Gay Marriage and Other “Pagan Behaviors”

Gay Marriage and Other “Pagan Behaviors” January 26, 2012

On Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich participated in a conference call to conservative Christian supporters. In a statistical tie with fellow contender Mitt Romney in the upcoming Florida primary, Gingrich is trying to win the support of as many evangelicals and religious conservatives as possible, a demographic that Romney has had a hard time winning over. During the call, which had around 1000 participants, and was moderated by Jim “Cracking Da Vinci’s Code” Garlow, Gingrich called same-sex marriage a “fundamental violation of our civilization” that illustrates the “rise ofpaganism in the United States.


“It’s pretty simple: marriage is between a man and a woman. This is a historic doctrine driven deep into the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and it’s a perfect example of what I mean by the rise of paganism. The effort to create alternatives to marriage between a man and a woman are perfectly natural pagan behaviors, but they are a fundamental violation of our civilization.”

Gingrich also doubled down on earlier statements by saying during the call that “a lot of what surrounds us today is paganism,” drawing parallels to Christianity during ancient Rome. In Gingrich’s mind secularism and paganism seem to be one and the same, a force that joins Islam in a two-pronged “war” against Christianity. You can download and listen to the entire conference call, here.

Newt Gingrich has got your nose. Photo: New York Magazine

I have two responses to Gingrich’s comments, and this conference call. First, for a historian, Gingrich seems to have a shaky grasp on the history of marriage. Marriage has been an ever-shifting thing, practiced in a number of ways, and Christians did not always treat it as a holy condition. I’m certainly happy to agree that Pagans are open towards creating “alternatives” to the modern rigid constructions of this social contract envisioned by conservative Christians, but I part ways with candidate Gingrich on the idea that this is a “violation” of Western civilization. Perhaps he should remember that is was the “pagans” he seems to have no trouble vilifying that invented Western civilization.

My second response has to do with Florida. While it may seem like good politics to construct religious straw men that Christians can alternatively fear and revile, the state is far more diverse than many give it credit for. Florida has thriving Pagan, Hindu, Haitian Vodou, Santeria/Lukumi, and other non-Christian/non-Abrahamic faith communities. What could be beneficial in a primary might come back to harm you in a general election. I doubt that Gingrich much cares about this, but future politicians should. As I said not too long ago at The Washington Post:

America’s religious diversity isn’t simply a stock phrase to pull out when describing the virtues of our country. According to the Pew Forum, 16.1 percent of Americans claim no formal religion, while another 2.3 percent are part of religious tradition outside the Christian-Jewish-Muslim monotheistic paradigm. Those aren’t insignificant numbers, and they put the often lumped-together “other/unaffiliated” category on a statistical par with evangelical and mainline Protestants. Despite this, moral debates are almost always framed along a left-right Christian axis; Rick Warren gets to interview Obama and McCain, while Hindus, Pagans, Buddhists, and practitioners of indigenous traditions rarely get to ask questions on a national stage.  Gov. Johnson’s courage in talking to religious minorities might have been driven by a modicum of desperation in getting his message out, but it should be seen as a harbinger of what campaigning to religious groups will be like in the future.”

Declaring yourself in de facto opposition to America’s religious diversity and secular government should automatically disqualify you from running our executive branch. Our president is the duly elected representative of all its citizens, not just its Christian citizens. Assembling campaign faith coalitions that speak to one very narrow idea of religion alienates instead of unifies, and when that coalition claims that electing anyone outside their boundaries will bring about the end of civilization, it sends a dangerous signal. Americans shouldn’t be worrying about “Pagan behaviors.” Instead, they should worry about the “Christian behaviors” of Newt Gingrich and those like him.

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53 responses to “Gay Marriage and Other “Pagan Behaviors””

  1. I can’t believe he said that. I read the article earlier and was shocked! I hope this is a major strike against him and he doesn’t get the nomination!

  2. I am definitely going to enjoy this presidential election. This move by the Christian Right and especially by the Newt himself offers us a really deep look at our own prejudices as individuals, as a people, and as a nation. I love this type of reporting.

  3. Wait…”a” man and “a” woman? Didn’t he ask his wife for MORE than “a” singular woman? Excuse me, one of his more-than-one-wives-so-far. How does he get a pass on all of his past behavior?

