Newt Gingrich & Evangelicals: Strange Bedfellows

Politics makes strange bedfellows
Political interests can bring together people who otherwise have little in common. This saying is adapted from a line in the play The Tempest, by William Shakespeare: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” It is spoken by a man who has been shipwrecked and finds himself seeking shelter beside a sleeping monster. (Cultural Dictionary at Dictionary.com)

Now, Newt Gingrich is no monster, but there are many Evangelical leaders, including the SBC’s Richard Land, who apparently are warming up to the idea of sleeping in the same bed with Mr. Gingrich (politically speaking, of course).  Any port in a storm, as long as the port is Republican and not named Obama! 

The more that these Evangelical leaders try to rehabilitate this Republican candidate for President, the greater their hypocrisy becomes.  In my previous post, “Can a 2x Adulterer Be Elected President?,”  I wrote:

Mr. Gingrich may have been the brilliant politician and tactician behind the Contract for America which led to the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in the 1994 elections, but he is not a man who should be placed in the highest office in the land.  In fact, he should not be nominated by the Republican Party nor should he be supported by conservative Evangelicals and/or “Family Values Voters” in the first place.

Even though Mr. Gingrich will not be attending Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition gathering this weekend, he is nevertheless making an appeal to win over skeptical Evangelicals.  With an anemic Republican field that also includes Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Tim Pawlenty as announced candidates, it is somewhat understandable that some would gravitate to the man who led the Republican Party into power in the 1994 mid-term elections.

But, I continue to find it both fascinating and perplexing that the “some” would include well-known Evangelicals.  If Newt Gingrich is the best that Evangelicals can hope for in the 2012 Presidential contest, then the “Faith and Family Values” bar has been lowered to the floor.  And, when Evangelical “leaders” try to put a shine on a candidate that will never recover his luster, they begin to say totally inane things, almost on the level of a John Cusack tweet.

Consider the erstwhile Ralph Reed.  Whether he realized it or not, Reed indirectly smeared Ronald Reagan in an attempt to sell a candidate to Evangelicals:

Reed, who will host this weekend’s Washington gathering as he attempts to revive his old Christian Coalition kingmaker role, predicted evangelicals will consider Gingrich as long as he speaks about his past mistakes and his current faith in God.

“I think there’s a misconception that evangelicals engage in identity voting,” Reed said, citing as evidence divorced Ronald Reagan’s win over evangelical Jimmy Carter.

So, are we to believe that Ronald Reagan, who divorced in 1948 and who had been faithfully married to his second wife, Nancy, for 28 years at the time of his candidacy in 1980, is somehow like Newt Gingrich in his marital life?  Is that really the kind of evidence that Reed wants to use in making his pitch to Evangelicals on behalf of Gingrich?  If so, then perhaps Mr. Reed is not quite as smart as he thinks he is.

It should not be surprising that people like Ralph Reed, who find their identity in politics, don’t really care about whether candidates live out the values they say they believe.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  If the leader is a liberal and/or a Democrat, then values — and the candidate’s personal moral failures — are of utmost importance to these so-called “Family Values” leaders.  Can anyone say, “hypocrite!”

While I continue to believe that Newt Gingrich has disqualified himself for the highest office in the land — not because of his divorces, but because of his serial adultery — the President of Southern Baptist’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission apparently thinks that Gingrich can overcome what Scripture seems to indicate is a fatal leadership trait.  I believe that no sin is too big that God cannot forgive (that’s why grace is so amazing), but just because even our “greatest” sins have been wiped clean does not mean that we avoid the consequences of our sinful actions.

Dr. Richard Land would better serve Southern Baptists by speaking less about politics and politicians and by speaking more on ethics and religious liberty issues (which is what Southern Baptists are paying him to do.)  If he would have heeded that advice, he would not have made what was an inartful (I’m being charitable) comment about men’s and women’s views of Gingrich’s adultery:

“Men are much more willing to cut him some slack than women are,” said Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land, who said he’s asked hundreds of Southern Baptists what they think of Gingrich and his past. “I find that women don’t trust him and it doesn’t help that he’s married to the ‘other woman.”

