Contrasting Huckabee’s and Giuliani’s “Sin” Remarks

An Opinion

Timothy Kincaid

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.

From the transcripts of the Giuliani interview

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.


January 3rd, 2008

Obama is NOT a member of the Church of Christ, he (like me) is a member of the UNITED Church of Christ. There is a HUGE difference between the two. The United Church of Christ is a denomination and not a union of Churches of Christ.

When I read your statement that no candidate is from a denomination that doesn’t see homosexuality as sinful I was ready to fire off a comment to point out that Obama’s doesn’t. Then I saw that you attempted to point out Obama’s unique status but cringed when I saw that you associated him with the VERY conservative, VERY homophobic Church of Christ.

Please correct this mistatement in your commentary.

Thank you.

First United Church of Tampa (UCC)
Tampa, FL

Timothy Kincaid

January 3rd, 2008


Absolutely correct. That typo entirely changed the meaning of that sentence.

Thanks for the heads up. I made the correction.

As you mentioned the UCC is quite supportive. Those not quite familiar may recall them from their attempt to advertise their extravagant welcome to all – including gay folk – only to have networks refuse to run the ads. As the linear descendants of the Pilgrims and the Congregationalists, they have quite a historical connection with our country.


January 3rd, 2008

I have been hesitant to post here as of late because I fear you now really dislike me.

Nevertheless, Tim, I am moved to comment by this piece. It is a very well-reasoned and thought-provoking post.


January 4th, 2008

There is a distinction between “sin” and “sinful”. I would have prefered that neither candidate felt compelled to classifly homosexuals in either category. However, I appreciate Rudy’s disction. I especially like the fact the he identified himself in the same category. I can live with that. It proves that he doesn’t feel that he is on a different level than gays. I am not sure that The Huck believes that.

Bill Ware

January 5th, 2008

While Huckabee and Giuliani may be different when it comes to how vigorously they hold to the tenets of their faith, the underlying views of the Baptist and Catholic churches are similar when it comes to homosexual behavior. To Baptists and other fundamentalists, men lying with men as they would with women, is sinful because the Bible says so, calling it an abomination. For Catholics, with their “natural law” perspective, it’s also a sin as would be any sexual activity that doesn’t have the potential to lead to procreation.

Both Baptists and Catholics believe in the redemption of sins through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This begins with repentance and/or confession. In either case this must be followed by seeking God’s help though Jesus’ positive influence in refraining from committing this sin again. Jesus did not condemn the woman taken in adultery, but then he told her “go and sin no more.”

So while adultery is one of several sexual sins that Giuliani readily admits to, he vows to do his best not to commit this again as far as his present wife is concerned. In the same way, Huckabee admits to the common sins that fallible humans will inevitably commit, while at the same time, he would repent and try to avoid committing these sins in the future once he became aware of them.

When it comes to gay relationships, these are considered to be sexual sins, no matter the love and commitment of the couple involved. One must repent of these sins, and more importantly, one must make an effort to avoid continuing in these sins in the future to ensure one’s salvation. In other words, “go and sin no more.” Any public recognition of civil unions or gay marriage is just condemning these people to hell and must be resisted in every way in the hope that these couples will instead recognize the error of their ways, repent and disavow gay relations in the future in order to ensure their eternal salvation.

Unlike Giuliani who has a more realistic view of the situation that gays find themselves in, Huckabee doesn’t accept the fact that his view of gays is one religious belief among the many views we need to accommodate in a country with diverse religious understandings, or as just one sect’s or several sects interpretation of the Bible among others. Instead he simply “knows” as an indisputable “fact” that “homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle.”

He finds the idea that a small portion of the population are not born with the typical opposite sex attractions not to be relevant. As far as he is concerned, we are all born with sexual lusts of various kinds. Same sex attractions are just one among many. All such lusts need to be managed and controlled, save for the one man, one woman in marriage exception.

This kind of unshakable certainty is what scares me about those who hold to fundamentalist beliefs. No facts or informed opinions about gays can influence their views. They just know that gay sex is a sin a priori. We don’t need people leading our country whose certainty lies beyond fact or reason. We’ve had enough of that already.


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