Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What is Newt’s Appeal to Evangelical Christians?

After the candidates circled their wagons in Iowa and the dust had finally settled, it was Santorum by 34 votes.  Newt Gingrich came in a distant 4th with only 13% of the vote.  You may have wondered if Newt really had the heart to blaze the grueling trail to the presidency.

If his team was hoping to do better in ‘Newt’ Hampshire they were bitterly disappointed as he came in a distant 4th again.  Prospects for winning the nomination were pretty dismal going into South Carolina without having broken into the top three in the previous two contests.

Newt’s campaign boasts something the others can’t.  Last summer he went on vacation with his lovely wife only to return to a campaign that was in shambles with his staff jumping ship as if it were the Costa Concordia.  The political pundits declared the Newt campaign dead in the water.  But Newt did what all evangelicals love to relate to, he resurrected.  As if one miraculous resurrection were not enough, after being declared dead again after Iowa and New Hampshire, Newt experienced a second resurrection in South Carolina.

Newt Gingrich shellacked Mitt Romney by winning 40% of the vote surpassing his opponent by a whopping 13%.  The media’s bobbleheads were in a tizzy to try to explain what had happened.  Most all of them could drone on about how Newt captured the evangelical vote but nary a one could explain why evangelicals have a heart for Newt.  Hadn’t Newt been reprimanded by the House ethics committee for being reckless in regard to following the House rules back in 1997?  Didn’t he receive enormous amounts of money for consulting Freddie Mac (FMCC) in 2006, the same Freddie Mac that needed billions of taxpayer money to bail them out after the company foolishly approved an ocean full of high risk loans? 

The pundits pondered how evangelical Christians could jump on board the Newt band wagon when he has been married three times and divorced twice?  Newt graduated from Baker High School in Columbus, Georgia, in 1961.  He married Jackie Battley, his former math teacher in 1962 when he was only 19 years old and she was 26.  They had two daughters together.  In 1980 Newt and Jackie were divorced amid many spiteful and unproven accusations.

Newt married Marianne Ginther six months after the finalization of his divorce with Jackie.  Marianne accused Newt of requesting an “open marriage” and timed the release of her accusation to coincide with the closing moments of the South Carolina primary. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”  Newt denied he ever made the request and refused to bicker with his former wife. Newt and Marianne had divorced in 2000 having had no children. Later that same year Newt married his third wife, Callista Bisek, 23 years his junior.

The debris that litters the life of Newt Gingrich looks like the landscape in Birmingham after the tornados of April 2011.  The political career of such a man should be buried deeply, very deeply under all the trash.  So, what happened in South Carolina?  Why would evangelical Christians vote for a man carrying so much baggage?

Evangelical Christians would never condone such behavior but they find it refreshing that Newt is humble and honest about his past transgressions.  Newt is not denying the failures of his past.  He is not splitting hairs over the meaning of the word ‘is’.  He is not vehemently denying his shortcomings and then making cameo appearances on national television to explain away his iniquities.  Newt simply says, “On my bleakest days (referring to his moral failures), I knew that my sin was sin.”  He goes on to describe his remorse and repentance and declares himself forgiven by a merciful Savior.

Christians are taught to forgive others just as they have been forgiven.  “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” (Gal. 6:1)  Christians are aware that many of those who are casting stones at Newt Gingrich live in glass houses with closets full of skeletons. They are not too troubled by that because “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  Who hasn’t participated in a stoning at some time in their lives?  Isn’t there a period in every life when each one realizes he/she is “like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean?” (Matthew 23:27)

Evangelical Christians find themselves supporting Newt Gingrich because they know the power of forgiveness.  Newt claims he has been forgiven.  Christians have all experienced the shame of sinfulness.  Truly born-again Christians have received the grace of forgiveness that radically transforms a worthless life into a life that boasts eternal value.  Newt garnered so many evangelical votes because Christians felt they had ‘been there, done that’.

