Yesterday Newt Gingrich admitted to having an affair while leading the Clinton impeachment. If this struck you as disingenuous, hypocritical, or unethical you're probably not a conservative Christian. Today Gingrich was invited by the Reverend Jerry Falwell to give the commencement address at Liberty University. Falwell, a large, toad-like creature, effectively laying waste to any whiff of Christian integrity, is the president of the Christian school, and a well-funded representative of Christians across the country.
The story of Gingrich's infidelity was revealed in an interview by James Dobson (who else?). Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, seems to have a penchant for spotlighting people with a penchant for destroying their families (see: Ted Haggard), living vicariously through their sexual exploits. I'll give Gingrich a little credit, at least he picked a woman, a former congressional aide, to cheat on his wife with. The silver lining? He dumped his wife and married that girl (wife number three if you're scoring at home). Maybe it's love.
Gingrich's affairs have been well-known for years, but his recent admission (what some would call "honesty") has led to a well-spring of support among powerful Christian leaders because, well, they don't give a shit anymore and most Christians can't tell the difference. Falwell had this to say about Gingrich: "He has admitted his moral shortcomings to me, as well, in private conversations. And he has also told me that he has, in recent years, come to grips with his personal failures and sought God's forgiveness."
I've had conversations with conservative Christians and I am seriously trying to figure this movement out. They say they are sick of traditional Christian values being under attack, they want kids to have the right to pray in school, and put the 10 Commandments up on the walls, and they don't want to have to explain why two men are holding hands walking down the street. In short: they want to live a sort of sheltered existence and so they seek their warm fuzzies in church where leaders have trouble keeping their hands off little kids, where unfaithfulness is not only common but embraced, and where duplicity is the first rule of law. It's...complex.
I get strange looks when I admit I used to think of the church as a sort of spiritual health-club--you get in-shape by attending and applying what you've learned as a functional exercise. But now I seriously wonder what is being learned. Christians say the church is a "hospital for sinners" but any hospital that rewards its patients with this kind of "care" would find its employees jailed for negligence. The success rate is abysmal, the love is Walter-Reed-like. They treat their patients with so much contempt it borders on spiritual euthanasia, but the real genius is to keep them sedated enough so they don't riot but conscious enough so they turn their money over each week.
They seek power by aligning themselves with a "form of religion" and find shelter in a party that promises to empower them and, in a nice catch-22, protect them at the same time. The symbiosis continues as the hallowed-out and discontent then turn their frustration outward and try to deny people rights based on an array of behaviors their own leaders commit right before their eyes. They are told they are defending marriage while reports flow in of yet another who views infidelity as a higher calling, while a housewife role-plays Donna Reed. Subjugated and lied to, their lives a living metaphor, once in a while one of their women snaps and takes a shotgun to the offending male.
I grew up saying the pledge in school and I learned to believe. Behold, I give to you the new American dream: the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of fruitless and riddled living, as long as you're a Bible believing Christian. The rest of you can only dream of such blatant debauchery. But have no fear, their profane lives have dutifully been spread around as wreckage betraying the rocky shoals of their shallow and dangerous belief, and giving to you a warning: abandon all hope, ye who enter here.