Newt Gingrich’s faith journey: How a thrice-married Catholic became an evangelical darling
Newt Gingrich has spent time as a Lutheran, a Baptist and a Roman Catholic.
December 10th, 2011
10:00 PM ET

Newt Gingrich’s faith journey: How a thrice-married Catholic became an evangelical darling

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series of stories looking at the faith of the leading 2012 presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. We also profiled the faith journey of Herman Cain before he suspended his campaign.

(CNN) - There’s an e-mail war raging among some of the nation’s leading evangelicals over whether Newt Gingrich has repented enough for his sins to be president.

One recent skirmish was set off by an open letter urging Gingrich to give a major speech confronting his perceived moral stumbles, including an affair with his third wife, Callista, while married to No. 2.

“You need to make it as clear as you possibly can that you deeply regret your past actions and that you do understand the anguish and suffering they caused others, including your former spouses,” Richard Land, public policy chief for the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote.

Land urged Gingrich to make a public promise “that there will be no moral scandals in a Gingrich White House.”

Rather than galvanizing the faithful, however, Land’s letter provoked an outcry from a handful of evangelical leaders who argued Gingrich has repented enough and deserves forgiveness.

On an e-mail thread among conservative Christian heavyweights, Jerry Falwell Jr. invoked the biblical story of a woman of ill repute who met Jesus at a well. Though the woman had been married five times, Jesus forgave her.

“The woman at the well was fortunate she encountered Jesus that day instead of some of our evangelical brethren,” the Liberty University president wrote, in an apparent swipe at Land.

On the same e-mail chain, which CNN obtained from a conservative activist, prominent Atlanta preacher Richard Lee said the nation’s evangelicals needed to support Gingrich.

Lee called Gingrich “the only forceful Christian candidate who can at this point be elected and cleanse the White House next November.”

The evangelical tussling over Gingrich says a lot about the fractured state of the Republican Party less than a month before the Iowa caucuses officially usher in the 2012 race for the White House.

The sight of influential evangelicals rallying around Gingrich, a Catholic with serious “values” baggage, speaks to the huge political vulnerability of Mitt Romney, who was the perceived GOP front-runner until recent polls put Gingrich at the front of the pack.

Gingrich speaking at the April 2011 National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in D.C.

Whether because of Romney’s past liberalism on gay rights and abortion or because of his Mormon faith, many of the evangelical Christians who make up the Republican base just don’t like him.

They’ve been looking for an alternative, by turns telling pollsters of their support for Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain. One by one, they’ve dropped in the polls, or out of the race altogether. Now it’s Gingrich’s turn in the spotlight.

But the argument over Gingrich’s personal life also raises fundamental questions about the candidate himself and his readiness for the nation’s highest office.

Just how much has Gingrich changed since his days as a volatile and philandering House speaker? Does he have the character to be president? And, at least for many of the evangelical voters who will dominate the early primaries: Is he a true believer?

Faith by geography

Gingrich has identified with different branches of Christianity that mirror his surroundings at different stages of life.

Born near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, an area settled by the largely Lutheran Pennsylvania Dutch, Gingrich was the son of a Lutheran mom and a Pennsylvania Dutch stepfather who adopted him.

Attending college at Atlanta’s Emory University and grad school at Tulane University in New Orleans, Gingrich became a Southern Baptist.

And as a creature of Washington, where Gingrich’s wife sings in a Catholic choir and where many prominent conservative Republicans have converted to Catholicism in the last decade, Gingrich joined the Catholic fold in 2009.

“I think that was all part of his pilgrimage,” says Ike Reighard, who was Gingrich’s pastor in Atlanta for nearly 20 years. “Whatever is the dominant religion in the region he was in, that was his progression... He was always super inquisitive, searching for deeper meaning.”

Gingrich’s stepdad was an army officer, making for a peripatetic family life that included stretches spent at military bases in Europe and at Fort Benning, Georgia, situated in the heart of the Bible Belt.

Gingrich, who declined interview requests for this story, was raised largely by his maternal grandmother, a devout Lutheran who, he has said, “taught me my most basic lessons about God and Satan.”

But Gingrich left his childhood denomination through an immersion baptism at the Saint Charles Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans while at Tulane, where he was pursuing a Ph.D. in European history.

In a pattern that would last a lifetime, studying religion’s role in history and politics moved Gingrich to deepen his own faith.

Saint Charles Avenue’s pastor, G. Avery Lee, said Gingrich wasn’t a member of any church when the two first met.

“He said that in his study of political theory, he noted how much influence the church had had … and asked if I could explain,” Lee wrote in a 1994 letter to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, describing his first encounter with Gingrich.

Lee and Gingrich grew close, with the pastor eventually baptizing Gingrich even though his church took “a liberal approach to both theology and sociology.”

“It has been suggested by some that in baptizing him, I didn't hold him under long enough,” Wrote Lee, who died in 2009, in apparent reference to Gingrich’s conservative politics.

