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Newt Gingrich to restore faith in presidency with faith in God
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 7th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
As voters scrutinize Newt Gingrich they are examining the faith of a man who has like many others, had his ups and downs. A convert to Catholicism, Gingrich's views have wide appeal to Catholics, and as he articulates his beliefs, many are taking a new found interest in him.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Religion is playing an increasingly important role in political elections, and the public is scrutinizing the religious beliefs of candidates. This year's Republican crop is diverse with Mormons, evangelical protestants, and Catholics running against one another.
While some members of each religious group have a tendency to vote for their own, the political realities of the primary race are starting to influence voters away from candidates they previously preferred.
Perry, a strong evangelical protestant, initially enjoyed enormous support from his brethren, but that support waned as many began to realize that he might not have what it takes to defeat Obama. Cain, a part-time Baptist minister, also had support from other Baptists, but that too has declined since allegations of impropriety and misconduct have caused him to suspend his campaign.
Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and despite that religion's generally positive public and moral image, some classical, trinitarian Christians have difficulty with the Mormon Church's claim to being a Christian religion. Perhaps because of that, they are having difficulty reconciling themselves to the notion of a Mormon president.
For orthodox or classical Christians, those who adhere to the ancient Creeds of the Christian Church, it is a matter of religious integrity. They admire the moral integrity of Mormons and stand with them on many "social" issues. However, they wish that the LDS Church would be more honest about their theological beliefs.
Although Mormons publicly proclaim their Christianity (they even refer to their church as The Church of Jesus Christ), they are widely felt to be outside the orthodox view of the Christian faith. While Mormons seek to make this a debatable subject, it's perception is what matters most, and some within America's Christian community may not be ready for a Mormon president. For others, it does not matter at all. For example, Catholics and Mormons have worked together on many important social issues, including the defense of marriage and the defense of unborn human life.
As voters begin to scrutinize Newt Gingrich, many are pleasantly surprised. On the political side of the equation, Gingrich appears to have everything it takes to beat Obama. He's intelligent, experienced, and a gifted speaker. He has a dash of charisma. Maybe not as much as Obama claims to have, but certainly enough to stand more than a fighting chance. Since his political credentials are beyond question, voters are now examining his faith.
Gingrich was born into a Lutheran family, but began to self identify as simply a Protestant during his years in college. His conversion to Catholicism is relatively recent, and came (formally) after a 2008 visit to hear Pope Benedict XVI. Gingrich concisely summed up his decision to become Catholic with this statement, "people ask me when I decided to become Catholic. It would be more accurate to say that I gradually became Catholic and then realize that I should accept the faith that surrounded me."
If anything, Gingrich's statement about his conversion appears quite intellectually authentic. It is clear that he settled into Catholicism naturally after examining his conscience. While there are those who may disagree with the teachings of the Catholic church on some matters of faith, every Christian clearly understands the importance of contemplating one's beliefs and settling into a faith community as guided by the Lord.
For evangelical protestants, this is often what they mean by "born again." Although Gingrich is not an evangelical protestant, he is clearly born again in the Catholic Christian faith. His political and personal past bear witness to this reality. Gingrich has married three times. He has publicly admitted to engaging in an affair out of wedlock, an affair which resulted in his most recent marriage.
While Christians do not condone the breaking of one's marriage vows, they do understand forgiveness. Gingrich has made clear that he wishes to distance himself from the sins of his past, he has expressed regret and remorse and he believes that God has forgiven him.
Most Christians accept this. And if God has forgiven Gingrich, then clearly it is appropriate for all Christians to do the same.
While Gingrich appears to be clearing the hurdle of religious scrutiny, it remains to be seen how his faith will guide his political decision-making while in office. The fact is, nobody will know until Gingrich is actually president. However, Gingrich himself has made several statements assuring Christians that he intends to lead as a Christian with faith guiding his decisions.
In a recent interview, he stated that "you cannot explain this country if you erase God from the picture." In another interview, he blamed many of our problems on the systematic removal of God from our national heritage. "A country that has been now since 1963 relentlessly in the courts driving God out of public life shouldn't be surprised at all the problems we have."
Through these statements, Gingrich is making a very important statement of faith (and fact). He is explaining to all that America is first and foremost a Christian nation founded on belief in God and the principles of the Christian faith. Furthermore, he is pointing out that as the nation removes God from His central role in guiding the decisions of our leaders, the nation is clearly bound to suffer yet further ills.
For Catholics, Newt Gingrich is like a breath of fresh air. Indeed, Roman Catholics have not been represented in the presidency since the days of John F. Kennedy. For other Christians, Gingrich may not precisely share all of their beliefs, but he clearly shares the core beliefs of all Christians. And he has made clear that he intends to seek the guidance of God during his term in office.
Newt Gingrich believes that he can restore faith in the presidency by bringing faith to the oval office. It appears that a growing multitude of Christians are prepared to agree.
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