The Spears and the Huckabees: Parenting on parade

There’s a funny parenting story in the news. And there’s another funny parenting story that isn’t in the news. Unfortunately, the one that isn’t needs to be.

The “in the news” story involves Britney’s little sister, Jamie Lynn. You may have heard that the 16 year-old TV star is pregnant. By a nice boy she met at church. And of course, now they’re wondering whether there was any statutory rape involved. Please, no snark. We’re above that.

Britney, of course, is the whore of Babylon. It’s hard to say if she’s the worst trainwreck in Hollywood history, but when you’re bad enough that Paris and Lo-Blow are relegated to playing for a distant second, you’re in 2007 Patriots mode, for sure.

And then the hammer drops:

A Christian publisher said on Wednesday it has called off a parenting book written by Lynne Spears — the mother of troubled pop star Britney Spears and her pregnant 16-year-old sister, Jamie Lynn.

Yup, that’s right. The matriarch of the Punchline Gang has written a book on parenting.

The working title for the book was “Pop Culture Mom: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World.” Described by the publisher as “a parenting book that’s going to have faith elements to it,” it had been set for publication on Mother’s Day in May 2008.

Okay, now let’s have a look at the parenting story that seems to be avoiding the front pages, that of Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

First, one son got in a lot of hot water for going all Mike Vick on a stray dog. While at Boy Scout Camp. As a counselor.

As Mike Huckabee gains in the polls, the former Arkansas governor is finding that his record in office is getting more scrutiny. One issue likely to get attention is his handling of a sensitive family matter: allegations that one of his sons was involved in the hanging of a stray dog at a Boy Scout camp in 1998. The incident led to the dismissal of David Huckabee, then 17, from his job as a counselor at Camp Pioneer in Hatfield, Ark. It also prompted the local prosecuting attorney— bombarded with complaints generated by a national animal-rights group—to write a letter to the Arkansas state police seeking help investigating whether David and another teenager had violated state animal-cruelty laws.

We’ll ignore, for the moment, that Huck tried to pressure officials to make the case go away, because this story is about faith-based parenting, not run-of-the-mill political corruption. We’ll also ignore David getting busted earlier this year for having a gun in his back while trying to board a plane, because that could have been a simple accident.

Now we have an emerging story about Huck’s other boy, John, who’s apparently a connoisseur of fine pornography.

I went to college with John Mark Huckabee … at Ouachita Baptist University in the late ’90s. John Mark had the biggest porn magazine collection on campus and used to delight his nerd-friends by reading aloud Penthouse Letters he composed and submitted for publication.

There’s nothing wrong with being religious, and there’s nothing wrong with a religious person seeking public office. In many cases religion fosters strong values that help a person be a better public servant. But you don’t evaluate a person’s values by taking his public pronouncements of faith at face value. You don’t learn how good a man’s heart is by getting all mushy over TV ads about how much he loves Christmas. And if you’re smart, you get very suspicious when he talks more about religion than the hard issues that face the public.

No, you evaluate the faith and effectiveness of the public Christian man by looking at his home. His family. In that picture, is he a successful servant of God? When things go wrong there – as is natural in every home – does he turn inward, seeking spiritual strength to set things aright, or does he resort to bullying and intimidation in order to sweep the cancer in his own soul under the rug?

The Hucks have provided us plenty of questions, haven’t they? When you set yourself up as a righteous public moral authority, you set a standard. Boiled down to its most direct terms, the question is this: if you’ve failed at ruling your own home in accordance with the mandates of your faith, how can you possibly ask us to entrust you with our nation?

Thanks, but no thanks. But if you lose the election, maybe you can go help Lynne Spears with that parenting book…

32 replies »

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  2. You know, I don’t generally mind if politicians have various skeletons in their closets. Skeletons like adultery, being of a non-mainstream religion, being gay, even some crimes are all OK by me. Those are personal issues and bad decisions, and how the politician handled those various skeletons is a far better guide for what kind of a person and leader the politician will be. But there are a few skeletons, and a few ways to handle otherwise small skeletons, that are of the “do not pass go, do not collect $200” variety.

    Corruption is one of those.

  3. “No, you evaluate the faith and effectiveness of the public Christian man by looking at his home. His family.”

    Do you really Sam? I don’t. Because individuals have free will – even those children of men of faith. Plenty of people do, however, sit in judgment upon people who make a stand and then look to the children of those men because it is those same children who are their achilles’ heel.

    IF he did do use his power over local officials where the hanging of the dog was concerned then that would be enough for me to make a mental note that he is already drinking from the cup of corruption.

    …but I believe he stands for the literal truth of the Bible. If he believes in biblical inerrancy then I would not like to see him lead the world’s (for now) only remaining superpower. Scary!

  4. When it comes to politicians – and really, just people in general – I know we all have faults. Jeez, there’s not a closet in America big enough to hold my skeletons, so I’m not sitting in judgment of that. What I can’t forgive – excuse me, make that “what I don’t even TRY to forgive” – is hypocrisy. I hold people to their own standards, and that’s usually enough to finish off the average politician.

