forward to hearing from him. As for your question, I do not think so.

  6. Stan: Thanks for the comment. You are right on! I wish more Christians shared your perspective.

  7. Anonymous3:27 AM

    Brian, I don't see that Carter did anything wrong. He has always spoken his mind plainly (a trait once valued in the South), including about members of his own political party. He was being interviewed and asked specifically to rate G.W. Bush's foreign policy. I thought he was remarkably restrained considering how many decades of work on international law by members of both political parties that G.W.B. has undone.

    Carter did not make those remarks in conjunction with anything dealing with the New Covenant celebration. Gov. Huckabee had to expect that he would be sharing a platform with people that saw the world differently than he does--that's the whole point of the program.
    Yet you seem to be saying that, while it is regrettable that Huckabee is backing out, Carter needed to heed your advice and "For God's Sake Shut Up!" I don't get it.

    And Huckabee's other stated reason for not coming, the supposed "liberalism" of Marian Wright Edelman and the Children's Defense Fund, makes even less sense.

  8. What is your definition of compassionate gospel? Does it echo the signatories of the convocation? Both Godsey and Carter advocate a position that is neither compassionate or the true gospel.

  9. Michael: The reason I wrote that Carter needed to be more careful with his statement was because Carter himself has admitted as much. He said it did not come out as he had intended. Even with that, though, I do not think Huckabee was correct to drop out. And I was not saying that Carter should shut up but that he should have followed some of the advice in my book, which includes discussions about considering the consequences of our words and getting our messages across effectively. I do agree that one should speak one’s mind, but we must be careful to accurately communicate what we mean to. Hope that clarifies my thoughts. Interestingly, it seems that most Americans agree with Carter’s criticism of Bush.

  10. Joe: I believe it about sharing the love of Jesus. That means both telling people about the saving grace that comes only through Jesus and also helping meet their needs (such as by helping them get food, homes, clothes, etc.). In essence, it is about helping people both in this life and the next.

    I’ll let Godsey and Carter speak for themselves, but I would say I don’t agree with them (or probably most people) on all issues. The whole point of the Celebration is for us to come together in spite of our differences. The world really needs to see we love each other or else they are less likely to feel that we love them.


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