  4. Don’t forget that FL has a huge Jewish community full of conservative business owners and retirees, and a LOT of uber-conservative Cubans who fled from Castro and who worshipped Reagan. Few of them are gonna vote for Mr. Gingrich, who has a lotta room to talk, with his divorces, breaking marriage vows, and ethical violations. Ditto a lot of conservative Christians, who aren’t forgetting that Newt has the morals of an alley cat.

  5. Fundamental violation to our civilization? Hmmm, unlike, oh, adultery, immoral business practices and stuff like that, eh? What an asshole.

  6. Yes, because his evangelical Christian voting base will /definitely/ count this against him…

    Or not. Yeah, probably not.

  7. Yeah, good luck on that. He’ll probably get a Republican award of some sort for fighting for good, clean, Christian values (like adultery and proposing to his ex-wife that he stay married and keep his piece on the side…but nevermind all that stuff).

  8. Usually I don’t make personal comments about people’s appearances, but this time, I can’t resist. Mrs. Callista Gingrich shows us why Botox is a bad idea. If her face got any tighter, her eyeballs would pop.

  9. Gingrich is just the latest primary candidate befitting from a GOP base pissed off the Party leaders are trying to cram Romney down their throats.

    There is no way I will vote for either. Gingrich because he’s a flat out a disgusting human being and Romney because he is another fiscally liberal Democrat.

    I’m tired of the GOP giving me a Socially conservative/fiscally liberal candidate. Screw them. I’m voting 3rd Party.

  10. Scary part is that I think Newt really believes all this, and lots of others like him, although they’d never admit it publicly. They simply fear everything outside of their own experience, and they have no interest in expanding those horizons. Long-term, it won’t matter, for things always change and shift and will continue to do so, but they’ll still fight valiantly against everything despite the ultimate futility of their efforts.

  11. One man and one woman? From the depth of the Bible? The Old Testament portrays rampant polygamy.

  12. Never seen a GOP primary this entertaining, and I’ve been watching them for sixty years, ever since my Dad parked my 10-year-old self next to him in front of the TV for the 1952 Republican National Convention.

  13. Democracy is a gift from Pagan times, historical fact, and Liberty is a Goddess.

    Numerous depictions of the Goddess Liberty exist in historic sculptures, art, coinage and even postal stamps in the U.S. She even appears as “Freedom” on the dome of our U.S. capitol in Washington DC. Not only that but she stands on a globe encircled by the words “E Pluribus Unum” an expression of unity. Unity is better than the fall part of “United we stand, divided we fall” wisdom.

    Divisive creedism like Newt’s is a weapon in politics alright. Its a tool that works on those who worship power, the wrong type of power, and those who don’t know their own country’s history or the spirit of democracy.

    That is scary that it’s working well enough in this country. The idea that we don’t have to be educated in our own history or think well (what global economic challenges?), we just have to be the right religion, well, that is destructively wrong. It has implications that reach far beyond any election.

  14. Newsflash

    Newt was Christian when he knew his third-wife-to-be in a biblical way while still married to his second wife. To him, Christianity is a bus that’s always going his way, and he likes to abuse it.

  15. By “Christian behaviors”, or by your quotation marks, do you mean “Pseudo-Christian behaviors”? I mean, if you think that the definition of Christ-ian is to-be-like-Christ. Considering that Jesus Christ was so widely open about religious boundaries- as in saying that there are none, and welcoming both Jew and Gentile, I should say that Gingrich and those like him are Pseudo-Christian insofar all that they know of Christ is half-remembered myths and misinformation from bad translations that they use to justify actions against his most important law and in acting totally unlike him. Of course, we all know that labels are ultimately meaningless. Obviously, say whatever you like.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go bring some wine to a party, get a pedicure from my favorite former prostitute, and then engage in consensual, honest, loving polyamorous activities with some of my favorite men even though I’ve never married. I am a CatholicYogiPaganWizardTheatreMogulHighPoobah, and they are Jewish, Christian, and atheist artists, but really we’re all GAY PAGANZZ INTENT ON DESTROYING AMERICA

