By Rob Boston
I’ve been reporting on Religious Right meetings for more than two decades now and have had to sit through some pretty nasty stuff. I recall a meeting of the Family Research Council’s “Values Voter Summit” a few years ago where a staff member with the American Family Association explained how Adolf Hitler invented the separation of church and state.
As bad as that was, it wasn’t as annoying as listening to Newt Gingrich. Gingrich is a fixture at these meetings. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard him speak. It’s awful, every time.
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Gingrich is the perfect storm of ignorance and arrogance. As journalist Bill Berkowitz said recently, Gingrich is always sure he’s the smartest guy in the room. Unfortunately, everything Gingrich believes about pretty much any topic must first bow to his rigid, right-wing ideology. Unlike a real scholar who seeks looks at the evidence in an effort to find the truth, Gingrich begins with an answer and twists the “facts” to back that up.
A few years ago, Gingrich got on a religion kick. The country, he decided, is too secular. Backed by his wife Calista – the congressional aide he was having an affair with during the Clinton impeachment fiasco – Gingrich has decided to save the country from the godless hordes. (She’s wife number three, by the way.)
As The New York Times reported recently, Gingrich converted to Catholicism two years ago and is now traipsing around the country explaining to the rest of us why we all need to be more religious, in a right-wing way, of course. (I don’t think Newt wants you to join up with the Unitarians.) A few years ago he cranked out a slim volume titled Rediscovering God in America and has also produced a DVD lauding the life of Pope John Paul II.
This Monday, Gingrich will appear alongside that other paragon of virtue, Abramoff-scandal-poster-boy Ralph Reed, at an event in Iowa sponsored by Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition. Those two deserve one another!
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I am not in the habit of passing judgment of the religious beliefs of others. Over the years, I’ve had many people ask me if I believe someone like, say, TV preacher Pat Robertson, is sincere in his beliefs. I always reply that, lacking any evidence to the contrary, I have to assume that he is. Robertson’s theological beliefs obviously aren’t in synch with my own, but I have no reason to think he doesn’t genuinely hold them.
With Gingrich, I’m going to make an exception. Gingrich is about two things: power and ideology. He seeks the former to implement the latter. If the road to power must be paved with God talk and kissing up to the Religious Right, then so be it. Gingrich will take that road. He plays the Religious Right like a fiddle. Religious Right leaders are either too dim to know they are being had or have simply accepted the fact that their hatred of President Barack Obama knows no bounds, and it’s worth sidling up to anyone who will promise them deliverance – even if half of them suspect the man is a phony.
I’m no biblical scholar, but even I know the passage from Matthew: “You will know them by their fruits.” Gingrich’s fruits are rotten. They are rife with lies, demagoguery and a blinding drive for power at any cost. His actions have exposed him as the hypocrite he is.
How else can you explain the absolute gall of a thrice-married serial adulterer blasting same-sex couples as he expounds on the importance of “traditional marriage”?
How else can you explain someone who dares to lecture us on ethics while his own background has more spots than a gathering of leopards?
How else can you explain a person who claims to be walking in the footsteps of Jesus while his entire career has been built on character assassination and slash-and-burn politics?
Save us the morals lecture, Newt. No one but the most brain-dead Religious Right partisans are looking to you as a serious source of theological wisdom. You don’t have the authority. Do us all a favor and slither back under the rock you came out from.