Mike Huckabee’s Problem Is Our Problem

Here is a short quiz. Can you identify what the following quotes refer to?

1. “It’s the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people.”

2. “Sometimes, one small smooth stone is even more effective than a whole lot of armor.”

3. “We’ve also seen that the widow’s mite has more effectiveness than all the gold in the world.”

4. “It’s almost like when the prophet was looking for a king. He came down, looked through all of Jesse’s sons, went through a whole bunch of them, and said, ‘Is this all you got?'”

What all these statements share in common in that they were found in a victory speech given by Mike Huckabee on Super Tuesday, and they are all clear references to stories found in the Bible. Now Huckabee’s problem is that when National Public Radio (NPR) went to the National Mall in Washington D.C., they could only find one person who could make sense of any of these statements (full story). This may come as a shock to you, but out of all of the people interviewed, only one understood that these quotes were referencing stories found in the Bible. The reason that’s bad news for Huckabee is that it means that his message is not having the impact he’d like because most of the people listening don’t understand what he’s talking about. The most startling fact is that all the interviewees told NPR that they had been raised in church and had attended Sunday School as a child. So it isn’t just the unchurched who are unfamiliar with the Bible.

It’s clear why this is a problem for Mike Huckabee (or other political candidates hoping to connect with voters based on shared biblical knowledge), but why is it a problem for us? It’s a problem for every Christian because we too are trying to communicate to our culture. And if we’re not careful we too will make the mistake of assuming that others share our biblical frame of reference. But as our culture (both inside and outside the church) becomes more and more biblically illiterate, we must make fewer and fewer assumptions. Several years ago when I was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, a friend of mine and fellow staff member had a conversation with a fraternity guy who didn’t know that the Bible contained an Old and New Testament. Stephen Prothero of Boston University says that more than half of Americans can’t name any of the four Gospels, and half don’t know that Genesis is the first book of the Bible.

While on one level this is disheartening, Christians shouldn’t get overly discouraged. As you read the book of Acts, you see that the gospel made tremendous inroads into a Greek Hellenistic culture in which the message of Christ was completely new. In fact, sometimes it is almost helpful to be able to explain Christianity to someone and start from the very beginning. That’s almost easier than having to undo misconceptions about God, Jesus, or the Bible.

So here is our challenge. First, read your Bible so that you aren’t biblically illiterate. Second, as you seek to influence friends and family for Christ, make sure that you don’t assume too much about what they know or believe. Take your time and ask good questions. Don’t be in too big of a hurry to start at the very beginning. A book that might prove helpful to you is The Reason for God by Tim Keller. I’ll have more to say on the book in another post but for now I’ll just point out that it does a great job of modeling how to communicate Christ to the modern skeptic.

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