Would Christians react the same way to a liberal candidate who had committed such surly transgressions and sincerely repented?  Absolutely, with unequivocal certainty!  Would Christians vote for him? Not without evidence that he had been “transformed by the renewing of his mind”.  (Romans 12:2)   True repentance causes the old to become new.  Conversion to Christ brings extreme change to one’s worldview. 

A converted Christian candidate will no longer be an advocate for the murder of the unborn.  A truly born again Christian will no longer promote sinful lifestyles of sexual promiscuity under the guise of acceptable alternative lifestyles.  Those who are authentic Christ-followers will repent of their sin and pursue a life that is characterized by righteousness and holiness. Christians desire to fill an obligation to vote for the candidate whose worldview best matches theirs.

Newt Gingrich won the hearts of evangelical Christians because he is an imperfect man who found forgiveness in the perfection of Christ.  They accept his claim that he is forgiven.  They see him as a man who has been broken and then repaired.  They hope and pray that he has experienced complete restoration and that he will be faithful to his promise to “uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse.”  And they hope he will also demonstrate such fidelity to the God he serves.

In South Carolina, the evangelical Christians demonstrated that their hope that Newt was being honest was greater than their fear he was but another wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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


  1. I have to say that his experience of redemption is causing me to lean more toward Newt in my desire to see a president who truly walks the walk of a real Christian. I fell from grace at 16 and it too 13 years for me to return. God forgave me and I'll never forget that sense of relief. I had always felt called to do music ministry, but I believe that was taken because of my willful obedience, not because I wasn't forgiven. I see his self-disclosed admission of sin to be similar in my own experience. I look forward to the election. Praying for godly wisdom in whomever God allows in this position.

  2. You can try to explain away the evangelical hatred and mistrust of Mormons all you want, but that's all this is about. End of story.

    Meanwhile, politically-active evangelicals are some of the most unforgiving Christians we have.

    Witness the way they constantly torment and rage against homosexuals. How are they to come to salvation now, when they are told that Christ is their enemy and that they are outside God's love? Do you really believe that Christians are to be the instruments of God's vengeance? Certainly not. So leave that to him and concentrate on spreading the message of Christ's love, and not God's judgment. No one truly comes to Christ through terror and fear.

    "A truly born again Christian will no longer promote sinful lifestyles of sexual promiscuity under the guise of acceptable alternative lifestyles." This is a classic statement by someone who has no homosexual friends, family or even acquaintenances. You would find many who have fewer sexual partners than Newt Gingrich has. You should focus on something other than "promiscuity."

    The Christian "message" of these evangelical Christians is one corrupted by politics, religious foolishness, fear, and personal bias, and drives the world only further away from the Kingdom of God. You are not preaching love, charity, acceptance or any of the other sweet things of God. You have made the work of Christ nothing.

    The main reason that so many evangelicals are so pre-occupied with the apocalypse (which the scripture tells us no man will ever know the time of) is that they are terrified of what God's judgment will have in store for them.

    You can't warn evangelicals enough that their hateful ways will reap a bitter harvest, even though it is happening already.

  3. Charles,
    If you are saying that Christians fail in the sense that they seem to be two dimensional, almost exclusively focusing on homosexuality and abortion, I agree with you. I also agree that we should follow the example of Christ who warned of the eternal death that comes to all who fail to repent of any and all sin. We recognize that adultery, fornication, theft, murder, etc are all sins that call for repentance. I also agree that some Christians are hateful in their condemnation of those who struggle with homosexuality. But we dare not call it 'love' if Christians fail to uphold scriptural truths and warn others of the need to repent. John the Baptist was loving people when he called them to repentance. Jesus was loving people when he called the woman at the well to leave her sins of fornication and go and sin no more. He is not willing that any should perish, so should all of his followers not be willing for others to perish

  4. If you don't know what the Council On Foreign Relations is, you're not much of a Christian. NO REAL CHRISTIAN NOR REAL AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE would ever vote for a member of the CFR - America's shadow government and a well-documented front for judeo-communism - which is what Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum are. Ron Paul's the only candidate who's not CFR. A vote for the CFR is a vote for the finalization of communism in America. You are either with us or against us. Find out how you can become a REAL CONSERVATIVE at http://jbs.org.