January 3rd, 2008
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee made some remarks about the sinfulness of homosexuality on Meet the Press on December 30. Some have found them similar to those made by Rudy Giuliani on December 9. (Transcripts below)
At a first glance it would appear that both candidates agree: homosexual acts are sinful. And all people sin.
But a closer look may illustrate why these two people, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani, are saying very different things. And to understand the difference we have to look at difference between “sin” and “sinful”.
Orthodox Christian theology includes the notion that certain behaviors are “sins” and that God forgives sins of those who ask Him. Both Huckabee’s Southern Baptist and Giuliani’s Catholic faith observe that doctrine.
While “sin” literally means failing to live up to God’s expectations and can include anything from murder to lying about your weight, not all “sins” are seen as equal. Both politicians are speaking from a consistent place when they say that all people fail in their lives, but clearly they do not see eye to eye on what “degree” of sin would best describe homosexuality.
The key is seen in the use of the word “sinful”. Unlike a sin, which can quickly be forgiven and forgotten, sinful describes a state of being. Generally, that which is sinful is willfully rejecting God’s direction and rebelliously flaunting that which is right.
While Huckabee acknowledges that others sin, heterosexual sex outside marriage – which too is sinful and falling short of the mark – is not “aberrant” or “unnatural”. Nor is it similar to pedophilia, sadomasochism and necrophilia in being outside “the traditional concept of sexual behavior”.
When Huckabee proclaims, “I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle” he includes all persons who identify as gay or engage in sex, regardless of whether it is in the context of a committed relationship or anonymously at a bathhouse. All of those who are openly gay – i.e. live this aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle – are deserving of treatment different from those who do not. This notion of deserving blame and condemnation is readily evident in the way in which Huckabee discusses orientation and behavior.
People who are gay say that they’re born that way. But one thing I know, that the behavior one practices is a choice. We may have certain tendencies, but how we behave and how we carry out our behavior … [sentence unfinished]
Giuliani, on the other hand, believes that the way “that somebody leads their life is not—isn’t sinful.” In other words, they are not living in a condition of rebellion against God.
“My, my, my—no, I don’t believe it’s sinful.”
They may sin, as all do, and that means they need to seek redemption through their faith, but they are not viewed as willfully rejecting God.
This is a very strong distinction. And this difference can also be seen in the way in which the two politicians define their own relationship to sin.
Huckabee says he misses the mark every day. Even married couples do. But it is quite clear that Huckabee’s “missed marks” are not in any way similar to the aberrant, unnatural, sinful “missed marks” of homosexuals. When Huckabee talks about his imperfections, he’s not talking about sexual sins or faults.
Giuliani, on the other hand, seems to feel as though his “sins” are similar to those of gay persons.
Which includes me, by the way. I mean, you know, unfortunately, I’ve had my own sins that I’ve had to confess and had to deal with and try to overcome and so I’m very, very empathetic with people, and that we’re all, we’re all imperfect human beings struggling to, to try to be better.
This may not be readily evident to others, and some may disagree with my conclusion, but I think the distinction is that Huckabee thinks of “them who live a sinful lifestyle” while Giuliani thinks of “us who live a sinful lifestyle”. Perhaps this is because Huckabee’s Southern Baptist denomination holds him in high regard while Giuliani, on his third marriage and an enemy of his church on a number of social issues, is not strongly lauded by the Catholic Church.
Some within the gay community – especially those with no firm faith affiliation – may find any association of homosexuality with sin as being strongly offensive. Yet few candidates from any party could speak consistently from their own denomination’s position and honestly state that “homosexuality is not sin” (Barack Obama, as a member of the United Church of Christ, may be the only one who could do so).
Some tie Giuliani’s comments to those of Huckabee for partisan reasons, and some simply out of ignorance of Christian theology. But the important issue is not whether Huckabee or Giuliani or Clinton or Obama or Edwards or Romney or McCain think that homosexual acts are sin. This is, after all, the default theological position in Christian America. What matters is what they plan to do about it.
We know that Huckabee would be an active enemy of gay people in all facets of their lives. We will watch closer to see whether we can determine what the other candidates will do.
