According to exit polls in South Carolina, more than half of the people who voted in the Republican primary describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians. Most of those voters said that it is very important to them that a candidate share their beliefs. Most of them voted for Newt Gingrich.
These polling data are strange. To begin with, the only Protestant still running for the Republican nomination is Ron Paul, who is a Southern Baptist. Gingrich is a recent convert to Roman Catholicism. Santorum is also a Catholic. Romney is a Mormon. So, if South Carolina voters who describe themselves as born-again or evangelical want a candidate who shares their beliefs, Ron Paul would have been the better choice. A few of them, apparently, made that choice, but most did not.
Of course, the more glaring problem is Gingrich’s personal life. I won’t rehash it, as it is well known by now. I do not understand how evangelicals in the Republican Party can overlook Gingrich’s indiscretions. The reason that I do not understand it is that evangelicals, as a general group, were out for blood when Clinton’s affair with an intern came to light. They wanted him impeached and found guilty and ousted.
Here’s the thing. Everyone who was willing to overlook Clinton’s bad behavior has no business maligning Gingrich. Likewise, everyone who wanted Clinton’s head on a platter has no business excusing Gringrich’s behavior and supporting him in the nomination process. It is called hypocrisy and a lack of integrity.
I am speaking in generalities, which has its drawbacks. Obviously each individual is responsible for his own actions. I myself was against Clinton for his disgraceful conduct; therefore, I am against Gingrich. My moral sensibilities do not change just because a candidate has a different party’s initial after his name. In fact, a case could be made that Clinton is an overall morally superior person to Gingrich, since he has stayed married to his first wife and apparently–one can hope–has learned to be faithful to her.
It is probably unfair for nonchristians to judge Christians as a group; it is always unfair to judge individuals for the behavior of a group. However, unbelievers will judge Christians, and the judgment will not be favorable. As a group, the so-called Christian right acts hypocritically, excusing the sins of Republicans and hammering on the sins of Democrats. (Of course, the same thing happens in the converse, but let’s not go there.)
Here’s the bigger problem. Nominee Gingrich will carry a lot of baggage. Faithful family man, Barack Obama, will be his opponent. Not only will Gingrich’s moral failings come into play, but so will the ethics charges that were brought against him in the House of Representatives. He might be well qualified to be President, and I believe he is, but his dirty laundry will be a huge liability.
It makes no difference to me who the Republicans nominate. However, if they are smart and–more so–if they want to live up to their stated principles, Republicans who are evangelical will not help to nominate Gingrich, and they will not vote for him if he does get the nomination.