Coded Language?

February 11, 2008

NPR had an interesting story the other day entitled "Understanding the Gospel According to Huckabee." It addresses the biblical allusions used by Huckabee and how effective they might be. Commentators and scholars have previously argued that President George W. Bush uses similar coded language to send messages that only evangelicals understand, such as when he used the phrase "power, wonder-working power" in a State of the Union address (albeit in a blasphemous way as he put the power in America and not "the blood of the lamb"). However, the NPR story suggests that even many evangelicals do not know their Bible well enough to understand Huckabee's allusions (which is a very sad indictment if true). In the piece, Boston University professor Stephen Prothero argued:

Half of Americans can't name any of the four Gospels, and that includes the Christians. ... And half don't know that Genesis is the first book of the Bible. Those are much easier questions than things like, you know, 'What's the loaves and the fishes story?'

You could imagine that ... this is his secret code way that he could speak to evangelicals without alienating more secular people. ... But the faulty part of that strategy is the evangelicals don't even necessarily know these stories.
It would be interesting politically and significantly important spiritually if Prothero is correct. While such lack of biblical knowledge would make Huckabee's so-called coded language ineffective with many, it raises much more serious issues for churches to consider.

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