But Gingrich was more liberal back then, including on questions of separation of church and state.

“As a college student at Emory when the Supreme Court ruled that prayer was unconstitutional … I didn't notice it,” he said in a 2009 interview. “As a graduate student at Tulane I probably would have said it's a good decision.”

‘I don’t think his faith was the driving force’

After Tulane, Gingrich took a job as a history professor outside Atlanta and almost immediately began running for Congress, losing two races in the mid-’70s.

Around that time he joined New Hope Baptist Church, a 100-year old congregation south of Atlanta where Ike Reighard had recently arrived as the senior pastor.

“He had just lost for the second time and he came in and said, ‘I need your help,’” says Reighard. “I said, ‘What did you want to do in politics?’ He said he wanted to be speaker of the House.”

Gingrich won his next race for Congress in 1978. That year also marked the birth of the modern Christian Right.

The movement started in opposition to an Internal Revenue Service campaign under then-President Jimmy Carter to crack down on private schools resisting court-ordered desegregation.

Word of the campaign provoked fear and outrage among evangelical schools. Jerry Falwell joined the successful effort to thwart the IRS initiative and founded the Moral Majority the following year, in 1979. The group’s focus on fighting abortion and gay rights set the Christian Right agenda for decades to come.

Gingrich, for his part, was not considered part of the new wave of proud Christian Right warriors in Congress, some of whom were swept into power in 1980 on President Ronald Reagan’s coattails and enthusiastically blended their religious faith and politics.

For Gingrich, “I don’t think faith was the driving force,” says Reighard. “He realized that you have to look at issues and they can’t always be driven by your personal views and your religious values.”

“I heard a lot of times that people say evangelicals are one-issue people, all about abortion,” Reighard says. “But that’s not true with Gingrich. Education was important for him. Health care was important. The economy was important.”

Indeed, when Gingrich launched the Conservative Opportunity Society, an influential House caucus, in 1983, he focused on fiscal issues and practical electoral politics.

And yet Gingrich was an early ally of the budding Christian Right, even if he wasn’t a card-carrying member.

Ralph Reed, who would go on to lead the Christian Coalition, remembers watching as a libertarian activist advocating for gay rights and abortion rights challenged Gingrich at an early 1980s College Republicans breakfast.

“Newt pushed back hard,” Reed remembers. “It was clearly a position of intellectual conviction. I wasn’t yet a committed Christian and I remember finding that pretty remarkable, that Newt didn’t try to pacify this guy. He said, ‘No, you’re wrong.’”

Gingrich speaking at a 1987 news conference.

The future House speaker also stayed active at New Hope Baptist Church, which was quickly growing from sleepy country congregation to suburban Atlanta megachurch, even as he spent most of his time in Washington. When Reighard’s wife died during childbirth, Gingrich was on the phone with him while the pastor was still at the hospital.

“He was always there on Sunday mornings,” says Reighard, recalling Gingrich’s House years. “And the other thing he was always great at doing was town-hall-type meetings and potluck dinners. He was a grassroots person. There’s no telling how many of those meals I prayed at.”

Christian coalitions

But a lot of those town halls were more political than religious. Televangelist Pat Robertson launched the Christian Coalition in the early 1990s, and the group organized events around Georgia aimed at getting conservative evangelicals more involved in elections.

Gingrich, who counted himself an evangelical, expressed keen interest in the coalition’s work. But he seemed to be operating less as a pious Christian, and more as a strategist looking for ways the GOP could win the House of Representatives.

“We didn’t get into theological conversations that much,” says Patrick Gartland, executive director of the Georgia Christian Coalition in the early 1990s. “I was a grassroots numbers person. I loved the intricacies of grassroots, and he did, too, and he understood it.”

Unlike the Moral Majority in the 1980s, which was made up of pastors like Falwell, the Christian Coalition sought to mainstream the Christian Right by bringing in laypeople. The group’s local chapters were led by Christian business leaders, teachers and retirees, as opposed to pastors.

And Christian Coalition envisioned a big-tent religious conservatism that was as much about lowering taxes as it was about banning abortion.

For the broad-minded Gingrich, that vision was a perfect fit – especially after the Christian Coalition helped usher in the 1994 Republican Revolution, which put the House in GOP hands for the first time in 40 years.

The takeover catapulted Gingrich to speaker of the House, making him the country’s most powerful Republican. He vowed to pay attention to conservative Christians from his first day on the job, seeking to assuage evangelical activists who felt ignored by the Reagan administration after they’d worked hard for Reagan’s political campaigns.

“There was this dissatisfaction among evangelical leaders about [Reagan], and Newt said to me, ‘I’m not going to let that happen.’”

Best remembered for working with President Bill Clinton on fiscally focused deals like welfare reform and balancing the budget - and fiscal fights that led to a government shutdown - Gingrich also checked off major items on religious conservatives’ wish lists.

