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Little Light explains the strange tale about the school desk from Huckabee’s speech. As we should have known by now – it is a dogwhistle:

Sound familiar yet? Please tell me it does. This is the doctrine of “Grace, Not Works” or “Grace Alone,” a theological position expounded during the Reformation, cuddled by Calvin, and popular among evangelical Christians. It’s not a desk, it’s a place in Heaven. And it’s not soldiers we’re talking about, it’s Jesus Christ. Don’t buy the connection of this story as an allegory for the doctrine of Grace Alone? Here’s a few ways to put it. And the guy talking is clergy in a denomination that holds this doctrine dear, so he knows what he’s doing and who his audience is.

James Fallows agrees:

Of course that’s the explanation, as anyone who has listened to religious radio shows should know. I feel silly to have missed it. (Why else would Huckabee, an ordained minister and very smart person, keep using the story in his stump speeches, despite its surface-level pointlessness?)

So, this is all about the ‘Left Behind’ crowd, I see, the Soldiers of Christ.

Comments

  1. #1 Susannah
    September 7, 2008

    From my childhood as a church mouse, I got that from the first reading. The story is a parable. Parables always mean something else, so you read them that way from the start.

    So Jesus = McCain. Obvious. But that also means Sarah = the Holy Spirit.

    See, when McCain is no longer with us, Sarah will step in to take his place. Just like, when Jesus went to heaven, the Holy Spirit descends on the church.

    And it is all sub-text, so there is no argument; Huckabee never said anything out of the way, did he?

    :(

  2. #2 PRT
    September 7, 2008

    This approach is over-reading the speech, for a couple of reasons. First, the soldier-sacrifice to Christ-sacrifice comparison is really an old one, but no one ever argues in non-Presidential-election contexts that a soldier sacrificing for his country makes him Christ; it simply makes him Christ-like, which in turn simply makes him a better person. It is totally different from claiming that he IS Christ. Second, there’s a long history of this sort of typological figuration in literature and film (the most recent example I can think of is The Dark Knight, but there are a multitude of other examples), not just sermons. This is a standard trope, and pretending otherwise is ridiculous.

  3. #3 Coturnix
    September 7, 2008

    It may be a standard trope for those who have grown up in an evangelical church. It may be even watered-down in liberal churches in the way you describe. But the term “dogwhistle” describes words, phrases and stories that are familiar to them, but totally unfamiliar to us. And we need to get familiarized with them in order to understand what the heck they are even talking about. The evangelical English does not use definitions from the Webster’s Dictionary and that is how many on our side get fooled.

  4. #4 Joel
    September 7, 2008

    Yes, I agree with PRT. You guys are stretching a bit.

  5. #5 Peter Borah
    September 7, 2008

    As a former evangelical, I don’t think you’re stretching at all. It’s not literally calling McCain Jesus, but it’s definitely attempting to associate the two. It’s going to be really, really obvious to people who are used to hearing about Grace using analogies just like that.

  6. #6 Coturnix
    September 7, 2008

    No, it’s not literally calling McCain Jesus – many of my post titles are either tongue-in-cheek or shorthand – but it is definitely an association.

  7. #7 Cuttlefish
    September 7, 2008

    When John McCain was crucified
    Er, tortured, in Hanoi,
    His actions served to earn a desk
    For every girl and boy.

    You cannot earn a desk yourself,
    No matter what you do;
    Be grateful Jesus John McCain
    Has earned that desk for you.

    So give him thanks; send John McCain
    Your votes as well as prayers–
    He died so we could all have desks!
    (The school board bought the chairs.)

    http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2008/09/praisin-mccain.html

  8. #8 Donna B.
    September 8, 2008

    So, Huckabee was “speaking in tongues” so to speak? Like Obama when he tells a black audience they are being “bamboozled”?

    Finally, this late in life I learn what a “dogwhistle” is. At least I’m not naive enough to think it’s only used by one side in the ring.

  9. #9 S.o.G.
    September 8, 2008

    I grew up in the U.P.C., attending church a minimum of 7 hours/week until age 18. They are not stretching or overreading at all, this most definitely is a deliberate use of the “saved by grace” trope to associate McCain with christ.

    Using these tropes or metaphors over and over again and building up the associations over time are a huge part of how evangelical christianity works. It is what allows them to be more powerful than actual facts or truth.

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