During the 2008 presidential campaign it became quite evident that Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was more of a Christian Nationalist than a critically thinking politician. His claim that Christians must win America for Christ was obviously suggestive, and his desire to amend the Constitution to align it with “God’s standards” was even worse. There are less explicit ways to communicate authoritarian and theocratic principles to those whom you are attempting to persuade. Huckabee’s “vertical politics” and his Vertical Politics Institute (VPI) are a great example of how a fundamentalist Christian can present mythos as logos, and in doing so, can win votes from a demographic of blind followers.
At first, I struggled with this article; however, I was determined to use Mike Huckabee as my platform. And because he is a former Baptist minister it can be argued that he has used his position as such to demonstrate a platform of his own. During a sermon, which was supposed to be a rally that just happened to take place in a church, Huckabee had this to say, “When we become believers, it’s as if we have signed up to be part of God’s Army, to be soldiers for Christ,” he preached. He also mixed homespun jokes into his speech and cited specific verses from the Bible which I won’t bore you with. “When you give yourself to Christ, some relationships have to go,” he added. “It’s no longer your life; you’ve signed it over.” I’m no genius, but it seems that he is profoundly likening service to God to service in the military. Huckabee also said, “There is suffering in the conditioning for battle,” and, “you obey the orders.”
Wait a minute—a person’s life is no longer their own? Christians must “obey the orders” in some battle? Later in his campaign, while giving a statement in a New Hampshire debate, he claimed that, “Americans are tired of everything being horizontal—left, right, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican. They’re looking for vertical leadership that leads up, not down." I read this statement over and over again, and I began to decipher what he was presenting to us as logos was really mythos. Up not down? Do I have to say it?So, bash my reasoning if you will, but let’s take a different approach. If this is not a religious profundity then what did Huckabee mean by “horizontal” and “vertical” leadership? If he’s not talking about the proverbial heaven and hell then I’ll attempt to compute it another way, although, is it possible to steer clear of his insistent theocratic philosophies?
Horizontal leadership, to me, means limited authority among equals, while vertical leadership is the idea of an authoritarian system with one or few absolute leaders at the apex. We can argue all day about government’s role, but if we are to focus on the basics of what I just said, then in “vertical politics” we are to blindly “obey the orders” that are given because, although we have voted these men and women into office, in doing so, we have given ourselves, through them, to our government.
To “religiousize” this—to not believe in an all powerful omnipotent God is a “horizontal” way of life. To assume that I can have a more complex, interesting, and informative conversation with my neighbor than with God is blasphemous to Huckabee. But if I believe that my existence would be nothing without God, and that I should live for no other reason than to please Him in order to reserve a spot in Heaven, regardless of whom I hurt in His name, all the while debunking allother beliefs in gods that are not like mine—well, then that is a “vertical” way of life.
Conservative Evangelicals often talk about the need to prioritize their “vertical” relationships with God, first and foremost, before worrying about the “horizontal” relationships with others. It’s the individualized “get right with God” approach. And it is no secret that “vertical” is a word precisely used in Evangelical circles. It would suffice to say that it is indeed a way of speaking in many churches—part of the faith vocabulary of the Evangelical and Fundamentalist subculture.
Emphasizing “vertical” leadership and “vertical” relationships of authority is a way to promote the absolute authority of a few over many. God is perceived as sitting at the top and deserving absolute, unquestioned obedience. And it is God’s representatives—popes, bishops, priests, ministers, etc., that follow and have the authority to interpret God’s will, to enforce God’s commands, and to ensure
that we not disobey.
“Vertical” relationships are relationships amongst people and institutions that are not equal. Authoritarian Christians, like Mike Huckabee, arguably perceive and present this to be logos when it is in fact mythos. Under this train of thought women are not equal to men, homosexuals are not equal to heterosexuals, non-Christians are not equal to Christians, and so on. Because we know Mike Huckabee is a supporter of Big Government we can easily discern that his ideas about “vertical politics” suggest that relationships among highly ranked politicians and those that vote them into office are immensely gapped. Similar to how Christians believe that they can “talk” to God whenever they want, but can never see themselves as equals with Him. They feel that they are obligated to obey the orders given by God through religious leaders in order to be accepted by their faith.
“Horizontal” relationships are anathema to authoritarian Christians like Mike Huckabee because that idea implies that we all exist on an equal playing field—that we all, in theory, are capable having some meaning, some authority, some justification of our place in the world. Opposed to Huckabee’s beliefs—we are all either privileged or unprivileged, regardless of whether we believe in God, Allah, or Buddha. “Horizontal” political relationships mean that politicians are answerable to voters and cannot place themselves, as they unfortunately do everyday, above the law.
Behind that nice-guy smile, articulation, and calming voice is a deluded individual. We cannot sit idly by while idiots like Mike Huckabee inch their way up the popularity poles. In 2008, during a debate, he was asked if Jesus would agree with his support of the death penalty. He danced around the question and never really answered it. In January of 1997, however, when asked about his Christian ranting versus what Jesus would think, the Huckster had this to say, “Interestingly enough, if there was ever an occasion for someone to have argued against the death penalty, I think Jesus could have done so on the cross and said, 'This is an unjust punishment and I deserve clemency'." But Jesus did not ask for clemency, so, given that little piece of mythos turned logos, Huckabee is claiming that Jesus would have been in favor of the death penalty?
On the other hand, let us not forget that the Bible is definitely not pro-life. The death penalty is all over Leviticus. A man gets killed for simply picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Much of the Old Testament reads like the Hebrew version of Mein Kampf with one divinely-inspired genocidal attack after another. Joshua comes off like Yahweh's Hitler. Furthermore, why are there still people in this country who worship anyone who can deflect reality, and revert to the Bible, Jesus, or any other hot button? How can a country that left behind religious persecution be okay with a politician like Mike Huckabee who is so block-headed and one-sided about personal faith? When people tell me that they feel bad for me because I don’t accept Christ or God as my savior, the ruler of Heaven and Earth, I become deeply disturbed. I don’t preach and I don’t like being preached to. When preachers who think they’re politicians like Mike Huckabee open their phone at a fundraiser and pretend to have a conversation with God about His support for the Republican party and people cheer and laugh, my head spins. The majority of this country’s inability to rationalize between mythos and logos must end.