For awhile, Mike Huckabee was my candidate. I met him several years ago when a relative worked with him and I found him to be a genial kind of guy. I (severe, debilitating cheapness notwithstanding) gave money -- $50 -- to his campaign and was thinking seriously about taking the little Adamses out into the political landscape and working for him in my corner of the world. Then stuff started to trickle out about how he ran Arkansas, his tax record, the weak immigration plan, and then came:
The MITT/MIKE DEBACLE.
Mike became the "most" Christian of the candidates. I cringed during the YouTube debate when the guy held up the Bible and asked if the candidates believed every word -- the host led off with Rudy Giuliani, who didn't realize he was being asked to go first, and as he paused, Huckabee said, "You want me to help you out with that, Rudy?" Eww. Then came the Christmas ad and the NY Times piece where Mike had to interject "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers?" (Only in the sense that all are God's children -- in that sense, you and I and Hitler are also siblings.)
This is where Mormons, especially those of us who've lived in the Bible belt, can start to get a sick feeling in the stomach. The instinct bubbles up: "here it comes again." It has to do with the original Mormons being driven from New York to Pennsylvania to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois to Nebraska to Utah by mobs who murdered, raped and plundered them -- yes, here in the USA with all our religious freedom. It has to do with a people who buried children and loved ones in unmarked graves along a 2000-mile trail as they sought to find a place where they could worship Jesus Christ (the one born in Bethlehem and the one that died on the cross for our sins) according to their own beliefs. It has to do today with people who twist our beliefs into ugly half-truths that make us sound like freaks and circus dogs. It has to do with "Christians" whose pastors have told them not to speak to us -- not even for high school students to share a science lab group or a congregant to work for a Mormon employer -- for fear we'll use some voodoo hypnotism to kidnap them into our religion. It has to do with people whose ministers have told them we really do have horns underneath all that big blond Utah hair. It has to do with being weary of having other people tell us what we believe (guess where they got their info? oh, yes, the preacher down the road) and shoving their misconceptions down our throats before we can get a word in edgewise.
Many people don't know that until 1976 -- not 1876, but 1976 -- there was an Extermination Order in effect in the state of Missouri, my home state. Issued in 1838, the order said that the state of Missouri was at war against my church and if a Mormon was found to be in the state, they had to remove themselves, be removed, or face extermination. You could kill a Mormon and have legal grounds to walk out of the police station a free man. I was there in 1976 when Governor Kit Bond rescinded the order and apologized on behalf of the state. Having grown up in the midst of this kind of religious discrimination, I have a sixth sense when religious bigotry is entering the picture.
In Iowa, it entered the picture.
Huckabee's got some things to answer for (did he foment hate or rile up the preachers and roust the churches to stop the Mormon? Or to stop Mitt Romney? There's an important difference there), but he'll never be asked to do it by anyone who isn't Mormon -- what do they care? It's the old, "they came to get the artists, and I didn't stop them because I wasn't an artist; they came to get the gays, and I didn't stop them because I'm not gay; they came to get the Jews, and I didn't stop them because I'm not Jewish; then they came to get me, and there was nobody left to stop them." Admittedly, in my indignation, I paraphrase. But I think you can see why I'm a little concerned.
And why I want my fifty bucks back, Mike.