Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has been busy spinning bizarre theories about how the media will have to try to make voters uncomfortable with Mitt Romney's faith in order to help President Obama because Evangelical Christian voters would have no qualms about voting for a Mormon.
The only problem with Land's conspiracy theory is that it is constantly being undermined by others, like the new president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, Brad Atkins, who says that Christians would have a much easier time voting for a thrice-married serial adulterer like Newt Gingrich before ever voting for a Mormon like Romney:
The Rev. Brad Atkins, tabbed in November to lead the group for the coming year, told Patch on Friday that while Gingrich's infidelities may represent a major obstacle for some Christian voters, it isn't an issue that necessarily excludes the former speaker from consideration. Rather, it's an issue that calls for prayerful consideration of Gingrich's numerous public confessions to his wrongdoings.
The issue presented by Romney's faith may be more deeply rooted to South Carolinians.
"In South Carolina, Romney's Mormonism will be more of a cause of concern than Gingrich's infidelity," said Atkins, the pastor at Powdersville First Baptist Church in the Upstate.
"Conservatives can process and pray their way through the issue of forgiveness toward a Christian that has had infidelity in their life, but will struggle to understand how anyone could be a Mormon and call themselves 'Christian.'"
Newt Gingrich today nabbed the endorsement of Don Wildmon, the founder of the American Family Association, which is now under the leadership of his son, Tim. Wildmon praised Gingrich’s aggressive attacks on the judiciary, saying, “Newt Gingrich recognizes the threat to our country posed by judges and lawyers imposing values upon the country inconsistent with our religious heritage, and has proposed constitutional steps to bring the courts back in balance under the constitution,” and Gingrich welcomed the endorsement by calling Wildmon “one of the most important leaders in the country in the battle to uphold our founding principles.”
Wildmon endorsed Gingrich, who has admitted that extramarital affairs were reasons that ended his first two marriages, despite previously arguing that “adultery is destructive to relationships, to families, and to society.”
After founding the National Federation for Decency, which later became the AFA, Wildmon led censorship campaigns against shows like Seinfeld and Murphy Brown, along with other movies, television programs and music he found objectionable.
Wildmon also has claimed that “liberals” and those who support the “homosexual agenda” all “hate Christians,” and in his recent book Speechless, he claimed that “homosecularists” are trying to “persecute Christians” and “insert homosexual propaganda into the schools.” He warned that the “homosecularist elite” is using “the schools to indoctrinate children” through “pro-homosexual and anti-Christian” programs to combat school bullying. Wildmon also praised the Boy Scouts for not wanting to “expose its young members to lonely sodomites.”
But Wildmon’s endorsement doesn’t mean others in the AFA have had less than kind words for Gingrich.
Recently in a phone interview I challenged former Speaker Newt Gingrich with the query If the men of the Republican Revolution and their Speaker couldn't keep their marriage vows why should we now entrust, say, that Speaker who looks to be making a run for the presidency?
It wasn't much of an answer he gave. Evangelicals in power must do better in the future, and cultural conservatives in particular must surely know that the public will hold them to higher standards.
John the Baptist famously rebuked a politician of his day for his problematic marital history, and Mr. Gingrich rightly comes in for similar censure.
King David of the ancient kingdom of Israel kept his throne after his adulterous liaison with the beautiful Bathsheba, but a consequence of his unfaithfulness was that the sword never left his house, never left the dynasty he left behind nor the nation his descendants ruled. There were lasting consequences to the body politic for his moral failures, no matter how repentant he was and no matter how forgiven by God.
A candidate or president with such a troubled past would have little or no credibility in talking about the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity and importance of the intact family unit. “Who are you,” folks would say, “to be lecturing us about the importance of family?”
And there certainly would be fallout for the American family and the institution of marriage if such a flawed individual served as our nation’s leader.
UPDATE: Wildmon today appeared on Focal Pointwith Bryan Fischer where he explained that while he was initially “ecstatic” about Rick Perry’s candidacy, he decided that because of the Texas governor's disastrous debate appearances his candidacy “cannot recover.” Wildmon said that electability matters because “we are facing the most critical election this nation has ever seen, the stake in this election is Western civilization.”
When discussing Gingrich’s extramarital affairs, he said that Gingrich “seemed genuinely repentant,” telling Fischer, “we are voting for a president, not a pope, and there is a difference.” He added that his endorsement was personal and does not reflect an endorsement by the American Family Association.
