An Uncomfortable and Awkward Question for Conservative Christian Gingrich Supporters

Are you prepared for America to have a First Lady who was a home wrecker and was once the President’s mistress (if Gingrich were to become President)?  Many Christian conservatives–smitten by Newt’s rhetorical flourishes, as they are of any “good preaching”–seem not to have the imagination to entertain this question. It crossed my mind weeks ago, but I thought it churlish to raise it online, until I witnessed Gingrich’s retort to John King when the CNN correspondent brought up the ABC interview with Gingrich’s ex-wife. Here’s the  portion of the exchange I’d like to isolate:

“Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.”

The Speaker is, of course, correct that “every person in here knows personal pain.” No one doubts that. But, in this case, the personal pain suffered by his ex-wife was inflicted by Gingrich. For this reason, the appropriate response for the Speaker should have been something like this, “Every person in here knows personal pain, just like the pain suffered by my ex-wife. And, I am ashamed to admit that I am the one who caused this pain. So, I don’t at all disparage her for what she has said about me. That’s the man I was: self-absorbed, uncaring, thinking myself as someone above the moral law. My conversion to Catholicism, and the absolution I received for my sins, was the first step on my way to becoming the man I ought to be.”

But what we heard from Gingrich was a complaint about his pain, as if he were the victim! But not in relation to his personal virtue and his formation as a Christian, as if King’s question was a stumbling block to his internal sanctification. Rather, Gingrich was upset that the question about his ex-wife was asked in a debate, in his words, “two days before the primary [as] a significant question for a presidential campaign.” This is what he judged “as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.” Either the Speaker lacks imagination or he is so self-absorbed that he instinctively converts his ex-wife’s pain into a question about his personal ambition to become President of the United States. Now, that’s despicable.

So, let me ask it again in a more extended fashion: Are conservative Christians, who believe in the morality of the natural law and all that it entails about marriage, family and civil society, prepared for America to have a First Lady who was a home wrecker and was once the President’s mistress, with her husband as the national standard bearer for the causes of life, conjugal love, and the common good?

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  • Dayle Rust

    The idea of Callista Gingrich as First Lady is quite disturbing for the reasons you’ve outlined. Newt used a very common tactic loved by conservatives to shoot the messenger. In this case, it was the “liberal” media. All the Carolina conservatives loved this and ate it up. He’s their boy now. Rommney was crushed in SC a very religous State. I’m lost for words.

  • Michael Bauman

    Gingrich and his ex-wife both were victims and both were guilty. It’s far too simplistic just to say that he caused her pain (“the personal pain suffered by his ex-wife was inflicted by Gingrich”). She and he together did it, just as she and he together caused his. It was double-sidedly and mutually self-inflicted. Together they hurt themselves and each other. Human beings are complex beings and, as a result, their relationships are equally complicated. It is virtually never the case that one side in a divorce is guilty and the other is innocent, or that one side simply caused the other side’s pain. Facts matter. We’d need to know the facts in order to know with any precision who caused who’s pain and to what extent. But we do not. Those who do know the facts, their friends from that era and the two daughters, say that the wife’s account of his words and actions in this regard is false. If so, Gingrich can’t say, as you suggest he ought to say, “I don’t at all disparage her for what she has said about me.” He cannot because truth must prevail.

    Further, many of the sorts of things you insist he ought to say are the things he does say. He has said publicly and repeatedly that he was wrong and that he regrets the pain that he caused. He says it explicitly. He says it repeatedly. I don’t know we can have missed it. His daughters say that about him as well. He also says that he is no longer the man he used to be. He has years of real-life evidence to support the claim, as well as the affirmation of his church toward that end. He denies, however, the truthfulness of some of Marianne’s assertions, which, if they are false, he ought to deny. That denial is not a denial of his own errors or sins. He accepts and acknowledges them, and does so with candor and humility.

    So, yes, I am quite willing to have a repentant sinner (in this case, two repentant sinners) as the standard bearer for family values, just as I was for a divorced Ronald Reagan to do so. They know first hand what mistakes they made and the cost to themselves and to others that followed. They get it.

