Saint_Augustine Philippe de ChampaigneFormer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is once again threatening to leave the Republican Party if its leadership refuses to be outspoken critics of gay marriage. He made similar threats in March of 2013, which indicates he’s all bark and no bite. Regardless, every time I hear someone like Mr. Huckabee imply that the cultural decline of America begins and ends with a half-hearted rhetorical war with gay people, I cringe. Afterward, I think about how much better of a place America would be if those who believed in God spent less time listening to Mike Huckabee’s radio show and more time reading the works of Saint Augustine — “Confessions” in particular.

As hard is it might be for some Americans to believe, they could learn a lot from guys born over 1,600 years ago. Saint Augustine is one of them.

“Confessions” is a must-read for anyone who cares about preserving the intellectual brick and mortar of Western Civilization, but it’s also an amazing blueprint for Christians looking to share the faith. It may sound counter-intuitive, but in order to expand you must, on many levels, travel inward. Instead of pointing angry fingers at “You! And you! And you! And you! And you!” — we must take serious stock of our own spiritual shortcomings.

Take note of how Saint Augustine analyzes the time he sneaked into another man’s orchard to steal pears:

“Those pears were truly pleasant to the sight, but it was not for them that my miserable soul lusted, for I had an abundance of better pears. I stole those simply that I might steal, for having stolen them, I threw them away. My sole gratification in them was my own sin, which I was pleased to enjoy; for, if any one of these pears entered my mouth, the only good flavor it had was my sin in eating it. …

Covetousness desires to possess much; but you are already the possessor of all things. Envy contends that its aim is for excellence; but what is so excellent as you? Anger seeks revenge; but who avenges more justly than you?

Thus the soul commits fornication when she is turned from you, and seeks apart from you what she cannot find pure and untainted until she returns to you. All things imitate you — but pervertedly — when they separate themselves far from you and raise themselves up against you. …

What was it then, that I loved in that theft? And how was I imitating my lord, even in a corrupted and perverted way? Did I wish, if only by gesture, to rebel against your law, even though I had no power to do so actually — so that, even as a captive, I might produce a sort of counterfeit liberty, by doing with impunity deeds that were forbidden, in a deluded sense of omnipotence? …

See, my god, the lively review of my soul’s career is laid bare before you. I would not have committed that theft alone. My pleasure in it was not what I stole but, rather, the act of stealing. Nor would I have enjoyed doing it alone — indeed I would not have done it! What an unfriendly friendship this is, and strange seduction of the soul, eager to make mischief from games and jokes, craving another’s loss without any desire for profit or revenge of mine — only so that, when they say, “Let’s go, let’s do it,” we are ashamed not to be shameless. …

I fell away from you, my god, and in my youth I wandered too far from you, my true support. And I became a wasteland to myself.”

How many more people would Mike Huckabee draw to his message if he talked about all the times he became a wasteland unto himself instead of lashing out at gay people? Would the path to God be more easily found by non-believers if the radio host spent more time talking about his gluttonous past and youthful indiscretions, or if he continued to imply that those who believe in gay marriage are the dregs of society? Has Mike Huckabee ever viewed pornography? If so, what kind? How much? And if so, how did it spiritually damage him? It seems as though Saint Augustine’s decision to bare his soul before God is a much more productive strategy for growing the flock than throwing political temper tantrums at ideological allies while spitting invective at non-believers.

The Catholic Saints were not perfect when they walked the earth. They toiled with the same temptations as you and me. They anguished over the same kind of inner demons that plague man today. They understood, however, that “the commander triumphs in victory, yet he could not have conquered if he had not fought; and the greater the peril of battle, the more the joy of the triumph.”

Saint Augustine writes: “I was so fallen and blinded that I could not discern the light of virtue and of beauty which must be embraced for its own sake, which the eye of flesh cannot see, and only the inner vision can see.

If a man makes it his life’s mission to cast aspersions on those around him, then it is much less likely that he will see what “only the inner vision can see.” The cultural road ahead for America is dark and dangerous due to years of neglect, but the path will be lighted if we first look within.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

16 comments

    1. I don’t think it should be redefined, either. I’ve always been for civil unions with the same benefits as marriage.

    2. To me the marriage debate, on some level, bleeds into the “render unto Ceasar” belief. If the State wants to define marriage as something that truly isn’t marriage, then they can do that — but that doesn’t make it so on a spiritual level. If two men belong to a denomination that will perform a gay wedding ceremony and the State wants to recognize that commitment ceremony, it has no bearing on what the Catholic church is doing.

      Man can fool himself, but he can’t fool God. At the end of the day I will fight for what is right, but if someone wants to tell me that I lost a “culture war” with my fellow man, then I don’t really care. The only war that really matters is the battle I’m waging for my own soul…

    3. I agree with Carl on the civil unions. This, however, is one of those issues that will get thrown in conservatives’ face come election time; to distract from the economy or debt or ISIS or whatever. This is also one of those issues I don’t lose sleep either way; if this is a battle let the culture warriors have it; we have more pressing issues.

      Saint Augustine has good advice on a lot of subjects; great post!

    4. I don’t really get how you can have Islamic State gobbling up huge swathes of the Middle East, Iraq imploding, the potential creation for a new Islamic caliphate, Americans getting their heads chopped off in terrorist propaganda videos, etc., … and Mike Huckabee is essentially throwing a temper tantrum because U.S. politicians aren’t focused on gay marriage. It’s weird.

    5. @Carl

      Hey Carl, speaking of the culture wars, how goes your book and should we expect the politicals to be comfortably neutral or more boldly conservative. For that matter, what does it entail? What is it about?

  1. To be fair I like Mike Huckabee, if you ever meet him you may as well. With that said I do not agree with all of his stances, education for one but I have to give him credit for sticking up for what he believes in. I do also feel that he is off target on this issue. I do not believe in gay marriage but I do believe that they should have the same rights as others (under the law). Remember Jesus loves everyone and never excluded people.

    1. I don’t hate Mike Huckabee, but I don’t like when people do the equivalent of “I’m going to take my bat and ball and go home! Waaaaaah!” when they don’t get their way. He’s going to form a third party? With whom? Where is he going to go? The Republican Party isn’t perfect — by a long shot — but asking Evangelicals to bolt the GOP is political suicide. Heck, if more Christians showed up to the polls to vote for Romney in 2012, then he would have won! They stayed home and helped give Obama a second term.

      Let’s not even talk about the number of Evangelicals who voted for Obama in 2008 (especially young ones). Who the heck cares what the leadership wants? The Tea Party has shown that you can be a thorn in its side. If enough Evangelicals actually voted, then they could be the leadership.

      Mike Huckabee wanted to be president of the United States, but yet he’s willing to quit on the Republican Party rather easily. If he can’t even stay in the fight with the GOP, then how would he react to the millions of Americans who are hostile to his worldview?

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