He brought a proposed constitutional amendment to allow school prayer up for a House vote. He presided over the adoption of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act – the first abortion restriction since Roe v. Wade – and the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids the federal government from recognizing gay marriage.

Speaker-elect Gingrich with then-wife Marianne and his mother Kathleen at a January 1995 Washington church service.

Yet some evangelical leaders who knew Gingrich fretted over his personal life. The hard-charging speaker displayed braggadocio and rough edges even to political allies and didn’t talk much about his own faith.

“There were a lot of conservative Christian leaders who really loved Newt but felt like he hadn’t really turned his life over to God,” says Reed.

Many of those leaders went nuclear over rumors about Gingrich’s 1998 affair with a young House aide named Callista Bisek, while he was married to his second wife, Marianne.

Theose rumors “would break my heart,” says Reighard, who counseled Gingrich and Marianne in the 1990s. “I always believed that Newt could be one of the great leaders in our country, an American version of Winston Churchill.”

Reborn a Catholic

More than a decade later, Gingrich is back in many evangelicals’ good graces, with polls showing him way out in front of Romney among evangelicals in Iowa, who accounted for 60% of caucus-goers four years ago.

What explains the turnaround?

One big factor is Gingrich’s self-described faith awakening since leaving Congress in 1998. A personal turning point was 2002, when a court ruling struck down the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools because of its “Under God” clause.

“That was the last straw,” Gingrich said in a 2009 interview with U.S. News & World Report. “And I said it’s time to challenge head-on secular domination in the West.”

Just as studying political history had led a 20-something Gingrich to the Saint Charles Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, political developments like the Pledge ruling and other perceived attacks on religion sparked a round of soul-searching.

Though it was later struck down by the Supreme Court, the ruling led Gingrich to publish “Rediscovering God in America,” a faith-based walking tour of Washington’s key buildings and monuments.

For those close to him, the 2006 book reflected what Gingrich had been preaching for more than a decade: that religion played a key role in the nation’s founding.

“In the ’90s, he talked about this idea that power comes from God to the individual and is loaned to the state,” says Rick Tyler, Gingrich’s former spokesman. “Before that, the European model was that power came from God to the king, and [Gingrich] used to explain why that was corrupt and how Thomas Jefferson turned it on his head.”

By increasing his public attack on the secular “media-academic-legal elite” and promoting his God-infused take on American history, Gingrich was branded a culture warrior during the last decade, gaining appeal among conservative evangelicals.

Gingrich continued the courtship by regularly appearing before audiences of hundreds of evangelical pastors to talk about God, history and politics.

Gingrich delivers the Liberty University commencement address in 2007 following Jerry Falwell

“There’s no question there’s been an evolution in his thinking and speaking and writing on America’s religious heritage, which has become a much bigger part of his lexicon,” says Reed, who leads the Faith and Freedom Coalition and is not endorsing any presidential candidates.

“He’s clearly found his voice on social issues, and less than 30 days from the Iowa caucuses the timing couldn’t be better.”

Gingrich further strengthened ties to grassroots evangelicals in 2009, launching a group aimed at bringing together religious and economic conservatives.

The organization, Renewing American Leadership, poured $150,000 into a successful Iowa campaign to unseat judges who had legalized gay marriage in the state. Many of the Iowa activists who led that 2010 campaign are now bullish on Gingrich.

Admitting to an affair also helped.

At a closed-door meeting with the nation’s top Christian Right leaders ahead of the 2008 election, Gingrich was asked about reports he’d been having an affair while leading the impeachment drive against Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The former speaker owned up to the affair and said it marked one the most shameful periods of his life, a time in which he was “alienated from God,” according to a participant at the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Though he didn’t run for president in 2008, Gingrich went on James Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio show to admit the affair to the evangelical icon and a national audience: “There's certainly times when I've fallen short of God's standards.”

Gingrich told listeners he’d since turned "to God to receive forgiveness and to receive mercy."

For many evangelicals, the admission and penitent tone struck a chord.

“It all depends on whether Newt has been rewired, in the theological sense of being born again,” says David Lane, an influential evangelical activist who is in regular contact with Gingrich.

“I was one of the wildest men who ever lived, loved women, wine and song, and I came to Christ,” Lane says. “I’m not perfect, but I read the Bible seven days a week. Is Newt a new man? I think he is. There’s something different about him.”

One difference is that, for the last two years, Gingrich has been an active Roman Catholic. He has described his conversion as a decade-long process inspired by Callista, who sings with a choir at the country’s largest Catholic church, Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Gingrich has said that years of attending Mass there rubbed off on him, with Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 visit providing the final impetus to conversion.

Gingrich was especially drawn to the church’s millennia-long history and intellectualism. Discussing one of his visits to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Gingrich has said, “You stand there and you think, this is where St. Peter was crucified. This is where Paul preached.

“You think to yourself, 2,000 years ago the Apostles set out to create a worldwide movement by witnessing to the historic truth they had experienced,” Gingrich said in 2009. “And there it is.”