The full transcript of the relevant portions of the interviews can be found after the break
From the transcript of the Huckabee interview
MR. RUSSERT: Peggy Noonan, a woman of faith who writes for The Wall Street Journal, said that sometimes it appears your philosophy is “This is what God wants,” and that doesn’t encourage discussion, it squelches it. And, and this is what you wrote in your book, “Kids Who Kill,” in 1998: “It is now difficult to keep track of the vast array of publicly endorsed and institutionally supported aberrations–from homosexuality and pedophilia to sadomasochism and necrophilia.” Why would you link homosexuality with sadomasochism, pedophilia and necrophilia?
GOV. HUCKABEE: Well, what I was pointing out is all of these are deviations from what has been the traditional concept of sexual behavior and men and women having children, raising those children in the context of a, of a traditional marriage and family. And, again, taken out of the larger context of that book, speaking about how so many of our social institutions have been broken down.
MR. RUSSERT: But do you think homosexuality is equivalent to pedophilia…
GOV. HUCKABEE: Oh, of course not.
MR. RUSSERT: …or sadomasochism?
GOV. HUCKABEE: No, of course not. I didn’t say…
MR. RUSSERT: But this is what concerns people. This, this is what you did say about homosexuality: “I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle.” That’s millions of Americans.
GOV. HUCKABEE: Tim, understand, when a Christian speaks of sin, a Christian says all of us are sinners. I’m a sinner, everybody’s a sinner. What one’s sin is, means it’s missing the mark. It’s missing the bull’s eye, the perfect point. I miss it every day; we all do. The perfection of God is seen in a marriage in which one man, one woman live together as a couple committed to each other as life partners. Now, even married couples don’t do that perfectly, so sin is not some act of equating people with being murderers or rapists…
MR. RUSSERT: But when you say aberrant or unnatural, do you believe you’re born gay or you choose to be gay?
GOV. HUCKABEE: I don’t know whether people are born that way. People who are gay say that they’re born that way. But one thing I know, that the behavior one practices is a choice. We may have certain tendencies, but how we behave and how we carry out our behavior–but the important issue that I want to address, because I think when you bring up the faith question, Tim, I’ve been asked more about my faith than any person running for president. I’m OK with that. I hope I’ve answered these questions very candidly and very honestly. I think it’s important for us to talk about it. But the most important thing is to find out, does our faith influence our public policy and how? I’ve never tried to rewrite science textbooks. I’ve never tried to come out with some way of imposing a doctrinaire Christian perspective in a way that is really against the Constitution. I’ve never done that.
MR. RUSSERT: And we’re back. Our remaining minutes with Rudy Giuliani.
Mike Huckabee, leading the field in Iowa, told the Associated Press back in the ’90s that AIDS patients should be quarantined and that “homosexuality was aberrant, unnatural and a sinful lifestyle.” What’s your reaction?
MR. GIULIANI: My reaction is that I haven’t seen—on the second of that, I haven’t seen Mike’s comment. The first one I think he says that he didn’t have the information, that he’s changed his mind about it, it’s not his current position. Look, I got enough of my own statements and issues, as we’ve seen, that I have to deal with. I think Mike has to…
MR. RUSSERT: But you don’t believe homosexuality is aberrant…
MR. GIULIANI: Oh, no, no, no.
MR. RUSSERT: …unnatural or sinful.
MR. GIULIANI: My, my, my—no, I don’t believe it’s sinful. My, my moral views on this come from the, you know, from the Catholic Church, and I believe that homosexuality, heterosexuality as a, as a way that somebody leads their life is not—isn’t sinful. It’s the acts, it’s the various acts that people perform that are sinful, not the—not the orientation that they have.
MR. RUSSERT: The Congress is discussing and…
MR. GIULIANI: Which includes me, by the way. I mean, you know, unfortunately, I’ve had my own sins that I’ve had to confess and had to deal with and try to overcome and so I’m very, very empathetic with people, and that we’re all, we’re all imperfect human beings struggling to, to try to be better.
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