    • Dayle Rust

      Your ability to avoid the elephant in the room is quite shocking and almost to the point of being admirable. In any relationship both sides can cause pain this is true. Instead of dealing with his problems with his wife, Newt went outside his marriage with Marianne and got himself a mistress. His mistress, Callista, who is now his wife did this in full knowledge of his marriage with Marianne, and quite frankly, I believe Marianne when she says Callista didn’t care if he stayed married to Maryanne because she went along with this arrangement for years and years. Still, I should forgive Newt and Callista for what they have done. Forgiveness for me would be a lot easier if I didn’t have to see them in the White House every day. To me, neither one of them are interested in forgiveness. If they were, they would lead simple lives out of the spot light in quite devotion to God. I do not want to be reminded of their infidelity and have it thrown in my face like it’s my problem. Neither do I want the leaders of my country to set such a terrible example for my children. What they did was not OK and they should not be rewarded for it even if they do repent.
      This reminds me of a story of Herodias and John the Baptist in the New Testament:

      17 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her.
      18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.
      19 Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not:
      20 For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.
      21 And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee;
      22 And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.
      23 And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.
      24 And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.

      Let us cut the heads off all the media and all those who appose this type of conduct so that these to wonderful examples of Christ-like behavior can live in peace in the White House.

      • Larry

        “To me, neither one of them are interested in forgiveness. If they were, they would lead simple lives out of the spot light in quite devotion to God” … Really? You’ve offered a devilishly impoverished view of forgiveness and redemption. By your logic, any caught in a web of sin should abandon their former vocation and seek refuge in a monastery.

        That they should model redemption and give hope to others seems to elude you entirely … as does this biblical maxim …

        “Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you” 2 Cor. 5:16-18

        • Dayle Rust

          According to you It’s OK to be president if you divorce your wife and marry your mistress as long as you do it in a church that you believe is Christian. If done in a Christian church of your choosing, this in you mind is supposed to obsolve him of all consequences of sin. Christ promises us that we will be able to live in this life in peace and happiness if we sincerely repent of our sins. He doesn’t promise us power and prestige. Sin has consequences that are unchangeable in this life. Someone who commits adultery cannot undue it. They can and should make resitution but can not undue it. King David was a perfect example of this in the scriptures. He was eventually forgiven for his adultery but still suffered the consequences of his sin. Samson is another good example of this as well. I believe if we switched Newt with Mitt and Mitt did this in a LDS Church we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Mitt would be vilified by the Christian right.
          The fact that Newt switched from a Protestant faith to a Catholic church does not even enter into this equation. I really don’t understand this because the only reasons why the Protestant churches exist today is because the early Prosestant reformers believed that Catholicism is false so they broke off and created their own doctrine and practices. But the Evangelicals flocked to Newt anyway. Go figure. Obviously there is more going on here and Dr. Beckwith has tapped into the extreme bias that still exists in his Christian community towards the The Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

          • Larry

            You’re shadow boxing now. Apparently offering strawmen in place of responses to what others have actually posted is preferable to reconsidering your flawed remarks.

            Given that you are clearly beyond the reach of argument leaves little reason to further engage you.

        • Eoin Suibhne

          The sin goes away, yes. The effects of it remain — and more importantly when we are considering someone running for political office — so do the faults, weaknesses, and habits that led to the sinful behavior.

          Spiritually, the slate is wiped clean. However, on a natural level it takes a lifetime to overcome the weakness of our fallen human nature. An absolved alcoholic would be a fool to think he could go back to drinking with no ill effects because his sin was forgiven. And you’d be more culpable were you the one to give him a drink. He should stay away from alcohol — for a log time if not for the rest of his life.

          Likewise in this case with Gingrich. We are considering putting this man — who still retains all his flaws even if he does not retain his sin — into the most powerful position on the planet. No one said he should go join a monastery, but he damn well should avoid public office until he can control his will. His erratic behavior on the campaign trail gives evidence that he is the same man he ever was.

    • nachiketas

      These are intensely personal things which are beyond the scope of discussion be it a commoner or a presidential hopeful. Those who throw muck at Gingrich would do well to introspect their lives. How many can call themselves true Christians other than following the Sunday church visiting ritual? Do they have any of the qualities Jesus preached. Love, compassion, FORGIVENESS. To me Gingrich may not be a saint but definitely far above the rank sinners that plague US politics. Mr. Gingrich move on! The muck throwers will have more muck on their face.

  • Thomas R

    I think he means he was the victim of an allegation. And maybe the allegation is untrue so he was unfairly hurt by it. It’s not like an ex-wife, even a wronged one, hasn’t ever embellished the wrong unfairly to gain additional sympathy. It happens, maybe more than you’d like to think.

    At the same time maybe the allegation was true. (I’m somewhat agnostic on the matter) In which case I can understand some embarrassment about “dirty laundry” getting aired, but yeah in that case he should have done what you said. Although I think he could still bash King for getting into matters for their salaciousness.

    Being agnostic on the matter I still think he was right to go after King. The question may have seemed “obvious” but it was still trashy, not politically that relevant, and concerning a private matter. On reflection though I think he probably should have also acknowledged that he hurt her, and is sorry for that, while making it clear he wasn’t agreeing to her accusation.

