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. Richard Braswell

    I have the aforementioned 'Repentometer'. I bought it mail order from "Knees Are For Groveling" web site last year and it has been darned handy. Not only does it measure my spiritual intent, but the handy dandy detachable mini-wand can be used to scan other people. Yes, once I have attained the preselected calibrated numerically identified level of re-goodness, I can use the wand to Identify other like good folks. A slight adjustment allows the wand to be used for obedience sessions for the wife or dog. It is a marvel...and great to be good.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • El Flaco

      I hear that the new Deluxe Repentometer (which will be on the market next year) also doubles as a cattle-prod which can be used in Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

      PS – clever post

      December 11, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  2. truthsayer

    not to worry these so call men of the cloth will line up behind anyone( yes anyone) for a taste of power and /or a few dollars! think this statement is bold? watch it happen! Just look at these men of the cloths comments: and less than 30 days from the Iowa caucuses the timing couldn’t be better.”As for the man Newt is, jesus forgave the lady at the well for being married 5x. She was drawing her own water men like Newt would rather have someone else do it for him! He's impeached a man for cheating on his wife, while he was cheating on his wife!(what marvelious character!) This isn't the first time nor will it be the last time that a man used religion to aquire the power and money he wants above all else! Look at his words closely!Gingrich told listeners he’d since turned "to God to receive forgiveness and to receive mercy."( TO RECEIVE MONEY??)Gingrich further strengthened ties to grassroots evangelicals in 2009, launching a group aimed at bringing together religious and economic conservatives. We know who you are Newt, you've been telling us, I for one am listening!!

    December 11, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  3. Armand

    "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful." Seneca (4BC-65AD)

    December 11, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • El Flaco

      No fair, Armand. You read BOOKS!

      How are the rest of us supposed to compete with that?

      December 11, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • truthsayer

      excactly! Newt is a student of history(PHD) he knows how relegion and it's religious leaders have been used thru out history for the ruling elites gain! He's simple using the historical record to his advantage! What works once will work again and again! He must feel so smug, he doesn't have to fool everyone, just himself!

      December 11, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  4. Kitty2

    Can a leopard change his/her spots? No Has Gingrich "repent" over his past behavior? No. He is just telling people what they want or think they want to hear. For Gingrich today, it is merely a matter of repackaging and rebranding his tarnished, highly flawed character. One wonders how much money he will make whether he wins or loses the nomination after the election is over with. After all that appears to be the only game Gingrich knows–what's in it for him.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  5. Mack

    The fact that we even have to discuss whether he religiously "repented enough", as if this is somehow relevant to a Presidential run, is really unfortunate. There will surely be a day when we don't have to engage in this nonsense.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  6. ReligionIs4Dolts

    Wow Republicans are really hurting if they're putting up the Grinch and Magic Underwear Boy as their forerunners. Why don't they just NOT run anybody against Obama?

    December 11, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  7. john

    Newt will do whatever it takes to get elected. He's using religion as a way to do that- cannot any of you see that?

    December 11, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  8. bookgirl

    This exemplifies why republicans should not hold office. It's all about forcing their religion down our throats. The funny thing is, these conservative "christians" are the least compassionate people you will ever find. Not to mention they claim to be about smaller government but see no problem with getting involved in the most personal aspect of a person's life. Ridiculous people.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  9. YaWimp

    As an evangelical Christian, I say, vote only for Christians. Obama is a muslum. Romney is a mormon cult leader. God will strike down RINOs along with atheists. Come on fellew Republicans, let's unite! We can beat the lefty communists!

    December 11, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Eat the Poor

      I really hope that this post is satirical. If it is, it is hilarious. If not, frightening!

      December 11, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • El Flaco

      With posts like this one, I always wonder, "Is this a Liberal who is cleverly mocking the stupidity of Conservaties, or is this a Conservative who actually believes what he wrote?"

      December 11, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Anne Maxson

      please please tell us all you were joking right? A . Obama is not a Muslim. get a clue and if he was so WHAT? WHY ARE WE SUPPOSEDLY ALL CATHOLICS IN THE USA? OH AND RICH AND NON OF US ARE POOR, THERE ARE NO JEWISH POOR PEOPLE HERE. OR BUDDISTS OR HARD WORKING MUSLIMS/ ? gee Toto i dont think we are in Kansas anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      December 11, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Johnny wazhere

      NOPE, this guy is real. 100% real...The scary part is, the like of him already demonstrated that they can bring us people like GW. So, wise up America and go to vote. Do not let these deranged people take over again. We are still trying to clean up their mess (Wall-St etc...)...

