When the subject of Newt Gingrich’s private personal conduct is the subject of a blog post, there is always someone who writes in the comment section that Christians are supposed to be forgiving and not consider this aspect of Gingrich’s life when judging his fitness to occupy the Oval Office. Gingrich himself assures voters that he knows what he did was sinful and asked God to forgive him. He also states that now that he is older and is now a grandfather, we can trust him to behave differently. A Christian friend asks why this is even an issue. After all, we are voting for President, not the pastor of a Church. Newt Gingrich’s ability to defeat President Obama is the only thing that matters, these people say.
Those who say we need to be forgiving in regard to Gingrich’s conduct fail to make an important distinction. They fail to distinguish between forgiveness and trust. Yes, Gingrich must be forgiven, but forgiveness and trust is not the same thing. If a person embezzles money, they must be forgiven. Yet they could never be placed in a position of trust involving money ever again. Suppose a person is found to have abused a child and is truly repentant. The Church must practice forgiveness toward that person, yet that person could never be trusted to be involved in any ministry involving children. Yes, Gingrich is older and is now a grandfather, but he was in his fifties and a father when he cheated on his second wife. Not long ago he blamed his conduct on the pressure of fighting for the people in the public arena when he was Speaker of the House. How would he act in the pressure cooker called the Presidency?
Even if we can be reasonably sure that Newt Gingrich would not repeat his behavior if he were elected President, does his past behavior serve as an indicator of how he will conduct himself as a candidate and as President? When responding to John King’s question concerning his second wife’s assertion that Gingrich wanted his second marriage to be an open marriage, Gingrich stated that friends knowledgeable of the situation could rebut the allegation. Well, yesterday we found out that the friends Gingrich was referring to were his two daughters from his first marriage. This comment reveals his capacity to play fast and loose with the truth when he thinks the moment calls for it. This does not bode well as the campaign goes forward. It should make anyone considering voting for Gingrich to wonder if he will make any more such misleading comments that will raise doubts in voter’s minds. When he was having the affair while married to wife number two, Gingrich blasted Clinton and the Democrats for what he called “Woody Allen family values.” Now he says that he wasn’t critical of Clinton for his sexual misconduct, he was only critical of Clinton for lying about it under oath. How will such serial hypocrisy go down with voters? How would he be able to maintain trust as President? There is a strong possibility that President Clinton knew of Gingrich’s affair and used it as leverage in his dealings with Gingrich concerning his impeachment. If true, is there anything else in his past that would make him vulnerable to blackmail if he were elected President? Gingrich supporters might downplay these questions. “Just look at the applause Newt received from the audience for his response to John King’s question. They gave him a standing ovation. It was that response that won Newt the South Carolina primary.” Yes, but that room was full of Republicans who hate the press. Who is to say that the rest of the country will react the same way when the question comes up again, when Gingrich will be asked by a lone reporter with no friendly audience present? When the allegations against Herman Cain first appeared in the press, Cain raised more campaign dollars in the following days than he had received previously. But eventually, as the allegations grew, the support for Cain dwindled. The same fate could await Gingrich. I want Obama defeated just as much as any other true conservative. With so much at stake, including the question of who will appoint the next Supreme Court justices who will decide whether Roe v. Wade will be overturned, Newt Gingrich is too much of a risk to be the candidate opposing Obama.
When Clinton ran for office, the message from liberals was that one’s private life had no bearing on whether one was fit to hold public office. When Clinton’s affair with an intern was made public, secular and Christian conservatives felt vindicated, that the affair proved what Samuel Adams said was true: “The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.” Newt Gingrich won the majority of Evangelical votes in the South Carolina primary. If Evangelicals say that Gingrich’s past should not be a factor in evaluating his fitness for the presidency, if they maintain that beating Obama is so important that the private life of Obama’s general election opponent does not matter, then Evangelicals will be labeled as hypocrites. The label will stick because the label will be true. Such conduct by Evangelicals will give the Church a black eye, and will further erode the Church’s witness to a lost world. Some will reject the Gospel because they will see Christians as hypocrites. When Christians preach holiness, these people will see Christians as not concerned with souls, but as those with a political agenda. And we may get leaders that we conservative evangelicals oppose, but God thinks we deserve.