The media is having a feeding frenzy over the new advertisement by presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, which includes a Merry Christmas message from the former Arkansas governor declares that "what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ." You can follow this link to see the Mike Huckabee ad with the purported cross in its entirety.
Typical of the responses is that of Bill Donahue, the president of the Catholic League.
"The whole idea is to give the appearance of a cross," Donahue said. "This is just injecting religion into politics even too far for guys like me... Every other word out of [Huckabee's] mouth is that 'I'm Christian.'"
My suspicion is that the Huckabee people knew exactly what they were doing, and that they purposely illuminated the window in a cross-like fashion in a rope-a-dope attempt to make Huckabee look like the victim of Christian-bashing. I imagine that a response from a Huckabee spokesperson will go something like this:
"No, we did not intend to put a 'subliminal' cross in the ad, and the Mike's opponents are once again just trying to smear him for his faith. But yes, now that you mention it, the window does look like a cross, and Mike Huckabee is proud that he is a Christian. Next question."
I think that this ad is political brilliance (while also being an example of shameless pimping of one's faith), and that the chorus of condemnation in the media is merely a group of suckered pundits who have yet to realize that they took the bait.
Left: Montage of major American politicians depicted in a religious manner; click for full-size image
Huckabee, of course, is hardly the first politician to use religious imagery as a way of subtly appealing to voters for whom religion is a primary factor in their decisions about candidates. Pictured on the left is a montage of political heavyweights from both sides of the aisle whose photographs and portraits make them look, well, kind of holy.
Admittedly, some of the shots have as much to do with the motivations and intentions of the individual photographers, but I have yet to hear politicians complain when their public images contain sneaky halos, Stars of David, or crosses.
Huckabee, thus, is merely the latest in a long line of politicians who have used their religious faith as a political tool to sway voters. People like Bill Donahue should take a deep breath and recognize that this is, unfortunately, how the presidential campaign game is played.
Sickening? Certainly. Sacrilegious? Possibly. Effective? You bet.