Oh, the Huckabee surge! It's fun to have a surprise on the long, cold road to Iowa and New Hampshire. And there are things to like about Mike Huckabee, most notably the way his sudden front-runner status shows the gap between the leaders of the Christian right and their supposed evangelical-voter followers. While most bigwigs kept their distance from the long-shot Huckabee -- Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani, Paul Weyrich went with Mitt Romney, the National Right to Life Committee and Southern Baptist Convention leader Richard Land back Fred Thompson, and Focus on the Family's James Dobson remains neutral in the race, even though he's a Huckabee friend who warned he might back a third-party candidate if the nomination goes to Giuliani -- the former Arkansas governor is clearly the candidate of the evangelical rank and file, who make up 45 percent of primary voters in Iowa. The shepherds seem to have lost touch with their flock.
But Huckabee is starting to pick up some more prominent evangelical support, including an endorsement from the Rev. Tim LaHaye and his wife, Beverly, who runs Concerned Women for America. That got me wondering about whether Huckabee supports the worldview that drives LaHaye's bestselling "Left Behind" series, which Huckabee described as "a compelling story for non-theologians." Although the 16 books in the series are fiction, LaHaye has told interviewers they accurately dramatize real moral and geopolitical tensions and represent a fictional depiction of what's likely to happen as we reach the "end times," the chaotic period before Christ's return to earth. The villain in "Left Behind" novels is the secretary-general of the United Nations, and war and tribulation can only come to an end when everyone accepts Jesus. LaHaye also has some out-there ideas about the role of Israel, believing the embattled nation must expand to its "Greater Israel" borders before Christ can return to defeat Satan. But while Jews are crucial allies for evangelical Christians now, they too will have to accept Jesus as Savior in order to be saved. As LaHaye and coauthor Jerry Jenkins write on the Left Behind Web site: "While it is true that in the broad spectrum of Protestant Christianity there are multiple views of the end-times scenario, the pre-millennialist theology found in the Left Behind Series is the prominent view among evangelical Christians, including their leading seminaries such as Talbot Seminary, Trinity Seminary and Dallas Theological Seminary."
In a great Op-Ed in the Albany Times Union today, Jonathan Zimmerman lays out a series of questions for Huckabee now that he has been endorsed by LaHaye. Does he support the United Nations? Does he share LaHaye's view that Saddam Hussein was a "forerunner of the anti-Christ" and that war with Iraq might represent the final battle between Jesus and Satan? Does he believe in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis? (As Walter Shapiro noted, when Huckabee was asked about a Palestinian state on "Face the Nation" recently, he famously answered, "There are a lot of options that involve other territory that doesn't have to include the West Bank or the Golan Heights. There is an enormous amount of land in Arab control all over the Middle East.")
The biggest issue isn't Huckabee's connection to LaHaye; it's his evident lack of depth in foreign policy and national security issues that should worry Republican primary voters. But given that he just got a big endorsement from an evangelical leader famous for radical, apocalyptic foreign policy views that flow from his theological beliefs, I think it's fair to ask Huckabee how much of LaHaye's worldview he shares, and what that means about his own foreign policy.