Was Dr. Land talking about men and women in general or was he speaking more specifically of Evangelicals or Southern Baptists?  Why would men be “more willing” to accept the multiple infidelities of Mr. Gingrich?  Is Dr. Land somehow shocked that women would distrust a man who cheated on two wives (one of whom had cancer) and who then married “the other woman?”  Oh, and Gingrich’s second act of unfaithfulness was when he was leading the charge against Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinski scandal.  I hate to break it to Dr. Land, but there are Southern Baptist men who are not willing to cut Mr. Gingrich any slack nor to place our trust in a man who has shown on multiple occasions that he lacks the personal values to be an effective leader.

However, the views and feelings of Dr. Land and Ralph Reed concerning Newt Gingrich’s Presidential ambitions may resonate with more and more Evangelicals and Southern Baptists.  It is a sad commentary that well-known Evangelical “leaders” are willing to become bedfellows with someone like Mr. Gingrich.  Family values?  What family values?  Nothing to see here, folks. Let’s move along.  I guess it gives a whole new meaning to “Family Values.”  And, hypocrisy.

14 comments for “Newt Gingrich & Evangelicals: Strange Bedfellows

  1. joshjcollins
    June 3, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    Wow, bringing the heat today, Howell! As we’ve discussed before over on Voices, the serial adultery aspect is huge, but the idea out there seems to be that anyone other than the current occupant would be the foretaste of national revival or something. Which, ironically, was the attitude 4 years ago from the other side of the aisle. I need to do a little more research on this. I’m not a huge fan of any of the current Republicans in the race, but I could certainly vote for a few if they made it on. There’s a few like Newt though that would have me seeking a 3rd Party for conscience’s sake. If the choices next year are Newt or the current President (or eek, Palin or Obama), I’ll be rooting for those Mayans to have been correct.

    • June 3, 2011 at 8:38 AM

      Josh,

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m like you. If it was Newt or Palin, I won’t say that I would vote third party (I would definitely not vote for Obama), but I would have to hold my nose, especially with Gingrich. Not only does Gingrich have the adultery against him, but I think he is too arrogant for his own good and the good of the country. Many people might join you in rooting for the Mayans 🙂 Have a great day and God bless,

      Howell

  2. June 3, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    I’m having a hard time with a principle that applies just to presidential primaries, not to the general election.

    You have already admitted that you voted for the adulterer in the last election and that you would do so again in 2012 if Newt is the nominee making you a “bedfellow” with the nominee just like Reed and Land.

    You end up in the same place, just later.

    [forgive me for being a bit provocative on your blog…which I enjoy reading]

    • June 3, 2011 at 9:17 AM

      William,

      I’m glad you read and that you are provacative — makes things more entertaining 🙂 While I technically end up in the same place, only later, let me try to argue my way out of your provocative comment. I think being a “strange bedfellow” or “supporting” a Presidential candidate — in this case Gingrich — is different than “just” voting for someone. Some, including you, might argue that this is a difference without a distinction, but I would at least try to make the argument that it is not. To date, I have never contributed to a person’s Presidential campaign — either in the primaries or general election. I’m not opposed to doing that, but there has been no one that I wanted to “put my money on” or “buy into” by actually contributing. I certainly did not do that with McCain and there is no one in this year’s field that I would contribute to.

      I obviously don’t endorse candidates from the pulpit, but I also do not support them with yard signs at my house either. Many Southern Baptists and other Evangelicals have, in appearance and perhaps in fact become, almost exclusive supporters of the Republican Party. Maybe because of 5 1/2 years spent in SW Virginia (coal mining country) where Democrats (albeit more conservative) outnumbered Republicans in the church I pastored, I try to be non-partison in public. That doesn’t mean I don’t talk about moral issues, but I try my best not to be political. When pastors and other leaders (i.e., Richard Land) begin to cozy up to politicians and get involved more in the “political” side of things instead of the ethical/moral side of things, then that’s where the trouble happens. When a person appears to be supporting a candidate — either with words or actions — then it is reasonable to conclude that they have bought into that candidate. I find it far better never to get “in bed” with any politician. You know what they say, “when you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.” Not sure my argument will convince you, but I gave it a shot. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless,

      Howell

  3. Debbie Kaufman
    June 3, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    Wow Howell. I agree with you 100%. My thinking has always been that a man or woman’s private life dictates their values and yes their policies in public office. I cannot in all good conscience vote for a Mormon, Mulsim, or adulterer for public office. I would vote a third party if the candidate was right.