    Still I really doubt ABC or CNN are concerned about her welfare or emotional pain. They’re in it because it’s salacious and can hurt a candidate.

    All that said having an ex-mistress as a First Lady would, I admit, be weird. And it’s weird a guy converted to Catholicism through a mistress, but I’ve admittedly heard stranger. (I think I read of a guy getting interested in religion again, and ultimately becoming Catholic, in part due to his Jewish male-lover)

  • Fr. Frank

    The whole Newt domestic saga reads like something out of the history of the Byzantine Empire. A concubine bringing the emperor out of heresy into the true Faith is not unknown — but I’d much rather read about it from the comfort of a thousand years’ distance than relive it in the present.

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  • Matthias Klein

    There is no doubt about it: Mitt Romney is the perfect representative of the 1%.

    He is unemployed, as he said, and gets more in a DAY than a MainStreet worker makes in a year.
    Over $50,000 a DAY.

    Is this righteous? Let us look at charging interest.
    The law of Moses forbids taking interest from countrymen. It also cancels all debts after 7 every years.

    Why? What is the effect of compound interest?

    If you had brought $1 to the bank at the time of Jesus and got %5 interest you would have made more than $

    Nowadays Christians all over the USA pray: Lord forgive us our debt as we forgive our debtors. And do they do it? The USA and many of its people are drowning in debt.

    If the rich do not forgive debt, and if they charge interest and bonuses they get richer automatically.
    The Bible says: He that augmenteth his substance by interest and increase, gathereth it for him that hath pity on the poor.

    Jesus says: You cannot serve both God and riches.

    Am I socialist? I am a Christian preacher and tell you what the Bible says. If you want to ignore the Word of God by calling it socialist do it to your own peril.
    Watch: German preacher’s thoughts on 2012

  • MikeInVA

    “Are you prepared for America to have a First Lady who was a home wrecker and was once the President’s mistress (if Gingrich were to become President)?”

    If she and her husband believe that murdering babies in the womb, stripping Americans of the God-given freedoms, wreaking the economy through profligate government spending and crushing regulatory and tax burdens on businesses and working families, and waging war on the Catholic Church are all BAD THINGS, then yes, I am prepared for that.

    Are YOU prepared for a president whose church teaches that Jesus and Satan are brothers? That baptism can be conferred on a person AFTER they are deceased, and without that person’s consent, or even the consent of their loved ones? That when we die, some of us get to be gods and rule over our own planets?

    I mean, seriously, even ignoring the Mormon in the race and focusing solely on the Catholic candidates: how comes Callista Gingrich gets raked over the coals for having an affair with Newt, while Karen Santorum gets a complete pass for the years she spent shacking up with an abortion doctor?!!

    Personally, I’m prepared to leave both these matters in God’s hands (where repentance of sins and forgiveness belong), and focus on the issues at stake in this election. Gingrich has (apparently) reformed his life, and he isn’t hiding his previous transgressions or presenting himself as someone who has never sinned. Let’s move on.

  • pgepps

    I would not prefer Gingrich for President; this is one of several outcomes I would not prefer. I rarely get what I would prefer in politics, however. Speaking very pragmatically, I’m glad Gingrich has had a good run because it indicates that Republicans are recognizing their need for alternative ideals, rather than merely varied managerial styles, in current policy fights. I do not think Gingrich has represented himself well (he had a decent start a few months ago); I do not get the impression Gingrich is in a position to speak with clarity and authority on some of the most pressing issues of our day, and I’m concerned about the impact his reputation would have on some of the institutions and causes (like the Church) that he is going to be associated with in the popular press.

    (I am equally concerned, in a different way, about the popular impact of a “my religion is America” LDS leader from the Eastern establishment.)

  • Gina

    After Bill Clinton, you really think this is a shocker?? Sexual harassment, oral sex in the White House, possible rape?

    I’m not happy about Newt’s affairs either. Far from it. And he’s not my candidate of choice. But let’s face it, the Dems threw all notions about the dignity and sanctity of the office out the window years ago. If they’re going to play the sanctimony card on us now, well . . . someone needs to remind them of the old saying about glass houses.

  • Audy Walker

    It is a valid question put into words. Is that a bad example for children? I think it is a good one, for we have a God who forgives, a God of second chances we all need. At least these things are openly discussed, as many mentioned here and elseweher before me.

    One point that strikes me is, that Mormonism isn’t specially good for women, the moment you believe having a choice of life and a right to be as free to choose as any man. I am scared out of my pants thinking that something so difficult for the women may become a standard. have we come thus far to go back a long way? I am scared.