Later in the show, Wildmon and Fischer praised Gingrich’s fight against “judicial tyranny” and Wildmon cited Gingrich’s attacks on judges as one of the major reasons he endorsed him: Wildmon said “the whole of Western Civilization” is in jeopardy because “when you destroy the family, which the homosexuals and the liberals now are trying to do, then you've destroyed the foundation here. All of this business about homosexual marriage, well let’s go to Massachusetts where it started, did the people vote on it? No they didn’t. What happened? Judges, judges, liberal judges passed the law, made the legalization of homosexual marriage in Massachusetts.”
Back when Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign was just getting off the ground and nobody was giving him any chance of winning the Republican nomination, Gingrich had the very vocal support of Pastor Jim Garlow.
As we noted then, Garlow had led the Prop 8 fight against marriage equality in order to save the "sanctity of marriage" and so it seemed rather odd for him to be throwing his support behind a thrice-married adulterer.
Now that Gingrich is among the leaders in the GOP primary, Garlow has penned a long email to evangelicals explaining in great depth just why he is supporting Gingrich and, by extension, why they should as well.
Garlow raves about Gingrich's genius, his record, and even his "Churchillian fortitude" ... but the crux of his argument is that he has spent more time with Gingrich then just about anyone and has had deep, spiritual conversations with him about his past failings and can assure everyone that Gingrich has repented, been forgiven, and changed.
People on the Left may scoff at this, Garlow knows, but those who are "spiritually mature" will surely "get it":
During my private conversations with Mr. Gingrich, I discovered three things:
I found him to be remarkably and unexpectedly transparent – fully and completely acknowledging his spiritual failures, responding to my very personal questions with unflinching honesty. There was no attempt to "whitewash" transgressions. He did not defend them. Nor do I defend them. As it relates to Mr. Gingrich’s past sins, I merely state that were there no sin, there would have been no cross. We all need the forgiveness the cross of Jesus brings. I was once asked a strongly worded question from a nationally known investigative reporter with one of the three major networks, while in their studio in Washington, DC. “Given Mr. Gingrich’s past, and the fact that you are a pastor, why do you associate with someone like him?” the reporter asked. My answer is that, as a pastor, I look for people like Mr. Gingrich. I am a pastor and I have the privilege of telling people who acknowledge their sin that the cross of Jesus provides healing and forgiveness.” In my meeting with Mr. Gingrich about this delicate issue, he made one particular statement that I asked to share with others, thus making it public. He agreed. Here it is: He stated, “On my bleakest days (referring to his indiscretions), I knew that my sin was sin.” Why is this significant? I spend much of my time trying to persuade people that “sin” still exists, and what they are doing is sin (a most unpopular word). Some pastors won’t even use the word today. God does. So I do as well. If a person knows that their “sinning is sin,” then they are halfway toward receiving correction and forgiveness. An additional insight I had was that, as I conversed with Mr. Gingrich, it appeared to me that he understood the difference between forgiveness (which occurs in an instant) and restoration (which involves an arduous process).
Furthermore, Mr. Gingrich was profoundly tender during our conversation. I realize the radical secularists, and Mr. Gingrich’s detractors in general, will attempt to poke fun at this statement, but discerning people will know that this fact is truly significant. Allow me to explain its importance. He placed no blame on any other person(s). Blame shifting is common in failed marriages. As one who has counseled many in the midst of divorces, I listen intently for language that would indicate a failure to take responsibility. He evidenced none of that. He placed no blame on his former wives or anyone else. He shouldered the blame. He spoke very honoring of the wife who bore him two daughters. And when he spoke of his daughters, he teared up. He enjoys a superb relationship with his two daughters and his grandchildren. I have talked to one of his daughters at length about this topic. This is not the same man who is now characterized by his critics as the “bull-in-the-China-shop” type Gingrich who led the House of Representatives in the 1990s. People change. And – if he was as forceful as some say he was – he has changed.
In addition, he was quite teachable. When I probed him on some aspects of bringing "spiritual closure," he responded with thoughtful and reflective questions, wanting to include the person who is serving as his spiritual advisor. Since I do not “want anything out of him” if he becomes our next president, I have no reason to pander. I have confronted him (privately) on some issues, and I have found him to be very teachable. He has never been defensive. Not once. Wise is the man who surrounds himself with many competent counselors. It appears to me that Mr. Gingrich has done and is doing that.
