Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Setting The Record Straight About Newt Gingrich

I know.  I know.  You don’t want to read another article promoting Newt Gingrich.  After all, he is in his third marriage.  He was criticizing Clinton for his dallying with Monica Lewinsky while he himself was having an adulterous affair with a staff member.  And the draconian incident that pounds the final nail in the coffin of Newt’s run for the presidency:  horror of horrors, he served divorce papers to his wife while she lay in a hospital bed dying of cancer.

If the previous paragraph describes your opinion of Newt Gingrich would you please read on?  Yes, Newt is in his third marriage.  He is also a brilliant man who happens to be a slow learner when it comes to family and relationships.  He is now 68 years old, he tears up when he speaks of his daughters and he appears to be happy and secure in a very stable marriage to his wife, Callista.  When he speaks of his former wives he refuses to play the blame game like so many divorced couples are apt to do.  There appears to be no shards of bitterness piercing his soul.

Newt Gingrich does not try to defend the sins of his past.  “On my bleakest days (referring to his moral failures), I knew that my sin was sin.”  He is not sweeping anything under the rug.  There is no blatant lie coming from his lips such as, “I didn not have sex with that women…”  He is not playing mind games with the American public by contemplating just what the meaning of ‘is’ is.  He acknowledges his sin, he confesses his spiritual failures and he claims he has been forgiven by the only One who can grant cleansing to his soul. 

There are a couple of myths that haunt Gingrich.  The liberal press and his Republican opponents are making hay from some twisted notions.  Perhaps most harmful is the notion that Gingrich entered the room of his former wife while she laid in a hospital bed dying of cancer to serve her divorce papers.  This never happened.  Marianne Ginther was not dying.  In fact, she is very much alive today.  Jackie Gingrich Cushman, Newt’s daughter, has come forward to vouch for her father over this controversial issue.  Jackie states that she and her sister have a wonderfully close relationship with both of their parents.  She describes the day she was taken by her father to Emory Hospital in Atlanta to visit her mother who had had a benign tumor removed.  It was “not considered a defining event for any of us,” Jackie explained.  Her mother had already asked for a divorce and the daughters had already been informed.  It was a painful time in their lives but they have all moved on. See Jackie’s explanation here. 

At the risk of readers thinking I am defending Gingrich’s past indiscretions, I am not.  Gingrich has been smeared by his enemies for condemning Bill Clinton for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky while he was guilty of the same.  While both he and Clinton were rowing the same boat on the murky waters of immorality, Gingrich never spoke out about the affair.  Gingrich’s criticism for Clinton was restricted to his perjuring himself before a grand jury.  Perjury is a felony that can earn you five years in the penitentiary.

How long does a person have to carry the baggage of his past?  Some might argue that we endure the consequences of our sin for a lifetime.  Fortunately for those of us who don’t have a stellar past, Christ forgives and forgets our transgressions.  But humans haven’t the ability to forget.  We tend to ‘red letter’ people who have transgressed.  This may not be fair if they have truly been forgiven and restored.  The difficulty is in our perception.  Forgiveness happens in an instant and most all of us are willing to accept that.  Restoration is a long and sometimes tedious process.  We can accept that Newt Gingrich has been forgiven but has he experienced restoration?  Will he fall back into his former immorality?

Would Newt Gingrich be a good president?  That is debatable.  When it comes to conservative social issues Newt has been worthy of the conservative title by voting 98.6%, 70 or 71 votes, in favor of protecting life in the womb.  He was the leadership behind the Balanced Budget Amendment in the 1990’s and he balanced the budget for four years while he was Speaker of the House.

After watching Newt’s performance in the debates, no one in America, liberal or conservative is questioning his intellectual ability.  Some would like him to win the Republican nomination just to see him on the same stage with Barack ‘Teleprompter’ Obama in a presidential debate.

Read some of his books and articles and listen to his interviews and realize that Gingrich has a deep historical perspective for this country that the present occupant of the White House totally lacks.  He has a vast amount of experience as a congressman and he knows how to get a bill passed.  He has been thoroughly vetted, both negatively and positively.  His failures are on the table.  He didn’t pay two million dollars to hide his birth certificate nor is he hiding his participation in academia. 

Do his past moral failures deem him incapable of being president?  When England was in its moment of deepest despair and Hitler was poised to devour the nation a man emerged like a phoenix rising from the ashes.  He was a man known for his failures.  He was pegged as an unfeeling intellect, arrogant and self-absorbed.  But the British turned to the only man who could see beyond the horizon, the only man who had the proper perception of the danger that threatened them.  Winston Churchill’s ideas were affective in saving the British from Hitler’s war machine during World War II. 

As a Christian I am much troubled by Gingrich’s failures.  But I am also aware that all men are born in depravity and many very capable men may be eliminated from office by an unreasonable standard imposed by fervent Christians. Martin Luther once said, “I would rather be governed by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian.”

If I had a heart condition that required open heart surgery and my life depended on the skill of the surgeon, I wouldn’t be asking if that surgeon smoked pot in his youth, I wouldn’t be asking if he had been faithful to his wife or if he had ever robbed a bank.  I would want him to be the best and most skilled heart surgeon available.  Our country is in a life-threatening situation.  The next five years are very crucial for the future of Americans.  All of the presidential candidates have skeletons in their closets.  We have “all sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  Should past indiscretions, forgiven by the Savior, prevent a man from serving his country? 

God chose Moses to lead his children out of Israel.  Moses was a murderer.  David was perhaps the greatest warrior-king in the history of Israel.  David was a liar, an adulterer and a murderer.  The Apostle Paul had dedicated his life to murdering Christians before he was saved and forgiven.  He then committed his life to inviting others to meet and accept the Savior he once despised.

I don’t know if Newt Gingrich would be the best candidate for president.  He has made some terrible mistakes.  A wise man learns from his past failures.  Is Newt Gingrich a wise man? 

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

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