As opposed to being a letdown to evangelical leaders, Gingrich’s conversion away from evangelical Christianity was received as something like a born-again experience.

“Prior to that, he was a sloppy Baptist who didn’t have a clue about what he believed,” says an evangelical activist who is close to Gingrich. “When he converted, he went through Catechism and had to get his faith straight. It took some of the sloppiness out.”

But Gingrich still has to convince some religious leaders he has straightened out morally.

In his letter to Gingrich urging a speech about his marital history, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Land told Gingrich to emphasize his own religious narrative.

“I know something of your faith journey over the past 20 years,” Land wrote. “Do not hesitate to weave that into your speech to the degree that you are comfortable doing so. It will always resonate with evangelical Christians.”

If polls are to be believed, the story of Gingrich’s journey is resonating already.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Baptist • Catholic Church • Lutheran • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Pope Benedict XVI • Vatican

soundoff (1,901 Responses)
  1. Debbie

    I truely hope that Newt has repented. With that said, it should be quite apparent to Newt that issues of trust were severed and while repentent he will never be trusted again. IF Newt is truely repentent he will accept those consequences. Newt should take comfort in the fact that God forgives him and that his public life is over.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  2. Rainer Braendlein

    Are you one of those, which God doesn't give the saving faith?

    I guess, no.

    "'The woman at the well was fortunate she encountered Jesus that day instead of some of our evangelical brethren,' the Liberty University president wrote, in an apparent swipe at Land."

    This is what we need: An encounter with the living Jesus.

    The evangelicals tell us that we need to be "born again". They claim someone, who believes that Jesus has borne his sins on the cross, is born again. It seems to go together with the content of the Bible.

    I claim that the true biblical doctrine is different from the "born again"-doctrine.

    According to the Bible, we have to get born from above (not born again). We need a real encounter with Jesus Christ. People at Jesus lifetime on earth were set free or released by an encounter with the visible Jesus. The words, which he spoke to them, were powerful and supernatural. In fact, people had a talk with the living God, when they talked with Jesus.

    Sometimes Jesus used the term: "Follow me!" The disciples of Christ became able to follow Jesus in the power of this divine call (follow me!). By their natural power the disciples had not been able to follow Jesus (the apostles had no need to receive the sacramental baptism, because they were "baptized" by Jesus' divine call).

    Today Jesus is invisible (but yet still real). How can we encounter Jesus today and receive his releasing call?

    Today Jesus calls us by the sacramental or Holy Baptism. Baptism is the locus in space and time, ordered by God, where we get connected with the releasing power of Jesus' death and resurrection.

    Sadly the evangelicals have reduced baptism to a mere symbolic act. They claim baptism would merely be a public confession of the faith by people, which have started to believe.

    In actual fact God acts during baptism and it is much more than a symbolic act. Baptism is the holy fountain, where we get born by Water and Spirit. Nearterms and in connection with baptism God gives us the Holy Spirit, which enables us to live a righteous life. By the power of the Spirit we can overcome the acts of our sinful flesh or our carnal desires.

    Please note: The call of the visible Jesus is is equivalent to the sacramental baptism of the Christian Church (Bonhoeffer figured out this).

    The practical application: Christians could sometimes doubt, if they really had the saving faith. If they cannot overcome a certain sin, they fear to belong to the people which are predeterminded for damnation, which God doesn't give the faith. By sacramental baptism this problem gets solved. After s. baptism someone is a believer and all what remains is just obedience. There is no more excuse for disobedience. After sacramental baptism we keep the faith by obedience or obedience is our visible inner faith.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Your "inner" faith is visible?

      December 11, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  3. ottovonb

    There are words and then there actions. I assume we're better off judging character by the latter and not the former. The overwhelming majority of Evangelical Republicans supported launching a non-defensive invasion of Iraq, they support the death penalty, they vilify the poor and government programs designed to assist the poor, they support torturing prisoners of war. And now, many of these "Christian" who constantly extol "traditional family values" rally to Gingrich; a man who delivered divorce papers to one dying wife and cheated on another while lambasting Bill Clinton for cheating on his wife. Over and over again these evangelical fake "Christians" reveal themselves to be little more than a callous, self-serving, reactionary, regressive cult of hypocrisy.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  4. Tom

    Rich powerful men do not have just one affair. We see that was probably the case with Cain, it is almost certainly the case with Gingrich. He had an affair with his third wife while married to number 2, how many did he have while married to number 1? How many did he have while trying to pick wife number 3 (while married to number 2). If you are willing to cheat on your marriage commitment, you commitment to the Hous of Representatives while Speaker, does anyone think you will stop if elected POTUS?