      December 11, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Nobody

      LOL – Good post.
      (I assume you're NOT being serious....)

      December 11, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • signalfire

      Please, before you decide to comment on matters of concern to the society as a whole, learn to spell better than a third grader.

      December 11, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  10. Greg

    ral44 took great pains to go through a litany of democrats and their extra-marital affairs but surprisingly skipped over the same actions by republicans. Who can forget Warren Harding? Who doesn't know about Thomas Jefferson and his slave? Who isn't aware of Ronald Reagan's affairs with our beloved Nancy while he was married to Jane Wyman? Let's be fair, politicians ae different people on the job and dogs in real life. Is Gingrich any different? Yes, by a long shot. No one mentioned in the article that he informed his first wife of a divorce request while she was recovering from cancer surgery. Is he presidential material? When compared to so many other presidents, he fits in quite nicely and may also become known as a "good guy" once he's in office.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • signalfire

      "may also"? I think the job is a bit too important to leave to a mere possibility.

      December 11, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  11. Reality

    John 8:7

    When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

    Said passage, as per many contemporary NT scholars, was not said by the historical Jesus. One reason for this conclusion is that it appears no where else in the scriptures.

    Actually all of John's Gospel is of questionable historic value.

    To wit:

    From Professor Bruce Chilton in his book, Rabbi Jesus,

    "Conventionally, scholarship has accorded priority to the first three gospels in historical work on Jesus, putting progressively less credence in works of late date. John's Gospel for example is routinely dismissed as a source......

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_John#Authorship

    "Since "the higher criticism" of the 19th century, some historians have largely rejected the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus.[3][4] "[M]ost commentators regard the work as anonymous,"[5] and date it to 90-100."

    "The authorship has been disputed since at least the second century, with mainstream Christianity believing that the author is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Modern experts usually consider the author to be an unknown non-eyewitness, though many apologetic Christian scholars still hold to the conservative Johannine view that ascribes authorship to John the Apostle."

    And from Professor Gerd Ludemann, in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416,

    "Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. "

    See also http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/1john.html

    December 11, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  12. Eric

    Evangelicals: What a bunch of hypocritical idiots. Has he repented enough?!?!? Give me a break! Newt's been married multiple times, committed adultery, but they're willing to give him a pass on values they hold most dear if he repents enough?!?! What a frikkin' joke!!!

    December 11, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • MC

      That's a joke? forgiveness is one of the most important values a Christian must have. It's also the most difficult value to maintain. But if the man is earnestly sorry for his sins, he will be forgiven, by God at least. It signifies that he isn't what he used to be anymore; why should he be punished for what he WAS? Its what he IS that matters

      December 11, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • El Flaco

      Evangelica Christians are the most hateful and unforgiving people in our society.

      December 11, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  13. sharkfisher

    Liberals didn't think Yellowbelly Bill Clintons adultry in the White House was a big deal.He lied under oath about it an thought that the nation was stupid enough to accept his excuse for lying.Now they question the moral charecter of Newt?John Kennedy carried on many affairs while president.But oh yes he was a liberal democrat so that excuses his lack of marals.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • Mack

      If you were to be intellectually honest, I think you'd have to admit that cheating on your wife a few times with an intern is less of a problem that cheating on multiple wives and ending up divorced multiple times. If, just if, there was a chart that could show which of these unfortunate situations was "worse", Newt's would be worse. Further, Clinton was already in office so there was no "should I vote for this guy" dilemma. Newt is running now, so if you're still appalled by Clinton's actions now 15 years later, then certainly you'll refuse out of principle to pull the lever for Newt since you luckily have the opportunity to prevent him from going to office over his transgressions, right?

      December 11, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • explainynot

      It's great to see Republicans (evangelicals) now bringing up Clinton. The arguement is since immoral liberals supported Clinton they are just hypocrites now since they are criticizing Newt. So the logic follows that evangelicals now want to support Newt and its only fair that they should be able to be just as immoral as they liberals. It's sad to see that through hate that the evangelicals are happy to support someone with the moral equivalence of Bill Clinton. And the evangelical support for Newt and his potential nomination may just be underlining the fact that we are not as much of a Christian nation as we think.