    And isn’t the fact, everybody is talking about these things, as unhealty as they are, better than all the hidden stuff others won’t mention? It seems so biased to call that one a sinner and to pass or gloss over everybody elses difficulties.

    I am not even sure whether it wasn’t shrewd to come up with allegiations of unfaithfulnees, for it gave an occasion to repell and repent. I remeber Jesus telling the story of two men going to the temple to pray. This one went up front, saying: Lord, I thank you Iam… so righteous.” While the other barely dared to talk and confessed his sin. jesus said that the second man went home forgiven, not so the first.

  • Paula Bolyard

    “My conversion to Catholicism, and the absolution I received for my sins, was the first step on my way to becoming the man I ought to be.

    I think this sentence is a little closer to the more important question we ought to be asking. It’s not whether we forgive Newt, but whether we can trust him. As an average citizen in Ohio who has no connection to Newt, I don’t feel any need to forgive him, nor should he feel compelled to seek my forgiveness – he hasn’t wronged or harmed me. But as a voter and a citizen, I must decide if I can believe his campaign promises. And therein lies the problem.

    Newt’s conversion came a mere three years ago and while there is no evidence to cast doubt upon his fidelity to Calista, his devotion to his children and grandchildren, or even his side of the story about Marianne, there is much evidence of inconsistency in his political positions. There is evidence that he’s willing to shift with the political winds and pander to this group or that, depending on what is politically expedient (for example, stem cell research, environmental issues, and his obfuscation on what he did at Freddie). For a man who has a long, public record of lying and cheating, I find this very troublesome.

    As a voter, I find it very difficult to believe the sincerity of his campaign promises.

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  • Michael Bauman

    My dissent arises initially from what seems to me a tendentious, arguably false, characterization of the choice set before us: Are we faced with a choice between an adulterer and a Mormon, or is closer to the truth to say we are confronted rather by a convinced cultist and a forgiven, repentant, absolved sinner? Are we confronted by someone whose judgement is so untrustworthy that he actually thinks Mormonism’s fictions are true and invests many millions of dollars every year in their support, on the one hand, and a man who, in his meandering trek toward God, turned to Rome, on the other? Are we faced with a choice between a theological descendent of Joseph Smith, on the one hand, and one whose failures and faith more fully resemble the life and conversion of St. Augustine, on the other?

    Much depends on how we frame the issue. As a Reformed Protestant myself, I wouldn’t frame it in any of the ways so far suggested.

    • Thomas R

      I guess I’m still not “on fire” enough with religion, because a big part of me wonders why we can’t just say we’re faced with two human politicians. People who likely can’t be reduced to one word like “Mormon” or “Adulterer.” And then judge them on various aspects of their character, ideas, and record.

      • Michael Bauman

        Thomas R,
        In many ways, I think you are quite right on this point, which is why in my last sentence above I said that none of the descriptions offered to that point really pleased me.

    • Dayle Rust

      The problem with your assessment Michael is that someone could say: are we confronted by someone whose judgment is so untrustworthy that he actually thinks Catholicism’s fictions are true and is a member of a convinced cult?
      When you get right down to it, their practices and doctrine are just and weird and bizarre as the Mormons. You are a biased and judgmental against the Mormons and a little mean. You should try to get over that. On the other hand, you can’t call Mitt an adulterer who has been forgiven for obvious reasons. So your assessment extremely flawed and biased. Forgiveness is only for “your” Christians and no one else. I kinda feel sorry for you. It’s pretty clear that you’ll never vote for a Mormon regardless of character and Christian like traits. I would never call a Catholic a member of a cult, neither would I call the tithing they pay “investments”. A clear biased characterization and uncalled for. How many of your parishioners are full “investment” payers in your church? If you have any, I’m sure they wouldn’t like their tithing being called “investments”.
      Even with all your meanness toward members of the LDS faith, I’m sure you are still praying to have one of those cult Mormons as one of your neighbors! They are such good neighbors!

  • John H. Armstrong

    Forgiveness and conversion are not at issue here. Character is the issue. Have we lost all sense of the importance of proven and long-term character inside the Christian Church? In evangelical churches the answer is often no when it comes to moral failure in our leaders. I see the same at work in the approval Newt gets from evangelical conservatives. Thanks for raising a difficult and important question Frank.

    • Eoin Suibhne

      Forgiveness and conversion are not at issue here. Character is the issue.


  • Larry

    How refreshing! At last not merely a Christian, but a thinking Christian whose worldview is finally liberated from that archaic notion of redemption. What an irrelevant and distracting nuisance … like something from Trivial Pursuit … “What is the distinguishing feature of Christianity?” Answer? “Redemption” … whatever.