    December 11, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  5. El Flaco

    Scientists say that the mental predisposition for religion is inherited. It is in our DNA. Some people have more of it, some people have less of it. The 'religious experience' is an ecstatic experience that some have and some do not. It is a product of evolution.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • rickd785

      Like Mental Illness

      December 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      And gravy.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  6. Cuervo Jones

    looks as it may come down to a Mormon or a Catholic for the repubs. to think a teavangelical will vote for either is preposterous.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • rickd785

      Yeah baby ! you Christians are mucho screwed up.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  7. Mike Altman

    Whatever happened to seperation of church and state?

    December 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  8. kurtk

    Newt can repent all he wants but a leopard does not change his spots. Think of every nasty thing that the republicans ever said about Clinton, he's sleazy, a crook, an adulterer, a liar, all these apply equally to Newt. This Presidential field is embarrassing.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  9. zip

    Want to balance the budget? Start taxing the churches and their property. Most churches in this country have become shills for the Republican party. If GOP values are so superior, why do they constantly have to lie to get elected?? Obama is a Muslim. Obama is a Marxist. Obama is a Kenyan. All outrageous lies. How do Christians align themselves with this lying trash?? Truly a mystery. Beware false prophets. I remember reading that somewhere.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • E

      The Catholic Church in particular is VERY involved in politics, runs 30% of the nation's hospitals while restricting women's care due to their religious beliefs in those hospitals. It has enormous political power and should not, in any way get religious based tax relief.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Alexandrine

      I am a born again Christian and have been for about seven years now. I totally agree with you that all these lies about Obama are just that, lies.
      While attending church during elections, I've been angered that the pastor will say, "I can't tell you who to vote for but I can tell you where I stand and that you should vote." (wink wink) It makes me disgusted!
      Blind ignorance at it's best!
      Many evangelicals are hurting the church as a whole today. They make God look bad in the process. No wonder people hate and mock Almighty God, unbelievers see how these hypocrite evangelicals act and they get even more disgusted with God. God isn't the one with a problem, it man.
      Any one can say they are a Christian. Remember that satan even quoted Scripture! And if they were real children of the Most High God, they wouldn't LIE about Obama, slander him, or hate him. Real children of God show love and mercy to one another, even their enemy.
      Real children of God would love the foreigners in our land and treat them with respect.
      Real children of God would love the poor and have compassion on them instead of cursing them oppressing them even more.
      Real children of God wouldn't judge others or condemn them because they are different or don't believe like you do.
      Jesus wants us to love each other like we love ourselves and to show mercy and tender hearted compassion to each other.
      If we do these we really then would be true children of Almighty God.
      Satan is using these hypocrite evangelicals to destroy the church.
      Warning, turn off Fox News and open up your Bible!
      Warning, stop the lies about Obama, stop being racist, stop hating, and starting praying for God's great mercy on our country. Pray for our leaders cause they need it.
      Warning, stop mocking God by being a hypocrite while clamming you live for Christ. He doesn't take being mocked lightly.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  10. canadian dude

    American Idiots. Please put up a fence soon to keep all you loony religous nutbars out of my country.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      You can't keep me out! I love BC too much! I will sneak across the border!!

      December 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  11. Phil

    To all you Christians. We will be voting for the next President of the United States, not the next Ayatolla of the United States. Take your religion and go to church with it and leave the rest of us alone. You don't own this world and neither does your so called God.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Alexandrine

      See guys, this is an example of what I said earlier. Hypocrite evangelicals are making God and the church look bad. How will unbelievers ever believe if they have a bunch of hypocrites as examples.
      Wake up! Jesus will tell a whole lot of people, "I never knew you." Don't be one of them.

      December 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  12. Rainer Braendlein

    "Born near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, an area settled by the largely Lutheran Pennsylvania Dutch, Gingrich was the son of a Lutheran mom and a Pennsylvania Dutch stepfather who adopted him.

    Attending college at Atlanta’s Emory University and grad school at Tulane University in New Orleans, Gingrich became a Southern Baptist."

    I don't know the American Lutherans or the American Southern Baptists, but basically the Lutheran doctrine is much closer to the biblical doctrine as the evangelical doctrine, as long as the Lutherans preach the gospel of the "costly grace" and not the gospel of the "cheap grace".

    The "cheap grace" is a very old heresy and yet St. Paul had to grapple with it in his Epistle to the Romans. In the Roman Church were people, who said: "God gave us grace in Jesus, thus let us sin more, so that we will get more grace." This "believers" perverted the gospel, because actually the gospel shall reduce our sinful deeds. However, indeed, when you grasp the gospel merely by natural reason, the consequence would be that you can sin without limit, because Jesus has yet borne the punishment. In Romans 6 St. Paul makes it clear that by sacramental baptism we are connected with the releasing power of Jesus Christ. St. Paul says that a believer, who sins intentionally, will surely die, because he acts against the new life, which God gave him. In a word, a Christian can no longer live according to the desires of his flesh or body.