      December 11, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  14. Stayin' Alive

    Newt is a troglodyte masquerading as pseudo-intellectual. Willard is a Mormon. The Republicans truly ARE anti-choice, aren't they?

    December 11, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  15. Just a thougt...

    I have not decided who I think the "best" candidate is yet, but if Newt already acknowledge the affair publicly to James Dobson in 2008 than that is enough. The rest is his personal issue to deal with. It is amazing how when "we" mess up, we want to sweep it under the rug" ASAP, but a public figure has to have it thrown in their face for years. We confess, God forgives, move on. Let his actions tell you his sincerety, as the old saying "actions speak louder than words", really is true.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  16. Rich in NJ

    The issue isn't whether he has repented "enough" but whether he has actually repented AT ALL. I don't see a different Newt. A hallmark of repentance is compassion. Truly acknowledging your own failings makes you compassionate toward the failings of others. I don't see that in him at all.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  17. clarinet

    Newt will be the first President in over a century with a solid knowledge of history making his personal repentence irrelevant.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  18. Robert - Atlanta

    Newt has lied about everything in the past, this no different. He changed his religion to be more popular on a national basis. Gingrich will do anything, say anything and just repeat the same old GOP talking points recycled for the past 30 years. He looks good when the target audience is a bunch of T-Baggers; the new GOP with a 15-second attention span. No facts needed. No laws. No economic realities – The only that matters is what they know for a fact and what they believe regardless if it’s true or not!

    December 11, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  19. El Flaco

    The Evangelical leadership is completely corrupt. Their goal is worldly power. They want to re-Christianize American society. They want to use Biblical concepts embedded in our laws. They want our foreign policy to be shaped by the Book of Revelation so that America can hasten the advent of the "End Times." They want to regulate skirt length and divorce laws. They want to control what can go into and what can come out of a woman's body. They want to censor movies, drama, music, and literature.

    Their lust for worldly power is so overwhelming that they are willing to bargain with Satan Himself to achieve their goals.

    What they cannot seem to realize is that the other Republican groups (economic Conservatives, Libertarians, Segregationists, and global corporate leadership) have no intention of giving Evangelical Christians that kind of power. They need their votes, but they have contempt for the Evangelical political agenda.

    December 11, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  20. Not Another GOP Clown!!

    Joe Republican (and Newt fan) –

    Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and fresh because some tree-hugging liberal fought for water-quality standards.

    With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.

    All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance – now Joe gets it too.

    He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girlie-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

    In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

    Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

    He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

    Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays the same standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.

    If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

    It is noon and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FDIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

    Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

    Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards.

    He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by the Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electricity until some big- government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

    He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father has Medicare, lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine- drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

    Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

    December 11, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • El Flaco

      A thoughtful and provocative post, Not A Clown. Conservatives will not believe it. Conservatives think that all those things that Liberalism created during the administrations of FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Obama (Obamacare) just happened spontaneously.

      Conservatives remind me of a story I heard on National Public Radio (the jewel of the airwaves). A scholar had interviewed a number of radical Muslim leaders. He asked them questions like, "After you overthrow the corrupt secular governments of Muslim nations, what plans do you have for education, water purification, highway construction, economic growth, infrastructure, and provision of medical care?"

      The scholar said that the radical leaders were all puzzled by the question. Their answers were typically, "We don't have to think about that. All we have to do is make sure every person in the country is a devout and obedient Muslim, then Allah will make sure we have roads, medical care, and all that other stuff."

      Evangelicals think the same way. From their perspective, if all Americans went to church (Evangelical Protestant) every Sunday, then God would make sure we are prosperous.

      December 11, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • Johnnnn

      NEWT FAN? (with tongue in cheek?...haha!) Imagine Joe's world under the GOP: He gets up and eats tainted bacon cause it wasn't inspected. He pukes violently and calls 911 to find that service has been discontinued. He gets in the car and drives to the emergency room but they won't see him because he has no insurance because this company's CEO bought a new yacht and an island in the South Pacific instead of paying his workers a fair wage with benefits (which is no longer required because the Dept. of Labor is gone and unions are illegal.) Etc......

      December 11, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Otter

      That is one of the best posts I have ever seen in my life! You win 10,000 internets!!!!!

      December 11, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Robert - Atlanta

      Not to be picky – but you whole rant was copied and pasted from another web site – still valid, but stolen. Next time rewrite it a little bit with a few of your own words.

      December 11, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
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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.