    Most people have a hard enough time living their own lives. So shut the fuck up and stay out of mine. You’ll have plenty to deal with just being President, let alone Preacher-in-Chief.

  5. “So shut the fuck up and stay out of mine.”


    The problem with that view is that people DO want leaders to talk in the way he does…as evidenced by the support he has, the fact that most people are into *ahem* acceptable ways of behaving, rules, codes of conduct etc.

    Masses like Preachers…always have…always will.

  6. Elaine: That people want to be morally sheepdogged by a self-righteous hypocrite says something very important about THEM. But we have a long history electing non-preachers.

  7. If you’ve got one kid that just doesn’t fit it, doesn’t follow the rules & insists on being a fuck-up? Sometimes the best parents in the world have that problem.

    In this particular case… the one son sounds like a psychopath. Are psychopaths made or born? I don’t think we really know for sure. The porn collection? I find it rather funny.

    As for his father’s handling of the dog case… I can’t condemn him as harshly as others might. I think any parent with the power to do so would be sorely tempted to try to make something like that go away for the sake of their child’s life and future. Was it the right decision? No. But I have a lot more sympathy for that kind of abuse of power than abuse prompted by greed or more power.

    Of course, his motivations might well have been to protect his own reputation, so, I can’t really feel good about it either way.

  8. PL: When you set yourself up as Jesus’ favorite candidate, that comes with some baggage. I’m sorry, you don’t get to play that card without accepting that it establishes a particular standard, and that your failures along those criteria now count against you.

  9. Again, I think the lack of coverage on these stories has more to do with a Dem plot than anything. They want this guy to win the nomination. A) he has skeletons in his closet that undermine the very Fundamentalist ground he stands on, B) if you can get the Republicans to pick such a God-ite as their nominee, it makes it easier to swoop in and grab moderate voting Repubs who see economic issues as being more important than gays or abortion, and C) his home turf is Hilary’s home turf … he can’t even guarantee winning his home state based on name recognition.

  10. “But we have a long history electing non-preachers.”

    True that. But the voting public always saw the ‘candidates’ as belonging to them. Perhaps, the ‘moral majority’ mass who have a largely Christian heritage feel that the pollitical process has become (to their eyes) so secular that they want someone like him. Not that I think he has a cat in hell’s chance of being nominated.

  11. I think you missed the most obvious point here Sam, and that is the fact that their all wearing matching shirts. Boys in stripes, girls in red. That kind of childhood would lead me to dog killing and porn too.

  12. When you set yourself up as Jesus’ favorite candidate, that comes with some baggage.

    Honestly, I think setting yourself up as Jesus’ favorite candidate is baggage in and of itself. And, I understand where you’re coming from on this one. I just think a. it’s just too easy, and, b. I’d rather pick on his personal failings, rather than his family’s.

    However, when you can strongly correlate upbringing to deviant behavior on the part of the children, well then I’m quite interested and think it has much more bearing. Relgiously motivated child abuse comes to mind.

  13. Pagan Librarian,

    Did you know that George and Laura Bush participated in one of James Dobson’s family programs?

    “Laura and I were active members of the First Methodist Church of Midland, and we participated in many family programs, including James Dobson’s Focus on the Family series on raising children. As I studied and learned, Scripture took on greater meaning, and I gained confidence and understanding in my faith.” -George W. Bush, A Charge To Keep

  14. If you’ve got one kid that just doesn’t fit it, doesn’t follow the rules & insists on being a fuck-up? Sometimes the best parents in the world have that problem.

    Nope. Don’t buy it. OK. There is such a thing as severe mental illness that no amount of good parenting can fix. But that is extraordinarily rare.

    For everything else, it’s parenting.

  15. The nature v nurture argument is alive and well.

    No…it is not all down to parenting as evidenced by those who break free from their influence whether it be good or bad, the young who have their own light bulb moments or Road to Damascus type experiences which separate them from their parents, by runaways, by the founding of new philosophies and religions, by the influences that wider society has over children (hence the tendency of conservative minded folk to block/censor/ban/educate them out of that which is considered ill-advised and most importantly by the peer group of the young.

    Next time a cult/friencship group/peer group/communism or any other ism takes a young mind…note how helpless the parent is. Good and loving parents are most vulnerable where there children are concerned.

  16. …in that rather long sentence (sorry) there should be a bracket after ill-advised and the word influential before peer.

  17. Religious hypocricy pisses me off more than anything else and it mostly seems to come from those who are the most well off. Jesus didn’t care so much about abortion or gay marriage, but poverty to him was a really big deal. Share the wealth was his big thing. He lived in a commune where there was no private property. If these fundamentalists and evangelicals really lived the way their savior intended they would sell their expensive homes and fleets of SUVs, give the proceeds to the poor and become socialists. I believe the Second Coming will be upon us before we ever see that happen.
    Huckabee and Bush are two peas from the same pod. Wrapping yourself in the mantel of being a servant of God effectively removes you from public accountability and, in Bush’s case, scrutiny wherever possible. Without those two elements it’s hard to see how you can continue to have a functioning democracy. Huckabee wants a crusade against Islamo-Fascism, whatever the hell that means, but in actuall fact in will just be a continuation of the brilliantly conceived never ending “War on Terror”. I don’t think his presidency would be a bad as Bush’s, only because I can’t see him picking such a list of rogues to fill top positions as Bush did. Still, it would mean more of the same basic policies and corporate cronyism so don’t vote for him, or Romney, or Guliani, or Thompson, or Paul, or …

  18. Elaine:

    I’ve never known a child with good parents to go astray. Not even once. But I have met many unfit parents who blame others.

