COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–Republican Mike Huckabee said Jan. 10 he stands by a Southern Baptist statement of faith about marriage but added the issue “has nothing to do” with a candidate’s qualifications for president.
The issue was raised during the Republican South Carolina debate in reference to a 1998 full-page USA Today ad affirming an addition to the denomination’s Baptist Faith & Message that says, in part, “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the leadership of Christ.” Huckabee and his wife Janet were two of approximately 130 evangelicals whose names appeared supporting the statement.
The BF&M’s 270-word article on the family, based largely on Ephesians 5, also says a husband “is to love his wife as Christ loved the church” and that a husband and wife are “of equal worth before God.”
The USA Today ad addressed Southern Baptists and said, “At a time when divorce is destroying the fabric of our society, you have taken a bold stand for the biblical principles of marriage and family life. We thank you for your courage.”
Fox News’ Carl Cameron asked Huckabee during the debate if his position on the issue is “politically viable” being that “women voters in both parties” were critical of it.
“First of all, if anybody knows my wife, I don’t think they for one minute think that she’s going to just sit by and let me do whatever I want to,” Huckabee said. “That would be an absolute, total misunderstanding of Janet Huckabee.
“… [The passage] really was spoken to believers, to Christian believers. I’m not the least bit ashamed of my faith or the doctrines of it. I don’t try to impose that as a governor and I wouldn’t impose it as a president. But I certainly am going to practice it, unashamedly, whether I’m a president or whether I’m not a president,” he said to applause.
Huckabee then explained his belief about the issue.
“The point, and it comes from a passage of Scripture in the New Testament Book of Ephesians, is that as wives submit themselves to the husbands, the husbands also submit themselves,” he said, presumably meaning “to Christ.”
“And it’s not a matter of one being somehow superior over the other. It’s both mutually showing their affection and submission as unto the Lord. So, with all due respect, it has nothing to do with [the] presidency. I just wanted to clear up that little doctrinal quirk there, so that there’s nobody who misunderstands that it’s really about doing what a marriage ought to do, and that’s [that] marriage is not a 50-50 deal, where each partner gives 50 percent.
“Biblically, marriage is a 100-100 deal. Each person gives 100 percent of their devotion to the other, and that’s why marriage is an important institution, because it teaches us how to love,” he concluded, drawing one of the more lengthy applauses of the night.
Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor, began his answer by saying, to laughter, “You know, it’s interesting — everybody says religion is off-limits except we always can ask me the religious questions.” He then added, “If we’re really going to have a religious service I’d really feel more comfortable if I could pass the plates because our campaign could use the money tonight.”
A number of other prominent evangelicals also had their name on the ad, including Franklin Graham; Anne Graham Lotz; Charles Colson and his wife Patty; Bill and Vonette Bright; Bill McCartney and his wife Lyndi; Tony Evans; and Dennis Rainey.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in a Jan. 9 Baptist Press column that Huckabee should not be asked such questions because the U.S. Constitution says “no religious test shall ever be required” for public office.
“To ask Gov. Huckabee or Gov. [Mitt] Romney to explain and to defend the details of their personal faith IS a de facto religious test for office, and that is unconstitutional — and un-American,” Land wrote. “Mike Huckabee has said that he is a person of faith, that his faith defines him. That means his faith impacts his life, shapes his character, and guides him as he faces the crises and issues of life. How his faith has molded his character, life and vision is fair game in political debate. The precise theological affirmations of his personal faith, however, are not proper subjects for debate, analysis or scrutiny as a candidate in a presidential campaign.”
Huckabee took a public stand for a biblical view of marriage in February 2005 when he and his wife took part in a covenant marriage ceremony before a crowd of 6,400 at Alltel Arena in Little Rock, Ark. They converted their 30-year marriage into a covenant marriage, a legally binding contract that requires couples to receive counseling and to wait longer before a divorce is granted. It also limits divorce to reasons such as abuse or adultery. Rainey, president and founder of FamilyLife of Little Rock, performed the ceremony.
“There is a crisis in America and we face it here in Arkansas,” Huckabee said at the time. “That crisis is divorce. It is now getting to the point that it [divorce] almost equals the number of marriages. … When it is easier to get out of a marriage than get out of a contract to buy a used car, clearly something is wrong.
“Something is wrong when the promises we make are promises that we find sometimes easier to break than it would be to learn how to keep them.”
During the ceremony the Huckabees also recited their marriage vows and then led the audience, with couples standing facing each other, in renewing their vows.
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press. With reporting by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, and Stella Prather of the Arkansas Baptist News.