By Shawn Hendricks
NASHVILLE (BP) — Mike Huckabee says he won’t be seeking the title of “America’s pastor” if he decides to run for president in 2016. Instead, he would seek to be a servant leader who is both “salt and light” in today’s culture.
Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas who ran for president in 2008, said he won’t make any political announcements until after the midterm elections. A busy speaker and the host of “Huckabee,” the Fox News channel talk show, he said his concern for the nation’s direction could be the deciding factor.
“I just feel like our country is in an extraordinary world of hurt right now,” the former pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, Ark., told Baptist Press during a phone interview Jan. 15.
“It seems like we have … taken the ropes from the boat and just drifted out into the middle of the ocean without any real course to where we’re going.”
Huckabee is no stranger to taking issue with the state of the country and the Obama administration’s policies. And he isn’t shy about jumping into the latest pop culture controversy when the mainstream media appears to beat up on conservative values. After Phil Robertson’s biblical — but less-than-graceful — comments about traditional marriage stirred up a media storm in December, Huckabee posted “I stand with Phil” on his Facebook page in behalf of the “Duck Dynasty” patriarch. Huckabee also publically defended Chick-fil-A in 2012 after Dan Cathy, the company’s president, took a stand for traditional marriage. Huckabee quickly declared a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” that drew thousands to the company’s restaurants across the country.
The values the United States was founded upon are worth fighting for, Huckabee said, and Christians must let their voices be heard through elections. While some conservative Christians may believe the country has forever lost its moral compass, Huckabee remains optimistic.
“We have to remind ourselves who we are as Americans, that we are a resilient country,” he said. “We were not designed — which I believe it was providential in nature that we came into being — that we would just have a limited shelf life and disappear from the pages of history.”
The American people must be willing to stand up for religious liberty, Huckabee said.
“The government’s job is not to say you can’t have a nativity scene, you can’t sing a Christmas carol, you can’t wear colors of red and green at Christmastime,” he said. “It’s the exact opposite. The government is prohibited from getting involved at all, making any decisions. It’s the role of citizens to express themselves if their expression infringed upon someone else.”
For instance, people should have the freedom to support the biblical definition of marriage without being ostracized in the court of public opinion, Huckabee said.
“This notion that we’ve got to shut people down, whether it’s Duck Dynasty or Chick-fil-A, and they can’t say that because it might offend somebody, well, life is about being offended,” he said. “If we say we don’t want to hear those voices, then I’m not sure what we’ve done other than turn the First Amendment on its head.”
The military is another battleground for religious freedom, Huckabee said.
“We’re having chaplains told, ‘Put your Bibles out of sight, don’t give one away, don’t pray in Jesus’ name,'” he said. “That’s unconscionable.”
Huckabee encouraged evangelical Christians to continue fighting for their values through the ballot box. Some studies show only about half of professing Christians are registered to vote. Of that number, only about half of them cast ballots on Election Day.
“I always remind Christians Jesus said we’re the salt of the earth and the light of the world,” Huckabee said. “He never said the putrefaction process of culture was the fault of the secularists; it’s the fault of the salt that ceases to be salt.
“If there is darkness and confusion and people stumbling around,” he added, “it’s not the fault of the people who are the spirits of darkness. It’s the fault of the people who keep their lights off.”
Huckabee, who decided not to run for president in 2012, acknowledged that a presidential campaign would be grueling. If he runs, he said he would work to take a servant leader approach to the campaign trail and to the position if elected.
“We’re not a government that is built on the idea that people are elected to be elevated,” he said. “They’re elected to serve and that to me is a very serious thing. … It would mean that you understand that your job is not to get what you want but it’s to serve the best interest of the public at large — and it’s to do it in total concert with the Constitution.”
Ultimately, both sides of Congress will need to work together in order for true progress to happen. Huckabee acknowledged it’s a challenge he knew all too well while serving as a Republican governor of Arkansas.
Throughout his political career, conservative Christians have often praised Huckabee for his stances on social issues ñ- such as abortion and traditional marriage. He also has taken his fair share of criticism for some of his economic decisions as governor, with some accusing him of supporting a tax-and-spend approach to politics. Some of that criticism has come from his party.
During the Jan. 11-12 weekend on his talk show, Huckabee focused on Republicans getting along and putting their differences aside for the good of the party.
Huckabee asked Andy Roth, executive vice president for Club for Growth — one of the groups critical of some of his policies — if the organization could ever endorse a candidate who didn’t meet at least 90 percent of the organization’s requirements.
“The Club for Growth is not an organization that backs all Republicans in all elections just because we want a Republican majority,” Roth said. “We want a conservative majority. If we believe that the candidate running in the general election will fight for conservative values, yes, we’ll support them over the Democrat. If we don’t believe that they will, then we won’t.”
While the two were unable to see a solution for how both sides can come together, both agreed to meet again to “relitigate” the issues.
“I’ll never make everyone happy,” Huckabee said later. “No one will.
“I just know from having governed … that’s not realistic,” he said. “I mean even … when I had a piece of legislation that everybody liked, you always had legislators who want to bring their own spin to the kitchen and stir it up a little bit. That’s part of the process.”
Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).