    I have refused to vote in certain elections because I could not vote for either candidate. Your thoughts here are my exact thoughts. Well said.

    • June 3, 2011 at 4:29 PM

      Debbie,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree that a person’s private life does affect their public life. That was one of the main raps against Bill Clinton from conservatives and Evangelicals. If we want to hold Bill Clinton and John Edwards to one standard, we should hold conservative and Republican candidates to the same standard. I don’t know if I would vote Third Party because, in the end, a vote for a Third Party candidate is a vote for Obama. But, if Mr. Gingrich were the nominee, I would not be enthusiastic in pulling the lever for him. Hope things are well in Enid. Have a great weekend and God bless,

      Howell

  4. June 3, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    Howell and Thornton:

    See my links on Mark Noll Review of God’s Own Party in the Public policy thread of http://www.baptistlife.com/forums

    Gingrich swims in a larger universe that goes back to the John Birch Society links to Fank Norris independent Baptist fundamentalism that got transposed from Oklahoma and Arkansas to Southern California. I know that is quite a mouthful but read the various links and the June 9 http://www.tnr.com Mark Noll review. Full article in the print issue only.
    Thornton will be glad to know I saw Gingrich in person as early as 84 in Cedartown Georgia when he was running for Congress for 1st or 2nd time. His membership in Ike Reighard’s church in SW suburbs of Atlanta during the heart of the Fundy takeover of the SBC and the defunding of the Baptist Joint Committee is a significant footnote in the universe he has swam in the last 30 years.

    • June 3, 2011 at 4:33 PM

      Stephen,

      Hope you are doing well and that the tornadoes as of late did not affect you too much. I think you make an interesting point about Gingrich’s membership in Ike Reighard’s church in Atlanta. While we may disagree about the CR, I do think that we would find agreement about the unhealthy intertwining relationship between some within the SBC and the Republican Party. It is with good reason that many non-Baptists see the SBC as in the back pocket of Republicans. I do not think that Richard Land and others do Southern Baptists any favors by getting too close to politicians, even those who may share similar values. In the end, it seems like some of our religious leaders (SBC and otherwise) put too much faith in politics/government to the detriment of the Gospel. If revival is to come in America, it will not come through government, but through the church. Too many of our leaders forget that. Thanks again and hope you have a great weekend. God bless,

      Howell

  5. June 3, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    I have to agree with Howell over my favored William on this one. I’m in pretty much in full agreement about Gringrich. I’m afraid to admit that I voted for McCain because of Palin. So far, I’m flummoxed over who I would vote for. I just don’t like any of them.

    Keep it coming Howell!!!

    Tim

    • June 3, 2011 at 4:36 PM

      Tim,

      There are no Republican candidates that stand out for me. I was disappointed when Huckabee announced he was not running. From what I know about him, I think I could have comfortably supported his candidacy. Not so much for Gingrich, Paul, Pawlenty, Palin, or Romney. Not excited at all. I’ll try to keep it coming when the religious meets the political in a way that is detrimental to both. Thanks for the comments. Have a great weekend and God bless,

      Howell

  6. Lydia
    June 3, 2011 at 8:35 PM

    William, there is a bit of a difference in the two evils. They are not exactly alike in degrees. We have to consider McCain’s time in the Hanoi Hilton not as an excuse but most likely a catalyst. I am sure he came out a different person

    Gingrich is on his third…both prior marriages ended with his adultery. Gingrich ups McCain with adultery when the wife had cancer. McCain’s 1st wife was in an accident. Gingrich left the first two when they were sick. ( His first wife was much older and his HS Geometry teacher…which surprises me the Network psychologists have not made some general diagnosis about)

    He tried to financially ruin the first two.

    I am telling you, Gingrich is plain evil. He makes Obama look like Ward Cleaver.

  7. Lydia
    June 3, 2011 at 8:36 PM

    I do have to wonder what sane person would want to be President. :0)

  8. June 6, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    Here is some must reading for you before you hit the pillow this evening. Please share with David Miller.
    Similarities to Patterson and Pressler are unnerving:

    http://www.augsburgfortress.org/media/downloads/0800697928Intro.pdf

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