  16. He gets a pass because the GOP has been eaten alive by the groupthink dynamic which dictates that NOTHING is more important than defeating their enemy. The only bottom line agenda in most of the conservative movement these days is a belief that Obama is Satan incarnate, and that anyone walking this Earth would be acceptable if that’s what it took to get him out of office. Anyone who articulates hatred and anger toward Obama (as Newt does very well), is a genius and a hero in that narrative. I honestly think they would vote for Bashar al-Assad or that Italian cruise ship captain before they would allow Obama to gain another four years.
    As long as Newt keeps speaking to the anger and disaffection of his followers, I’m not sure anything he did or does, short of murder caught on tape, would dissuade them from supporting their hero. Even in that extreme case, Newt would probably figure out how to spin it as a conspiracy against him by the mainstream media, and he’d emerge more popular with his loons than ever.

  17. Just read this– I have no idea what repute this site/organization has, but it was rather interesting, and parallels some of my observations of those who want to be Told, rather than actually learn for themselves.

  18. Fundamental Christians are driven by apocalyptic thinking. Nothing motivates them more than a good “end of the world” scenario, so that’s what all the Republican candidates are busy dishing up.

    The odd paradox in Fundamentalist thinking is that if the Messiah is to return, then civilization must necessarily fall. Shouldn’t they be hastening the end by deliberately electing a foreign-born commie-fascist muslim-atheist non-white man?

    Perhaps a showdown with the Anti-Christ on the plains of Megiddo is comfortably far enough away, but no way are they going to let it happen here!

  19. For a large part of it, Newt said he’s sorry – that idealized ‘redeemed sinner’ image. And as a part of that narrative, there is some sort of inverse relationship (in these people’s minds) that the farther you fell, the better you are when you ‘redeem yourself’.

    (as an aside, whenever I hear that type of language, it makes me think of someone going to a bottle redemption center and turning themselves in for $0.05).

  20. And as long as we are listing the modern blessings that can be shown to have ancient Pagan roots, here’s a few more:
    * “republicanism” with a small “r”
    * “equality”, which the Athenians called “isonomia”
    * “freedom of speech”, which the Athenians called “parrhesia”
    * “constitutional” government (“the rule of law”)
    * term limits, which were a very big deal in the Republican Rome
    * “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”, a cornerstone of Athenian democracy
    * trial by jury

    So every time we vote, protest, speak our minds openly, demand our “equal rights”, etc, we are engaging in “Pagan behavior”.

  21. Seriously. The Republican defenders of traditional marriage are a Mormon and a serial adulterer? You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

  22. Newt, if you want to be technical…“It’s pretty simple: divorce is forbidden in the Bible. This is a historic doctrine driven deep into the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and it’s a perfect example of what I mean by the rise of paganism. The effort to create an end to marriage between a are perfectly natural pagan behaviors, but they are a fundamental violation of our civilization.”

  23. Hopefully their insistence on only catering to the right wing base and ignoring all the other voting groups in this country will bite them in the ass. If… when.. Obama wins a second term, if we are lucky, this will herald the twilight of the radical Religious Reich.

    Not going to hold my breath, though.

    For those in the Pagan, Wiccan, and Heathen movements who also view themselves as magic workers, we need to stop waiting for Karma to do something about these small minded fanatics and their “spiritual warfare” and start taking action of our own. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is… or put our magic where our cauldron is.

    Waiting for karma is all well and good if you believe in that kind of thing, but are you willing to risk waiting for karma finally get around to doing something only *after* we are living in “The Handmaid’s Tale” ( ) for real?

    (read this: NH Republicans seek to roll back domestic violence laws for example of how it could start)

    If the idea of cursing or binding makes you squeamish, engendering thoughts of “manipulative black magic” then do magic to increase knowledge, tolerance, and understanding. Do magic to strengthen and support those “in the trenches” of religious equality including those of mainstream faiths who are willing to stand with us. Do magic to reflect the hate and bitter, unfounded anger-fueled curses these religious fanatics direct towards everyone *not them* right back where it came from.

    For those of us *not* squeamish about curses and bindings…. }:)

  24. He’s since “found Jesus” (under the couch, perhaps?) and so all of that nasty ethical business is no longer relevant, don’t you know.