  19. We have had 7 years of Jesus from Boy Wonder, can we stand another “four, or eight?!! I don’t think so.
    I don’t believe Huckabee would repeal “the “faith based initiatives ” or the waste of millions of tax dollars on the abstainence only hog wash.
    When two teens, their hormones screaming, are alone, at night, in the safety and comfort of an auto, do you think for one minute that they will give a shit about what poster, or lecture they heard that very day that attempted to tell them to abstain? No, I didn’t think so. They will abstain just like each of us abstained when we were that age.
    I don’t trust any man or woman, for that matter, that puts their religion up front, ahead of everything else. If they mention religion, I start looking for the door. They’re putting our lives at the mercy of a 2000 year old myth, and it’s bloody scary.

  20. JS:

    I have more than once…and they came back on line.

    …plus I enjoyed working for the Crown Prosecution Service for two years. The parents of the youths arrested for criminality/misdemeanours/anti-social behaviour were not baddies …nor did the children claim they were…but a common denominator was a bad apple in the peer group exerting pressure/bad influence WITHOUT parental knowledge. Thankfully those with loving parents still had loving parents after their cautions etc. Parents are not with their kids 24/7 nor do parents get to know all about the lives of the children they have….regardless that they think they do. They do not.

    In addition two very good parents known personally to me and considered pillars of the community have had their children go astray…to come back on line.

    It also helps having the insights of a Headmistress as a friend and teachers and nurses in the family…all backgrounds, all social classes, all groups, all parents (good, bad or indifferent) can have good, bad or indifferent offspring.

    Prodigal son/daughter lives on in the 21st Century.

  21. Elaine:

    Nope. Still don’t buy it. All the kids I know who have emotional issues, whether that be shyness, boastfulness, selfishness, lack of confidence, or what have you clearly get it from parenting techniques I have personally observed. I know kids who are influenced by peers and those who aren’t. The ones who are come from families with poor parental technique.

    I suspect that those who see no parental technique issues in tendencies such as being subject to peer pressure are, themselves, poorly skilled parents.

  22. “Nope. Still don’t buy it.” 🙂

    Not asking you to…my experience and the experience of others tells me that I can buy it…so I do. 🙂

    …but you keep believing that super parents ensures a super child. Utopia must exist in your neck of the woods. 😉

  23. …but you keep believing that super parents ensures a super child. Utopia must exist in your neck of the woods.

    Not at all. There are many things, among them mental illness, autism, etc. that cannot be corrected by any amount of good parenting. So super parents can never ensure a super child, any more than very intelligent parents can ensure a very intelligent child or very athletic parents can ensure a very athletic child.

    Skilled parents, on the other hand, can and DO ensure a well-adjusted child — one who has no interest in engaging in destructive or self-defeating behaviors of any kind. Through my own children, I’ve come to know scores of children very well over the years. Their personal problems, whether they be behavioral or attitudinal, or both, are quite easily traced to parenting behaviors I’ve observed. The connection has always been obvious. For instance, boastful, competitive children often have parents who compare them to their siblings and other children, and pay attention to them only when they loudly proclaim their own merits. Every other weakness I’ve ever observed in a child has been readily traceable to parental skills and mistakes. It’s really quite obvious.

    In my opinion, parents who insist that they are perfect, and that their children’s faults cannot be traced back to them, are merely cowards who do what cowards do — they refuse to take responsibility for their own, parental shortcomings. It’s much easier, after all, to blame “society” or those nebulous “they.”

    As I’ve said, those who can’t see the obvious link between parental behaviors and their children’s shortcomings are either in denial or just not skilled enough parents themselves to do so.

  24. I actually in large meaure agree with what you have written above. However, parenting children is not an exact science…:)

    But, yes, on the whole skilled parents can raise successful, well adjusted and balanced individuals. I do not agree, however, that having first class insight, emotional intelligence and authority guarantees a parental armoury that is infallible.

    Individuals are after all human complete with their own little peculiar traits, genetic make up and influences. Each child does not come with a how to manual nor does one’s own internal guide book apply to all one’s offspring equally. With the best will and skills in the world…some kids don’t want to know. Fullstop. Not all children grow through and up well adjusted…some are just bloody minded and rebellious enough to do their own thing regardless.

    What can make a real difference and is key, I believe, is love and compassion.

    The spectrum is huge and varied…and infinitely wonderful for it.

    My childhood is filled with memories of what we children got up to with our freedom to roam in the bush and after school when very young. 😉