    It is high time for a reform of the Protestant Churches, which are befallen by the wicked heresy of the cheap grace. We need again the true doctrine of the costly grace: By Jesus death and resurrection we are released for a righteous life. Christians have to escape sin and to live a life of Christian love.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline


      December 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Alexandrine

      You ask why?
      I'll tell you why. To make this world we live in, a better place. And to live forever, after you die, in a better place.
      That's why.
      Plus, God made mankind for His purpose. To love Him and to love each other.
      I know you're being a smart aleck, but I have to defend my God. He has done so much for me and I feel His presence with me. I will praise HIm, thank Him, and defend Him.

      December 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      What has "He" done for you?

      December 11, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  13. Spencer

    Morals should be important, but what religion you are shouldn't be a prerequisite to become president. The U.S. is about freedom of religion after all.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  14. Ice 9 Tea

    The people of America have no use for a wealthy career politician's repenting or apologies.

    How could anyone in their right mind look at that stage last night, and not realize the crowd roaring after

    Ron Paul would speak?

    December 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  15. JamesNL

    Give me a break. Newt hasn't repented over anything, and this is all for show. If he thinks evangelicals will criticize him over something, he acts like he has changed...if he thinks he can get away with doing something unethical because they wont care or because they'll not notice, he'll do it as much as possible. Just look at how he demonizes his opponents, lies about the opposition party, trashes the working class, lies about his own history, takes money from specific industries then miraculously changes his views to match theirs afterwards, etc.. This guy is as corrupt as they come.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  16. Ungodly Discipline

    The skeleton's in newt's closet:


    "We had oral s e x. He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, 'I never slept with her.'" – Anne Manning (who was also married at the time.)

    "We would have won in 1974 if we could have kept him out of the office, screwing her [a young volunteer] on the desk." – Dot Crews, his campaign scheduler at the time

    [In the book] "Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them", [I] "found frightening pieces that related to my own life." – Newt.

    "I think you can write a psychological profile of me that says I found a way to immerse my insecurities in a cause large enough to justify whatever I wanted it to" – Newt, speaking to Gail Sheehy.

    "She isn't young enough or pretty enough to be the President's wife." – Newt, on his first wife.

    "I don't want him to be president and I don't think he should be." – Newt's wife Marianne.

    "If the country today were to move to the left, Newt would sense it before it started happening and lead the way." – Dot Crews, his campaign scheduler throughout the 1970s.

    S e x on the Desk – Oral S e x is More Easily Denied
    Several newspapers are now reporting that Newt Gingrich is dating and basically living with Callista Bisek, a "willowy blond Congressional aide 23 years his junior." Biske, 33, has been spending nights at Gingrich's apartment near the Capitol and has her own key. In an amazing act of hypocrisy, Gingrich was apparently dating Bisek all during Clinton-Lewinsky adultery scandal, even as he proclaimed family values and bitterly criticized the President for his adultery.

    Reporters and other Washington insiders have known about this relationship since 1994, even before Gingrich became Speaker of the House, but did not have any solid proof to report. In 1995, Vanity Fair magazine described Bisek as Gingrich's "frequent breakfast companion." Gingrich was married to Marianne Gingrich during all of that time, and just filed for divorce in August 1999.

    Newt is apparently trying to create a new hybrid form, Christian adultery. According to MSNBC, Bisek sings in the National Shrine Choir, and Newt would often wait for her at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, listening to her sing while he read the Bible.

    This is hardly the first time Newt has cheated, either. "It was common knowledge that Newt was involved with other women during his [first] marriage to Jackie. Maybe not on the level of John Kennedy. But he had girlfriends - some serious, some trivial." - Dot Crews, his campaign scheduler throughout the 70s. One woman, Anne Manning, has come forward and confirmed a relationship with him during the 1976 campaign. "We had oral s e x. He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, 'I never slept with her.'"

    Kip Carter, his former campaign treasurer, was walking Newt's daughters back from a football game one day and cut across a driveway where he saw a car. "As I got to the car, I saw Newt in the pas senger seat and one of the guys' wives with her head in his lap going up and down. Newt kind of turned and gave me this little-boy smile. Fortunately, Jackie Sue and Kathy were a lot younger and shorter then."

    Family Values? Pressing Wife for Divorce in the Hospital:
    "He walked out in the spring of 1980.... By September, I went into the hospital for my third surgery. The two girls came to see me, and said, "Daddy is downstairs. Could he come up?" When he got there, he wanted to discuss the terms of the divorce while I was recovering from my surgery." – Jackie, his first wife.

    Dead-Beat Dad:
    The hospital visit wasn't the end of it, either. Jackie had to take Newt to court to get him to contribute for bills, as utilities were about to be cut off.

    Draft Dodger:
    Though he relentlessly pushes military spending and talks like a bigtime hawk, Gingrich avoided the Vietnam War through a combination of student and family deferments. (He married one of his teachers at age 19.)

    Problems With Women?
    Newt pressed his first wife to sign divorce papers while she was still in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. He also graciously said "She isn't young enough or pretty enough to be the President's wife." But his second marriage hasn't been that smooth either. Newt and Marianne have been separated – "frankly", she told the Washington Post in June 1989, "it's been on and off for some time."