I cannot know the motives of all Mr. Gingrich’s critics, but it appears that one of the reasons some are fixating on his past marital indiscretions is because they do not want to attempt to deal with Mr. Gingrich’s solutions for America’s present day problems. The obsession with past deeds is to distract the discussion for present day crisis that America now faces.
Allow me to ratchet up a bit. I have spent more time with Mr. Gingrich on this issue than 99.9% of the people who will read this email. I have dealt with people with moral failures, sins and mistakes since 1969, when I accepted my first job as a (youth) pastor, 42 years ago. I am not a novice at dealing with people needing to walk from unrighteousness to uprightness. Out of respect for confidentiality, I will not reveal more about my conversations with Mr. Gingrich. But I need to make a summary statement on this: At the risk of being misunderstood, I would suggest that I am in a better (pastoral and otherwise) position to evaluate his present status than most. I have grown weary of “long distance” attackers who have not invested any time with him privately on these issues, yet who consider themselves to be self-appointed experts on his actual spiritual condition. They need to know “his heart,” and they badly need a fundamental course in hamartiology (the doctrine of sin) and soteriology (doctrine of salvation).
In my evaluating his present spiritual status, I made an unusual request of Mr. Gingrich. I asked him if I could worship with him – at his church, the Basilica, in Washington, DC. I am an avowed Protestant evangelical. Mr. Gingrich worships in a Catholic Church. Our worship preferences are substantially different. But we worship the same God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Why did I want to worship with him – at his church? You can learn much about a person when you worship with them. You can, if you are spiritually attuned, sense much. I observed him in this tender environment.
Secularists will likely mock this idea, out of their own lack of understanding and discernment. But I was there. I worshipped with him. I saw a man who humbled himself before God. Those with spiritual dullness will not grasp the importance of this paragraph. The spiritually mature will, in contrast, “get it.”
Last month, the radical "personhood" amendment in Mississippi was trounced in the polls, with 58% of voters rejecting the Religious Right's effort to implement draconian anti-choice restrictions in the state.
But that has not stopped supporters of this "personhood" movement from moving ahead with plans to try and pass similar amendments in states across the nation.
And now Personhood USA has announced that Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich have all signed the organization's pledge to support and promote both state and federal "personhood" laws:
Personhood USA has unveiled a detailed and unique pledge declaring a commitment to advance the personhood rights of every human being, born and preborn. Ahead of the nation’s first presidential caucus in Iowa, Personhood USA is asking the Republican candidates to sign the pledge and declaration.
“I ____________ proclaim that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and is endowed by our Creator with the unalienable right to life,” it reads.
So far, candidates who have returned the pledge with their signatures include Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
I __________________ proclaim that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and is endowed by our Creator with the unalienable right to life.
I stand with President Ronald Reagan in supporting “the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death,” and with the Republican Party platform in affirming that I “support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.”
I believe that in order to properly protect the right to life of the vulnerable among us, every human being at every stage of development must be recognized as a person possessing the right to life in federal and state laws without exception and without compromise. I recognize that in cases where a mother’s life is at risk, every effort should be made to save the baby’s life as well; leaving the death of an innocent child as an unintended tragedy rather than an intentional killing.
I oppose assisted suicide, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and procedures that intentionally destroy developing human beings.
I pledge to the American people that I will defend all innocent human life. Abortion and the intentional killing of an innocent human being are always wrong and should be prohibited.
If elected President, I will work to advance state and federal laws and amendments that recognize the unalienable right to life of all human beings as persons at every stage of development, and to the best of my knowledge, I will only appoint federal judges and relevant officials who will uphold and enforce state and federal laws recognizing that all human being at every stage of development are person with the unalienable right to life.
After narrowing their decision to four candidates in the Republican field, The Family Leader is set to announce their endorsement on Monday…or their decision not to endorse at all. With the caucus less than a month away, Bob Vander Plaats claims that their desired candidate must not only be conservative but must also have the strength to defeat Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination and ultimately President Obama. While Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry have all signed The Family Leader’s pledge, Newt Gingrich recently penned a letter committing to their right-wing agenda and pledging faithfulness to his third wife. The conservative Iowa Republican reports:
Bob Vander Plaats and his Family Leader organization plan to make a decision on whether or not to make an endorsement, and whom they might endorse, by next Monday. The group’s backing is one of the most sought after in the GOP presidential race, especially in Iowa.
