I watched with amazement this weekend as the large majority of evangelical Christians in South Carolina voted for Newt Gingrich. On NPR (that station run by liberal pigs), I heard a woman say that she was as yet undecided, but that she planned to vote “as God led her.” I always thought that God was about as interested in presidential politics as he was in Denver Broncos football. Apparently, I was wrong. And apparently, the Holy Ghost brakes for Newt.
Newt Gingrich. The guy who cheated on his first wife when she had cancer, and the guy who asked his second wife for an open marriage after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Newt Gingrich. The guy who once paid $300,000 for conduct that he agreed “did not reflect creditably on the House of Representatives.” Newt Gingrich. The guy who once said that Spanish was “the language of living in the ghetto.” Newt Gingrich. The guy who even mild-mannered Jimmy Carter says “knows the subtle words to use to appeal to a racist group.”
Yeah. That guy. Apparently South Carolina evangelicals love him. Jerry Falwell, the former head of the Moral Majority who is now whispering in the ears of God Himself, apparently told Tim LaHaye that he supported Newt Gingrich as a presidential candidate (hopefully, before he left the mortal coil). The three-fold platform of Falwell’s Moral Majority, back in 2008, was to ensure the confirmation of strict, constructionist pro-life judges, pass a constitutional Federal Marriage Amendment, and elect socially, fiscally and politically conservative presidents. So if this is your definition of morality, then I suppose Newt Gingrich may as well be your man.
Many in the evangelical community have managed to construct this strange hierarchy of sins. At the top, you have abortion, gay marriage and welfare. At the bottom, you have other things that don’t matter as much, like racism, greed and contempt for the poor. If you believe that the Bible contains a true account of the things that Jesus did and said, then you may note that Jesus spoke a great deal, in a negative tone, about greed and contempt for the poor. He said absolutely nothing about abortion or gay marriage.
I am increasingly uncomfortable with how much evangelical rhetoric is based on outright falsehood. For example, Mike Huckabee would have you believe that the United States was founded by Christians with a biblical agenda. Now, many people facing religious persecution in other countries have found freedom on American soil. If we’re talking about the Founding Fathers, however, this country was founded by deists who based the Declaration of Independence on the work of John Locke and who believed in the principles of the Enlightenment. John Adams said in 1797 that “the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” Rewriting history, or what the Lord may have referred to as “bearing false witness,” must fall somewhere on that hierarchy of sin. I guess it’s not as bad as thinking that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare,” as Bill Clinton once said, or that our government should not get involved in what goes on in the bedroom between consenting adults.
In this recent economic recession, many, many people lost their jobs. I don’t imagine that many of those who were eligible to collect unemployment, including unemployed evangelicals, decided not to take it because they didn’t want to accept handouts from the government. We as a society seem to agree that people who lose their jobs should get some financial support while they seek out other opportunities. Food stamps, on the contrary, are an unthinkable sin, especially to those who think that the poor should just pull themselves up by the bootstraps. As the Delaware Annual Conference Ministerial Institute recently said in an open letter to Mr. Gingrich, “It is impossible to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, and even more difficult when you have no boots to begin with.”
My purpose in ranting on this blog is not to characterize all evangelical Christians as hypocrites. Many, many evangelicals work very hard to live a morally upstanding life. I will say, however, that many of my evangelical neighbors have an interesting view of “family values.” And to choose Newt Gingrich as the candidate of moral rectitude is in a word, laughable.
So God votes for Newt, at least in South Carolina. But apparently, he doesn’t want the Denver Broncos to win the Super Bowl. I guess it’s a tough thing to pin down the mind of God. He has this way of keeping you guessing.