Back in April, MSNBC's Martin Bashir charged Gov. Mitt Romney with being a liar, went on to quote Mormon doctrinal texts, and strongly hinted that the Republican presidential candidate was in danger of hellfire. In early December 2011, Bashir hinted at a similar pronouncement of anathema on GOP candidate Herman Cain.
But now with just five days left until the election, Bashir is infuriated by a TV ad cut by former Baptist minister and ex-governor Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) which simply reminds Christian voters that God is watching their vote and that their choices at the ballot box ring through to eternity. "Will you vote the values that will stand the test of fire?" Huckabee asks in the spot. Bashir, no biblical illiterate he, erroneously took this to be a suggestion that Huckabee was suggesting the "unpardonable sin" was casting a vote for Obama. Both a review of the full context of the ad [embedded below the page break] and a basic understanding of the relevant biblical text Huckabee alludes to shows it's nothing of the sort. [MP3 audio of segment here; video excerpt of Bashir segment also follows page break]
In the ad, shown above, Huckabee argues that some principles should be non-negotiable for the Christian voter and accordingly direct the way that one votes on certain issues. The principles Huckabee lists are the right of life of a person from conception to natural death, defining marriage biblically as between a man and a woman, and standing up for the religious liberty of a religious institution to not be forced to pay for abortions or contraception.
At no point in the ad does Huckabee suggest anyone eternal salvation is at stake, nor does he outright say voting for Barack Obama or any other Democrat is a sin. As you can see from the ad above, the fire depicted therein is that of a forge, with a blacksmith forging words like "life" and "marriage" and "freedom." Hardly the picture of the punitive flames of Hell.
What's more, Bashir, a Christian who attends a Presbyterian church in Manhattan, most surely knows that the "tested by fire" allusion is a biblical reference NOT to hellfire but to God's judgment of works of the righteous, who are not admitted to heaven by their works, but whose works will be tested, as it were, by fire.
From St. Paul's first epistle to the church in Corinth (chapter 3, verses 10-15; emphasis mine):
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Sacrificing good theology and Christian charity towards his brother in Christ Mike Huckabee, however, Bashir elected to slander -- surely Martin knows that's a sin, right? -- the former Arkansas governor and tee up Mother Jones magazine's David Corn to continue the mockery:
David, your vote will be recorded in eternity, and it must stand the test of fire. Is it now his view that the unforgivable sin is voting for this president?
Corn responded with derision of the larger, orthodox Christian idea that God is, in fact, aware of and recording the deeds of human beings for judgment (emphasis mine):
Well, apparently not Santa, but God is keeping a list of whether you're naughty or nice. And if you're naughty, you're voting for Barack Obama, and you're going to Hell. I saw this the other day too and it's just one of the many outrages that are just kind of cascading past us in these final weeks, and I'm glad you picked up on it.
But, you know, apparently there's no such thing anymore as a liberal Christian. And the only type of Christian that will get through the pearly gates are those who accept Mitt Romney's lies and vote for him. I wish there was more of a national discourse in which something like this could be called out and Mike Huckabee could be shamed. But, you know, he's doing it to a particular audience, that audience hears it, and the rest of us either don't pay attention or aren't offended.