The faith of Newt Gingrich

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The faith of Newt Gingrich

December 6, 2011 -

What does Newt Gingrich believe about God?  An interesting article in this morning’s Huffington Post profiles the spiritual journey of the Republican front-runner.

Gingrich grew up as a Lutheran in central Pennsylvania.  Because his father was an army officer, he moved frequently before settling in Georgia.  He did not attend church regularly, but a conversation with a Southern Baptist pastor while Gingrich was a graduate student at Tulane University led him to St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church, where he was baptized into membership.

He became a history professor at West Georgia College and then a congressman in 1979.  After becoming Speaker of the House in 1994, he resigned from Congress in 1998 and returned to writing history books.  He married his third wife, a Catholic, in 2000 and began attending Mass with her.  He became impressed with Pope Benedict XVI, and says that attending one of the pope’s services in 2008 was the decisive event that moved him to join the church formally.

He and his wife wrote a book together on the nation’s Christian roots.  He founded a nonprofit that strives to “preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage.” He has called for defunding Planned Parenthood and called gay marriage a “temporary aberration.”

He was one of the first Catholics to criticize Notre Dame for inviting President Obama to speak on campus despite his pro-choice stance.  However, he disagrees with the Catholic Church regarding embryonic stem cells, stating that life begins at “successful implantation,” not when an egg is fertilized, which is the position of the church.

I am not writing this morning’s essay to commend or criticize Newt Gingrich as a candidate.  Here’s my question: To what degree will his recent faith commitments win over Christian voters worried about his marital history?  What do you think?

To me, it’s a hard question.  On one hand, God forgives all we confess to him (1 John 1:9).  If he could use King David, can’t he use anyone who is repentant?  On the other hand, character is basic to effective leadership.  If leaders break their marriage vows, what other oaths will they violate?

This morning’s question is more personal than speculative.  All have sinned and come short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), including you and me.  But our Father loves us, forgives us, and still has a “good, pleasing, and perfect will” for our lives (Romans 12:2).

I have no idea what will happen with Newt Gingrich’s campaign.  But I am grateful that God uses sinners.  If “the worst” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) could write half the New Testament, perhaps you and I can count for his Kingdom today.

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