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GOP candidates give views on the Bible

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (BP)–A unique CNN/YouTube Republican debate lived up to its ask-anything acclaim Nov. 28 when three of the top candidates were asked if they believed “every word” of the Bible.

The debate among the eight contestants was held in St. Petersburg, Fla., five weeks before Iowa will hold its caucuses on an earlier-than-usual Jan. 3. Florida’s primary is scheduled for Jan. 29.

The format featured questions submitted in the form of Internet streaming videos, one of which showed a man holding a Bible and asking if the candidates believed “every word of this Book.”

“I believe it, but I don’t believe it’s necessarily literally true in every single respect,” said former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who leads the field in national polls but trails in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. “I think there are parts of the Bible that are interpretive. I think there are parts of the Bible that are allegorical. I think there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be interpreted in a modern context.

“So, yes, I believe it. I think it’s the greatest book ever written. I read it frequently. I read it very frequently when I’ve gone through the bigger crises in my life and I find great wisdom in it…. But I don’t believe every single word in the literal sense of Jonah being in the belly of the whale. There are some things in it that I think were put there as allegorical.”

The question then went to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose Mormon beliefs have received much attention during the campaign.

“I believe it’s the Word of God,” he said. “I mean, I might interpret the Word differently than you interpret the Word, but I read the Bible and I believe the Bible is the Word of God. I don’t disagree with the Bible. I try and live by it.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church) professes a belief in its own published version of the King James Version of the Bible, although it views three other documents also as scripture: the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. Those latter three texts are where the church gets some of its unbiblical beliefs — such as the view that after death Mormon families will stay married forever and be exalted to godhood.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, formerly a Baptist minister, said he believes the Bible is the “Word of revelation to us from God Himself.” He also said some parts of the Bible, such as “Go and pluck out your eye,” are allegorical.

“The fact is that when people ask do we believe all of it, you either believe it or you don’t believe it,” he said. “… But the Bible has some messages that nobody really can confuse and [are] really not left up to interpretation. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ And ‘as much as you’ve done it to the least of these brethren, you’ve done it unto Me.’ Until we get those simple, real easy things right, I’m not sure we ought to spend a whole lot of time fighting over the other parts that are a little bit complicated.

“… [T]here are parts of it I don’t fully comprehend and understand,” Huckabee added, “because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite God, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their God is too small.”

Among other debate highlights:

— Candidates were asked whether, if abortion becomes illegal, the woman and her doctor should be charged with a crime.

Saying overturning Roe v. Wade should be “our No. 1 focus right now,” former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson said the doctor, not the woman, should be punished.

“I think it should be fashioned along the same lines it is now,” he said, saying the type of punishment would be up to each state. “Most states have abortion laws that prohibit abortion after viability. It goes to the doctor performing the abortion, not the girl, or the young girl, or her parents, whoever it might be. I think that same pattern needs to be followed. It could just be moved up earlier, or much earlier in the process if the state so determined.”

U.S. Rep. Ron. Paul also said doctors should be punished and said details of such laws would be up to each state.

— Giuliani and Romney were asked whether, if Roe were overturned, they would be willing to sign into law a nationwide ban on abortions.

“I probably would not sign it,” Giuliani said. “I would leave it to the states to make that decision.”

Said Romney, “I’d be delighted to sign that bill. But … that’s not where America is today. Where America is is [it’s] ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the Congress got there [and] we had that kind of consensus in [this] country, terrific.”

— Huckabee was asked “what would Jesus do” regarding the death penalty.

Huckabee said considering death penalty cases as governor was one of the toughest decisions he ever had to make because it was irrevocable. Some crimes, he said, “are so heinous, so horrible” that the death penalty is the only way a civilized nation can “try to deter that person from ever committing that crime again,” warning others “that some crimes truly are beyond any other capacity for us to fix.”

Being pro-life and supporting the death penalty is not contradictory, Huckabee said.

“[T]here’s a real difference between the process of adjudication, where a person is deemed guilty after a thorough judicial process and is put to death by all of us, as citizens, under a law, as opposed to an individual making a decision to terminate a life that has never been deemed guilty because the life never was given a chance to even exist. That’s the fundamental difference.”

Not satisfied with Huckabee’s answer, host Anderson Cooper again asked, “Would Jesus support the death penalty?”

“Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson,” Huckabee said, drawing laughter. “That’s what Jesus would do.”

— The candidates were asked why the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuals should continue. The question was asked by retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, who came out as a homosexual after leaving the military. After the debate it was learned that Kerr, the man who asked the question, is a co-chair on Democrat Hillary Clinton’s National Military Veterans group, Politico.com reported. Kerr said he was appearing at the event on his own.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, who served in Vietnam, said he has spoken with military leaders and the joint chiefs of staff about the issue.

“Almost unanimously, they tell me that this present policy is working, that we have the best military in history … and that this policy ought to be continued because it’s working,” McCain said.

Cooper asked Romney whether he still stood by a 1994 statement that he looked forward to the day when homosexuals could openly serve.

“This isn’t that time. This is not that time,” Romney responded. “We’re in the middle of a war.”

Cooper asked Romney again if he still looked forward to such a day. Romney never answered directly, although he did say the current policy “seems to have worked.”

“I look forward to hearing from the military exactly what they believe is the right way to have the right kind of cohesion and support in our troops and I’ll listen to what they have to say,” Romney said.
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press

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