The new Newt

Herman Cain is gone. His apparent peccadilloes seem to have left him unnominable (if that isn’t a word, perhaps it should be). Who stepped in to the leadership role to take his place? Newt Gingrich. 

 
I don’t need to comment on the irony of Newt replacing Herman Cain as front runner for the Republican nomination. Plenty of others have already risen to that challenge. Few, I might point out, have commented that Cain, at least, remained with his wife and will most likely continue to stay should she let him.
 
Newt abandoned his wife on her death bed for his little side bet. In fact, he left two wives. It feels funny to suggest that Cain may have been the more honorable adulterer, as though such a thing wlere possible. To put the situation in perspective, however, we need to remember that Cain’s infidelities are still only alleged. Newt made no bones about his.
 
So why has Newt been embraced by the religious right? Because Newt found Jesus. That’s right, he became a Catholic. Everything he did was okay because he saw the light.
 
I find this rationale doubly ironic since when I was a kid the religious right (who had yet to identify themselves as such) would have seen his being embraced by the Pope as certain proof that Newt was the antiChrist. The only thing more Satanic than Satan was the so-called Church of Rome. When ministers read the passage about the whore of Babylon in Revelations, they made it clear that passage should be translated as “the Catholic Church.”
 
<a name=”return1″>I don’t feel</a> like launching my Baptist Preacher’s Kid spiel, but I remember the only thing worse than marrying someone Black was to marry a Catholic. It wasn’t until my high school civics class that I learned most of the country meant bi-racial couples when they referred to “mixed marriage.”<sup><a href =”#note1”>1</a></sup>
 
I don’t think Newt’s being Catholic qualifies him as the antiChrist, nor does his embrace of Catholicism disqualify him as a Christian.  Nor does the religious right feel Catholicism disqualifies him anymore. We can thank abortion for that.
 
I remember a Christmas dinner when my father and uncle got into an argument over politics. Both were die-hard Republicans, but my Dad was sitting out the gubernatorial election out because he decided that choosing between Clayton Williams and Ann Richards was no different than choosing between Satan and the Pope.
 
My dad had also helped Catholic Charities with a fundraising campaign and his participation deeply disturbed my uncle. At some point he proclaimed that he would never help the Pope. In fact, he knew that whatever the Pope said Christians should do, Christians should do the opposite.
 
Later the argument turned to abortion rights. (If you get the feeling that family dinners were long and frequently indigestible, you wouldn’t be wrong. In fact, you probably weren’t raised Baptist.) My uncle made it clear he was adamantly opposed to abortion.
 
“So is the Pope,” my father reminded him.
 
I’m not saying that this one conversation finally ushered in the alliance of the evangelical right with the Catholic right, but at some point evangelicals realized babies trumped the Pope thing.
 
My problem with Newt is penitence. Or, rather, the lack of it. When someone embraces the faith, they are supposed to renounce their past and seek forgiveness. Newt not only doesn’t seem to be seeking forgiveness from God, he doesn’t seem to be seeking forgiveness from anyone.
 
It’s easy to write of the religious right, but they delivered two of the last three Republican presidents, the two Presidents who presided over the largest budget deficit increases in US history. 
 
Bush II’s support among evangelicals is easy to understand because his compassionate conservative stand was wrapped in the cloth of Christianity.
 
Reagan was more like Newt. Like Newt, Reagan ran against an evangelical Christian (Carter and Obama). Not only were both active in their churches, both refused to reduce their faith to their politics. Reagan, when asked if he was a Christian during one of the Presidential debates, answered that he believed in a “higher power” but didn’t attend church because he didn’t want to endanger churchgoers should someone try to assassinate him.
 
Romney won’t pass muster because he’s Mormon. Of the lot of current candidates, he seems to be more devoted to his faith than the rest, but, unfortunately, once the religious right embraced Catholicism, Mormonism had to take their place as the pretenders to the throne of heresy.
 
I think Americans, especially the religious right, need to admit that none of the current crop of candidates meets their litmus test. Perry should come the closest, but even his protests of Obama’s “war of faith” doesn’t seem to carry much weight with evangelical voters. Perhaps it was his decidedly unChristian decision to protect young girls from sexually transmitted diseases.
 
Perry’s and Romney’s soft support among evangelicals makes me think it’s time for the religious right to acknowledge that it’s not about faith at all. They intend to vote their politics, just as they always have.
 
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<h5><sup><a name=”note1″>1</a></sup>My civics teacher was a died in the wool socialist and my algebra teacher a died in the wool atheist. They would not be allowed to teach in today’s political climate.<a href =”#return1″>back</a></h5>
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