    That you offer this unique, secularized (did I mention refreshing?) and candid assessment while also shilling for another candidate suggests a cleverness rarely seen among naive and child-like Christians. Bravo!

    Whorish bitches like Callista and her whore-mongering bastard of a “husband” Newt are proof positive that redemption isn’t for everyone … and that its efficacy has its limits.

  • society’s pliers

    There is a quote from Dr. Johnson about such a woman.

  • Larry

    You’re shadow boxing now. Apparently offering strawmen in place of responses to what others have actually posted is preferable to reconsidering your flawed remarks.

    Given that you are clearly beyond the reach of argument leaves little reason to further engage you.

  • Michael Bauman

    You are a careless reader, Daryle. I said that one could say such things about Gingrich and Romney when framing the choice with which we are faced. I offered several variations on the theme. I also said that none of the characterizations given up to that point about Gingrich and Romney are characterizations with which I agree. I repeated my disagreement with those characterizations to Thomas R. All that, it seems, was simply lost on you.

  • Dayle Rust

    I really don’t want to continue in this thread anymore. In your post you lead your comment with: or is it truer to say……
    The characterization that followed was unfair and mean. You never said: one could say such things…..
    That would have given your post a completely different meaning. If that is what you ment to say, fine. But if you don’t agree with your assessment of Romney and Gingrich, why bring it up? It’s not OK to repeat things that are mischaracterizations at best or downright lies. It’s pretty obvious you do believe the characterizations you presented. If not, you are welcome to say that you don’t believe that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are cultists and that the tithing they pay isn’t really investments in the Mormon Church but meant to feed the hungry, care for the poor, needy and sick. Tell everyone that the LDS beliefs are not fictions but are really very close to original biblical Christianity. I think we both know that won’t happen. At least until the second coming!
    This is my last post.
    God Bless America!

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  • Michael Bauman


    In an effort to show that characterizing the choice between Romney and Gingrich as a choice between a Mormon and an adulterer was tendentious and arguably false, I offered some alternate characterizations, all from an ostensibly Catholic viewpoint, to show that the choice offered us could have been posed quite differently while still being loyal to my friend Frank’s Catholicism. Then, as a Reformed Protestant theologian, I made plain that these are not characterizations with which I agree — and said so more than once.

    But even after these things are pointed out to you, you continue to spew baseless and under-informed complaints, complaints rooted in your misreading and not in reality. In that light, it’s good you’ve decided not to post any more. The amount of error in this thread will reduce noticeably.

  • pgepps

    For what it’s worth, I think this is a very fair assessment:

  • Linda

    I am excrutiatingly torn in this election cycle. Ron Paul is too radical on his drug and foreign policies. Not sure about Santorum, but if something seems to good to be true it probably is. Romney is a Mormon and The LDS church has a prophecy about them taking over the US government to prepare the country for the Second Coming of Christ (which they believe will be at Independence, MO in conflict with the Bible which clearly says Mt. Zion). I believe his loyalties will be to the Church and that prophecy first and that’s not appropriate for the Office of President. Gingrich has indeed said publicly and repeatedly that he realizes his past mistakes and has repented and has regrets, etc. But I have seen way too many public figures play the repentance card, very sorry, shouldn’t have, never will again, changed man, etc., and I have become cynical and don’t really believe what politicians say when they’re trying to be elected to an office. It’s a sad, sad day for this country and I don’t see a candidate that I can vote for without thinking he’s the lesser of several evils…..

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  • Peggy R

    Dr. Beckwith,

    I had the same reaction of dismay (if not disgust) to Gingrich’s response that night. How dare he claim victimhood! How dare he say some one is despicable for questioning him about his own despicable conduct! Newt thinks he need not respond to the public whom he wants to elect him. He has hubris to suggest Santorum exit the race so he can win. Don’t do it Rick!

    I also had the same immediate thoughts wondering how we can elect a man such as Newt and his wife #3, mistress #2 as our standard bearers of the pro-family, pro-life party. Maybe Callista ought to have something to say for herself to the public. She doesn’t say much, but she doesn’t let Newt out of her sight. At the last FL debate, each man was asked about what his wife could bring to the table as first lady. The other men, with their first and only wives, spoke warmly of the ladies and the special things they’ve done as wives, mothers and in the community, Santorum practically teared up. Mitt talked about his wife’s facing 2 major illnesses. The unspoken thought was “And I stood by her.” Newt could only speak of Callista’s interest in the arts. Nothing about her character. Had he done so, he probably would have been laughed out of there, his wife shamed.