“That’s going be a great question, because if you read the pledge that he wrote and submitted, there’s a lot of our verbiage in there,” Vander Plaats said. “He takes some strong stances on life, marriage and religious freedom. As we read it, we wondered why he didn’t sign the pledge, but he did almost everything we talked about and used a similar language.”
Vander Plaats says he is looking for an “authentic conservative”, but adds that viability is one of the issues The Family Leader will consider when picking their candidate. “If you’re going to beat Obama, then you also have to beat Romney to get the nomination,” The Family Leader CEO said. “If we were to endorse on what we’re looking for, we’re looking for a very conservative principled, but we’re also looking for someone who can win.”
A group of conservative Christian faith leaders are hitting the road to urge conservatives to caucus for Michele Bachmann – not the race’s frontrunner, Newt Gingrich.
“Frankly, we’re looking to shake things up a little bit,” former Iowa Rep. Danny Carroll, a conservative Republican from Grinnell, told reporters at a news conference at the Iowa Capitol this morning.
The pastors delicately made it clear that they don’t think Gingrich is the best choice for president. Nor is Rick Santorum, a religious conservative who has been courting the evangelical vote in Iowa.
“(Gingrich) is tremendous in debates,” said Brad Sherman, an evangelical Christian minister with Solid Rock Christian Church in Coralville. “Part of me wants to say I’d love to see him debate Obama because I think he would chew him up. But I have to live by principle – and Michele Bachmann has proved it.”
Carroll said during the news conference: “We have determined that Michele Bachmann is Biblically-qualified to be the president, to be a leader. She is capable. She is trustworthy. She fears God and she hates dishonest gain.”
Iowans should to go to the caucuses on Jan. 3 “unless you support someone other than Michele Bachmann. Then you should take the night off,” he said.
Carroll and various faith leaders are embarking on an eight-city tour of Iowa – Oskaloosa, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Mason City, Council Bluffs and Sioux City – to call on Christians “to be informed.”
Today, Newt Gingrich sent a letter to Iowa Religious Right leader Bob Vander Plaats detailing his commitment to fight gay rights and reproductive rights, and also taking a vow to stay faithful to his wife Callista, his third wife and former mistress. After vowing to fight against gay and lesbian couples’ right to marry, Gingrich said he would “pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others.” Vander Plaats has previously floated supporting Gingrich, who leads in the Iowa polls, and publicly announced that his organization has narrowed its choices to Gingrich, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum.
But Gingrich’s problems winning over Religious Right activists despite his best efforts were exhibited in an interview Family Research Council president Tony Perkins gave on Friday with radio talk show host Janet Mefferd. Perkins told Mefferd that Religious Right voters may be viewed as hypocritical if they pick Gingrich over right-wing candidates who, unlike Gingrich, also have both “their personal lives and their professional lives in order” like Bachmann, Santorum and Perry in the Republican primary. However, Perkins said it would not at all problematic for Christian conservative voters to back Gingrich over President Obama if he is the party’s nominee.
Mefferd: My question is, Tony do you buy this idea that if Newt Gingrich does end up being the nominee and Christian conservatives end up getting behind him because they want to vote out Barack Obama, which we all do, that that somehow will ruin the reputation of Christians? Are you buying that connection?
Perkins: No, I think the question that does have some legitimacy is in—right now, where it stands, you’re still four weeks away from the vote in Iowa, and there are still solid conservative candidates in this race. You have Michele Bachmann, a strong Christian woman who I know very well and is completely in line with us, Rick Santorum, another close friend again who is perfectly in line with us, as well as Rick Perry, who is in line with us on all the issues. So I think for Christian conservatives to come out now and say, ‘alright well we’re going to support Newt Gingrich,’ when you still have people that have their personal lives and their professional lives in order, I do think that then rings kind of like, ‘well we just want to be with a political winner,’ so I think that charge would stick now.
Huckabee is scheduled to premier the film in Iowa next week and he invited the candidates seeking the Republican nomination to join him for the event where each would be given five minutes to address the audience and flaunt their anti-choice credentials ... and so far, four candidates have accepted the invitation:
Four of the Republican presidential candidates have committed to be at a pro-life forum in Des Moines, Iowa hosted by Mike Huckabee on December 14 to join more than 1,000 pro-life advocates for the unveiling of the new pro-life film Gift of Life.
Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum will come together for the event along with local pro-life Iowans as “The Gift of Life” will make its debut that night. The documentary was produced by Citizens United, the company made famous by a U.S. Supreme Court case that opened the door for unlimited spending on election ads by corporations.
Three other GOP presidential hopefuls, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Jon Huntsman, have also been invited to the event and they, along with the attending candidates, have been invited to address the audience on pro-life issues before the screening.
Also taking part will be Family Leader President Bob Vander Plaats, Iowa Right To Life Executive Director Jenifer Bowen, Citizens United President David Bossie, and “Mickelson In The Morning” radio host Jan Mickelson, said Jeff Marschner, a spokesman for Citizens United. The event takes place at the Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines.
Yesterday, Newt Gingrich addressed some 60 conservative and Religious Right leaders suburban Washington, DC at a gathering organized by direct mail guru Richard Viguerie.
Yesterday afternoon, following the meeting, Viguerie's ConservativeHQ posted a report on the meeting, noting that Gingrich was "interrupted numerous times by applause" as he called upon those in the room to "be with me, not merely for me – because if you are merely for me that implies you can vote and go home and expect me to fix things, but for this level of change to occur I need you working with me every step of the way to make it happen."
Gingrich also talked about his plans for getting President Obama to agree to participate in several Lincoln-Douglas-style debates, predicting that Obama will eventually accept the challenge because of his ego.
But if Obama won't accept his challenge, then Gingrich plans to just follow him around the country and "show-up within four hours to take apart whatever he said":
When asked about how he intended to win the general election Gingrich said he expected Obama to have $1 billion to spend, but that he would counter that by challenging Obama to a series of seven Lincoln – Douglas-style un-moderated debates, “…and he'll say yes. There are two reasons: The first is his ego. Can you imagine him looking in the mirror? Graduate from Columbia, Harvard Law, and editor of the Law Review. How is he going to say that he's afraid to be on the same podium as a West Georgia College teacher? Plus, if he says ‘no’ I’m going to say ‘the White House is now my scheduler’ and wherever he goes I will show-up within four hours to take apart whatever he said, that’s how Lincoln got Douglas to debate.”
This weekend, nearly every major GOP presidential candidate, along with the top two Republicans in the House of Representatives, will speak at the Values Voter Summit, an annual gathering of the leaders of the Religious Right movement to integrate fundamentalist Christianity and American politics.
At next week's Values Voter Summit, Mitt Romney is scheduled to take the stage immediately before Bryan Fischer, an American Family Association (AFA) spokesman with a long and shocking record of bigotry against gays and lesbians, American Muslims, Native Americans and other minority groups. Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum are also scheduled to speak at the event, which is sponsored by the anti-gay Family Research Council, the AFA, and other Religious Right groups. PFAW is urging these candidates for our nation's highest office to condemn bigotry.
Tonight, seven prominent candidates for the Republican presidential nomination will take part in a debate in New Hampshire. As these candidates introduce themselves to Republican primary voters, it’s important for them to speak honestly about their visions for the future of the country.
Who is David Barton? A new PFAW report explores the growing influence of the fast-talking, self-promoting, self-taught , self-proclaimed “historian” who is systematically misinforming millions of Americans about U.S. History and the Constitution – and increasingly influencing prominent Republican decision-makers.
People For the American Way today asked GOP presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Haley Barbour to publicly tell the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer that the First Amendment applies to all Americans, when they appear on his radio show later today.
In his twenty years in Congress, John Boehner has been one of the fiercest protectors of Corporate America, and his political and legislative history provide a striking road map for what to expect from his tenure as Speaker.
In Texas, a decades-long battle culminated in May with the adoption of social studies standards that give the far-right faction and its Religious Right advisors far too many victories in their efforts to replace history with ideology and turn public school classrooms into Heritage Foundation seminars.
Vituperative attacks on Democratic-led efforts to reform the nation's health care system reflect right-wing leaders' strategic decision to do everything in their power to destroy the Obama presidency. The disruptions at congressional town hall meetings by angry, misinformed mobs are the result of an opportunistic coalition of convenience between deep-pocketed corporate opponents of reform, Religious Right leaders who see opposition to Obama as a religious duty, right-wing media outlets eager to use any bludgeon at their disposal to weaken the Obama administration, and Republican officials all too eager to play along in hopes of strengthening their political position.