Newt Gingrich, FBC Jax & Moral Negligence

It’s hard to argue with the Watchdog (as in FBC Jax Watchdog) when the leadership of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, FL continually lobs softballs for him (and others) to hit out of the ballpark.  Such was the case when John Blount, the Executive Pastor (and second-in-command) of this Southern Baptist mega-church in NE Florida, introduced Newt and Callista Gingrich on the last night of their annual Pastor’s Conference.  Pastor Blount, in what the Watchdog calls “a glowing introduction,” said this about the former Southern Baptist-turned Catholic politician who is in a battle with Mormon Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination for President:

“We have joining us tonight, uh, a grandfather, I think is probably his first priority, a father. He is a historian, he is a teacher, a professor. He is a thinker, a learner, a prolific writer. He loves America, he loves freedom. Over the last 32 years of his life, he has given public service to his country, an also too seeking the greatness of America. He has come to be with us tonight, Mr. Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, candidate for the Republican presidency (sic). And his wife Callista.”

Only two days before the pivotal Florida Primary, it’s no surprise why Newt Gingrich would try to bamboozle woo Evangelicals at this large gathering of conservative pastors and lay folks.  The real question is why would the Executive Pastor of a prominent Southern Baptist church appear to give his endorsement to a political candidate?  The best that can be said about the above introduction is that it is simply perplexing.  The worst that can be said is that it borders on moral negligence.

I should not be surprised that so many Baptists — of every stripe and size — have forgotten that our Baptist forefathers fought and died for religious liberty and freedom in this country.  While we may disagree with our more moderate Baptist brethren about the principle of “separation of church and state,” we should be able to agree that the government — including politicians — should not influence the church.  Of course, the church and individual Christians (and people of all faiths or no faith at all) should influence the government for the good.  Which brings us back to FBC Jacksonville and its recognition of Newt and Callista Gingrich.

If this was not a blatant attempt on the part of the spiritual leaders of this church to curry favor with a powerful politician who has a chance (hopefully slim) of becoming the next President of the United States, then how exactly should we interpret Pastor Blount’s introduction?  Put in a different context, would President and Mrs. Obama — should they choose to visit FBC Jacksonville — be accorded the same overly positive introduction?  What about Mitt Romney and Ann, his wife of 40+ years?  I guess as long as a former adulterer shares your political beliefs, that’s really all that matters.

I think the answer to those questions is fairly obvious.  That’s why this type of political maneuvering by spiritual leaders presents, at the very least, an appearance of unseemly behavior and, at worst, an instance of moral negligence, not to mention hypocrisy of the highest order.  No wonder why so many non-Christians view Christians and the church as nothing more than moral hypocrites.  Conservative Evangelicals rightfully castigated Bill Clinton for his moral failures while in the White House but continue to give Newt Gingrich a pass on his moral indisrections while serving as Speaker of the House during the Impeachment proceedings of President Clinton.  It seems that so many are trusting certain politicians — including Newt Gingrich — to save America.  Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows, but that illicit sleeping arrangement will only lead to heartache.

The Evangelical church in America today is much like the Israelites who longed for a king — any king.  They got Saul.  There’s no doubt, as Pastor Blount said, that Mr. Gingrich is a grandfather, father, teacher, historian, teacher, professor, thinker, learner, and prolific writer who loves his country.  What description is missing in that glowing introduction?  It’s what was missing in King Saul’s life and what led him to be such a poor leader.  If I have to tell you, you probably wouldn’t understand.

9 comments for “Newt Gingrich, FBC Jax & Moral Negligence

  1. January 31, 2012 at 6:14 AM

    “The Evangelical church in America today is much like the Israelites who longed for a king — any king.”

    Good line, Howell.

    I would offer, “The Evangelical church in America today is much like Esau, selling our birthright for a mess of pottage.”

    • January 31, 2012 at 6:24 AM

      William,

      Hope things are going well with you in the new year. I like your line as well. I think both sum up not only Evangelicals in general but, many Southern Baptists in particular, as the FBC Jax situation illustrates. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out and how the church, especially some within the SBC, respond to the changing political landscape in the months ahead. Have a great week and God bless,

      Howell

  2. January 31, 2012 at 6:24 AM

    Here’s what Ken Whitten, pastor of Tampa’s largest church, Idlewild, an SBC church said in recognizing Newt who attended last Sunday’s service:

    “I want to thank the former speaker of the United States House of Representatives,” Whitten said. “Thank you for putting your name on the line. We believe what makes a good Christian makes a good citizen at the same time. So we pray for you, have prayed for you, will continue to pray for you.”

    I’m sure that Whitten has preached about what makes a good Christian. Looks like he was carried away by the moment and forgot it.

  3. January 31, 2012 at 7:13 PM

    Howell Scott? Howell Scott? The name sounds familiar!

    Good insights. I really struggle with this. I like most of what Newt says and I really like the way he says it. If his personal life was other that what it is, I’d likely be a big time supporter.

    But it is hard to uphold “family values” with a man who has forgotten them to often.

    • January 31, 2012 at 8:04 PM

      Dave,

      I think I am finally getting back after a sabbatical through the holidays. You perhaps will be hearing more from me (hopefully not about me) in the days ahead. If you’ll still allow me, I will be happy to contribute some posts for Voices. As for Newt, I don’t think that it would be possible (if advisable) to separate his personal life from his public life. I think that he continues to exhibit the fatal character flaw that led to his adultery in the past and leads to him saying and doing irrational things in the present — pride. Apparently he didn’t learn from his mighty fall from Speaker of the House. While I dislike the idea of Mitt Romney as the nominee, he at least stands a fighting chance against Obama. If Newt were the nominee, President Obama would waltz to a second term. Hope all is well with you in Iowa. Lord willing, look forward to meeting face to face in New Orleans this summer. God bless,

      Howell

      • January 31, 2012 at 9:20 PM

        I’ll publish anything you got!

        New Orleans is shaping up to be a real doozy of a convention.

  4. Steve Wilcox
    February 1, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    Why is it OK for African American pastors to blatantly endorse a canidate but when a white minister does, it is a problem? Want an example, Bethel Baptist endorses Corrine Brown.

    • February 1, 2012 at 9:20 PM

      Steve,

      I didn’t know the church I pastor endorsed a candidate. Oh, that must be another Bethel Baptist 🙂 I certainly did not say that it was okay for African American pastors to endorse candidates. In fact, I think it is wrong. It is equally as wrong for anglo, conservative pastors to endorse candidates from the pulpit (although what Pastor Blount did was not a formal endorsement). There’s no question that there is a double standard when it comes to what is given a pass in terms of African American churches having mainly Democrat candidates in their churches as opposed to what happened at FBC Jax. Just because some churches engage in inappropriate behavior should not give conservative churches license to engage in that same inappropriate behavior. Thanks for reading and for the question. God bless,

      Howell

Leave a Reply