    Does Newt have some kind of problem with women? He has said that he read a book called "Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them", and "found frightening pieces that related to my own life."

    Incidentally, Marianne told Gail Sheehy she doesn't want Newt to run for President. " I told him if I'm not in agreement, fine, it's easy. I just go on the air the next day, and I undermine everything. ... I don't want him to be president and I don't think he should be." Newt's response? Marianne "was just making the point hypothetically" that he would not run unless she agreed he should.

    House Banking Scandal: Newt Bounced 22 Checks
    Remember the House Banking scandal, where so many congressmen wrote rubber checks on government money? Newt hopes you don't, because he bounced 22 himself, which almost cost him reelection in 1992. His vote for the secret House pay raise, and the chauffeur who drove him around Washington in a Lincoln Town Car, didn't help.

    Lucrative and Questionable Book Deals: Murdoch's $4.5 Million wasn't the first

    The 1995 Murdoch Deal - The 1984 Book Deal

    The 1995 Murdoch Deal
    You probably heard something about Newt's book scandal. He was offered first $2.5 million, then $4.5 million by Harper Collins, a publishing company owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Fox TV network and newspapers and TV stations around the world. Murdoch has been having problems with a complaint by NBC that Fox is a foreign owned TV network, which is against US law.

    In the past, Harper Collins has offered million dollar book contracts to several conservative politicians in countries where Murdoch was having regulatory trouble, including England (Margaret Thatcher, Jeffrey Archer) and China (Deng Xiaoping's daughter). A week after the initial offer, Newt met with Rupert Murdoch – and Murdoch's legislative lobbyist – to discuss politics, including the NBC complaint. As facts about the deal were made public, and even Republicans criticized him, Gingrich decided to give up the $4.5 million advance for a still-lucrative deal based on royalties.

    Gingrich's story kept changing through the controversy. First, Newt's spokesman said that Murdoch knew nothing about Gingrich and the book deal. On Friday January 13, Newt's spokesman admitted that Murdoch actually met Newt on a park bench the week before the deal was made, but didn't talk about it. He also said he knew nothing about Murdoch's lobbyist being at their meeting. The next day, he admitted the lobbyist was there, but claimed he didn't say so because no one asked.

    Newt also said repeatedly that the book wasn't his idea; that a literary agent named Lynn Chu had sought him out and proposed it. After Ms. Chu said that Gingrich's as sociate Jeff Eisenach called her first on Newt's behalf, Eisenach and Newt's spokesman admitted that was true.

    The 1984 Book Deal
    Murdoch's book deal wasn't the first lucrative and controversial book deal Newt engineered. In 1983 he established a limited partnership in Atlanta called COS Limited, which pulled together about two dozen of his biggest campaign contributors to finance his book.

    The former administrator of his congressional offices in Georgia, Dolores Adamson, resigned over the deal. "The manuscript was put together in the district office using office equipment," she said. "He would just come in and say 'This is what I want to do.' I would say, 'This is not ethical," but after a while he didn't listen." That office equipment, of course, was paid for by US taxpayers including you

    GOPAC sleaze: Taxpayer subsidies for his partisan campaign course.
    Newt in his poltical career was the king of using tax-payer subsidized donations for his personal and political purposes. He stooped so low as to hijack not one but two charities for poor inner city kids and use their donations for his personal goals.
    GOPAC, Newt's longtime political action committee, was the centerpiece of a complex network of non-profit, and mostly tax exempt organizations that Newt has used to support himself and other conservative candidates. In an act of incredible hypocrisy, this crusader against taxes obtained taxpayer subsidies for his personal and political goals, by misusuing these tax-exempt groups.

    For example, one GOPAC doc ument said that its goal for the 1990s was "to both create and disseminate the doctrine of a majority Republican party." In another GOPAC doc ument, t itled "Key Factors in a House GOP Majority," Gingrich wrote "It is more powerful and more effective to develop a reform movement parallel to the official Republican party", instead of using the party structure, because it would get more attention and be more credible. Shortly thereafter, GOPAC paid for a television program promoting a "gras sroots" movement to reform government; publicly they claimed it was nonpartisan, but private internal doc uments made its partisan goals clear.

    After it got expensive, Gingrich transferred the program to the "Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Foundation," a tax-exempt group controlled by a GOPAC official named Bo Callaway. It had been set up years earlier to help inner city kids, which is why it was tax exempt. The group spent $260,000 on the television program in 1990. That same year, Newt started another tax-exempt group that paid poor students for reading books. He bragged of this in many a political speech. But after the first two years, most of this foundation's money went to Mel Steely, a former Gingrich aide who is now Newt's official biographer.

    The best known effort was a college course (t itled "Renewing American Civilization") at a third-rate college that Gingrich nakedly used to recruit and organize conservative candidates, and to feed them his carefully constructed ideology and political slogans.