  25. Indeed. And some of the NAR types want to take down the Statue of Liberty – and the Washington Monument – because they are “pagan idols”.

  26. The ironic thing is that I used to be put off of neopaganism because the first thing I ever seriously read about it was some Gardnerian book that said gay people had no place in paganism because of the Law of Polarity.

  27. I dislike that philosophy SO MUCH. Seriously. This whole insistence on dichotomy is false and provably unseen in the natural world, which is where we’re supposed to be getting our philosophy. No, actually, male and female aren’t polar opposites and there is a full spectrum of possibilities in between.

  28. I quess our buddy Newt doesn’t realise or care that the majority of pagans are in conventional marriages , altho we as a group are open to alternative relationships and don’t negativly stigmatise them , conventional marriages are the norm for us .The RR folks are looking for a boogy man , Newt has pandered to their paranoia and fears. In all reality he will gain points with the RR folks , but in the long run shoot himself in the foot .Most mainstream Americans aren’t that frikkin insane . The RR is an extremist fringe , not what most folks , thank the gods, think or believe .Most people directly know , or have a person in an alternative lifestyle/relationship in thier own family, myself included .And just for the record , i don’t mean me .The general public is more intelligent and open minded. Kilm

  29. I used to believe that too. Then I visited Missouri to see my stepson graduate from high school. His stepfather apologised for there being so many “blacks” there. An idiot statement to say to begin with, but seriously, there were like two black people in the the whole gym.

  30. I would think “do magic to increase knowledge, tolerance, and understanding. Do magic to strengthen and support those ‘in the trenches’ of religious equality including those of mainstream faiths who are willing to stand with us” would fall under the heading of “what is best for this country.”

    Voting is, of course, a good suggestion also. 🙂

  31. Reading that Right Wing Watch piece on the conference call has put concern in my mind as to what happens when these guys lose. With every indication of seriousness, they think the future of Western civilization hinges on this election. Makes me wonder what they’ll feel justified in doing if Obama wins a return to office — which is likely if the GOP actually nominates the Grinch.

  32. This whole thing is so sad and it’s the reason the democrats sorta own pagans. As a republican electic Wiccan I get attacked from both sides. Other Pagans attack me for not being a democrat and republicans attack me for my Paganism. I posted that because I am tired of the “everything would be great if we could get rid of all the republicans” attitude in our community. I wish that the hard-core christian right didn’t have the republican party by it’s you-know-whats but that does not mean that anyone who calls themselves a republican is bad. That said I am continually disgusted by remarks such as the ones Newt has made. I dearly wish we could have some kind of middle ground in which extreme christians did not have to be pandered to in order for a politician to secure a vote. Oh if only…….

  33. “Our president is the duly elected representative of all its citizens, not just its Christian citizens.”

    I nodded so much at this I thought my head was going to fall off my shoulders.

  34. Natalie , I have some raging rednecks in my family as well .We are from the eastern shore of MD aka Delmarva. Tis redneck territory .Is a part of what i am, why i sound the way i do . I am just happy i was raised better than that , with good values and mindset . i give major credit to my mother , for rising me above such petty , ignorant stuff her being a southern farm girl.altho geographically mid atlantic east coast , eastern shore MD is definatly southern in attitude and lifestyle . My wife calls me a good ole boy pagan , that in itself almost being an oxymoron. Kilm

  35. This Pagan has been in his marriage to his one and only wife longer than any two of Newts mariages put together. Therefore THIS Pagan knows more about what marriage is than him. At least Clinton was only married once, making him even more understanding of what marriage is.

    The bible 100%, undeniably, declairs divorse “an abomination” just as great as gay marriage. Newt is an immoral, dishonest, lying, ignorant, hypocrite.

    But if he want’s to link gay marriage to Paganism then we can link child molestation and coverup to christianity.

  36. The people you mentioned also aren’t particularly thrilled with Romney, who isn’t nearly “Hardcore” Conservative enough…and isn’t a “real” Christian, according to many Christian Right-Wingers…

  37. The people you mentioned also aren’t particularly thrilled with Romney, who isn’t nearly “Hardcore” Conservative enough…and isn’t a “real” Christian, according to many Christian Right-Wingers…

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