    Of course, using tax-exempt educational or charitable donations for partisan purposes is illegal, and several ethics complaints were filed against Gingrich. He agreed to pay a $300,000 fine for misleading the committee during the investigation, and in the process dodged conviction on the actual charges through a combination of finessing some legal definitions, sheer self-confidence and raw political power (as Speaker of the House at the time of the complaints, he appointed the ethics committee. Furthermore, GOPAC had one ethics committee member on its roster last session, and gave money to another.)

    The Ethics Committee dropped its final charges against Gingrich not long before he resigned as speaker, despite finding that Gingrich had in fact violated one rule by repeatedly using a political consultant paid by GOPAC to develop the Republican political agenda, because there was no evidence he was continuing to do so.

    The IRS also started an investigation of one group, the Progress and Freedom Foundation, for violating its tax-exempt status by donating to Gingrich's college course. In the investigation, the special counsel found that these activities were "substantially motivated by partisan political goals." The IRS eventually overruled him, and found that the course "was educational and never favored or opposed a candidate for public office." It said the foundation "did not intervene on behalf of candidates of the Republican Party merely by promoting" themes in the course. This extremely narrow reading of the law basically said "so what if he used the course to recruit, organize and groom candidates; as long as they didn't say 'Vote for Jones', it wasn't partisan." Despite what Gingrich fans argue, this hardly proves his innocence. The IRS has chickened out before in political cases, notably letting the Church of Scientology completely off the hook in its investigation of that group.

    Corporate reward: $2,500/month to Newt's wife
    According to the Wall Street Journal, a company hired Marianne Gingrich (Newt's wife) for $2,500 a month plus commissions in September 1994 after he announced support for a free trade zone in Israel that they are trying to build. Her "job" for Israel Export Development Co. is to find tenants for the trade zone. Gingrich's spokesman said that since her job did not involve working with the US government, there was no conflict of interest.

    Who Owns Him?
    – Rupert Murdoch (see book deal above)
    – Georgia's Richards family, owners of Southwire Corporate ($1.3 billion/year)
    The Richards lent and donated money and office space to Gingrich from his earliest days in politics. They have given over $100,000, and Gingrich was the first recipient of donations from Southwire's PAC. By coincidence, Gingrich has changed from an environmentalist critic of Southwire to a staunch anti-environmentalist during that time. People with ties to Southwire were instrumental in two earlier lucrative book deals of Gingrich's in 1977 and 1984; the latter was investigated for ethical violations.

    December 11, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Get Real

      Blah blah blah blah....take a look at Clintom's extra material affairs while he was the Gov. of Arkansas, not to mention president. Uh boy.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      What is your point. Since Bill couldn't keep his dik in his pants, it is ok for Newt to be a sc-um bag? I don't follow.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Get Real

      Who's your man pal?? Who is dressed in white?? Who would you put in office?? Huh? Who sport??

      December 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Obama of course. How could anyone vote for anyone from that GOP freak show? Sport.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Get Real

      And he's doing such a wonderful job as president. NOT! I have one word for Obama Imbecile!!!

      December 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Get Real

      And I got news for you.....Obama is ONE And DONE!!

      December 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Alexandrine

      Are you obsessed with Newt?
      Look, I don't want this man to lead my country.
      I don't believed he's repented for one minute. If he truly repented, he would get his nose out of DC business, sale all he has and give it to the poor and not clam it on his taxes. And stay faithful to his present wife.
      But I feel the need to tell you that maybe you need to get that log out of your own eye before you start condemning Newt for all the specks in his eye.
      I'm guessing by your name, 'Ungodly Discipline', that you're not perfect either.
      Maybe you've done a thing or two that was on this nice list you provided for us.
      What's up with that anyway? If you're out to make Newt look bad, you're waisting your time. He's already done that. He's way ahead of you.

      December 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  17. mm

    If you are evangelical, you are idiotic.

    December 11, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  18. StateNotChurch

    Don't bring your religous baggage in to politics. How are you different from the Muslims then? It's great to assess the morality of his character, but just don't bring Jesus in the middle of this.

    December 11, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  19. Peri Browner

    The evangelicals will NEVER embrace the newt because he renounced his Southern Baptist faith and now worships the Pope. Don't you people know what drives the southern evangelicals? It's hatred of everyone who is not in lock step with their beliefs. They are the Christian Taliban.

    December 11, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  20. Sam

    Evangelical Christians practice serial polygamy at a rate equal to or higher than the rest of the nation. The 'traditional family values' business got blown out of the water by the Barna Research survey published in 2001. I suppose one could launch a discussion about what what 'tradition' is being discussed and what 'values', but clearly we would not be discussing values as they are written in the Bible and as actually practiced. It is a bogus issue. Whether or not one human being could actually make a statement about whether or not another has 'repented enough' is too arrogant to contemplate and has no Biblical support.

    December 11, 2011 at 11:56 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.