Newt Gingrich - Possible 2012 Candidate:
Newt Gingrich is one of the top contenders, as of December 2011, for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2012 election. As former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Gingrich is no stranger to the political arena. When it comes to matters of policy, both domestic and international, Gingrich is fairly astute. However, his personal life – including the fact that he has changed religious paths a number of times – could jeopardize his chances as a GOP candidate. Let’s look at how Newt Gingrich’s religious beliefs could impact and influence his political decisions.
Gingrich's Changing Faith:
Newt Gingrich was raised by a Lutheran family, although he does not appear to have been actively religious during his youth, and he was not a regular churchgoer. Interestingly, it wasn’t until he became a history major at Tulane University that he began exploring religion – and that was originally from an academic standpoint, when he wondered about the impact that organized religion had on political theory. At that point, he became a member of the St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, which was where he was eventually baptized.
In an interesting twist, some forty years later, Gingrich converted to the Roman Catholic faith. He has been quoted as saying, “"People ask me when I decided to become Catholic. It would be more accurate to say that I gradually became Catholic and then realized that I should accept the faith that surrounded me."
Gingrich on Religious Liberty:
Although a significant part of Gingrich’s campaign platform revolves around his endorsement of “religious liberty,” he states on his website that “The revolutionary idea contained in the Declaration of Independence is that certain fundamental human rights, including the right to life, are gifts from God and cannot be given nor taken away by government. Yet, secular radicals are trying to remove “our Creator” – the source of our rights - from public life.” In other words, Gingrich believes that religious liberty is something given to us by God – an interesting paradox, indeed.
Public Statements on Faith and Religion:
In 2011, he publicly stated that he was worried America was becoming a “secular, atheist nation,” and went on to express his fear of “radical Islamists.” While Gingrich claims to be worried about radicals of other religions (or of no religion at all), he is fairly supportive of radical Christians like Pastor John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina came along because New Orleans had a gay pride parade the week before, and advocates using the Bible as basis for foreign policy, particularly when it comes to wars.
At an event in Virginia in 2009, Gingrich said, "I think this is one of the most critical moments in American history. We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism."
Despite Gingrich’s politically and socially conservative stances on just about everything, there are some members of the Republican party who can’t quite bring themselves to support him – and that’s because of issues in Gingrich’s personal life which conflict with many of the values the religious right would like to endorse. Newt Gingrich has been married and divorced a couple of times – and his current wife, Callista, has acknowledged that they had a six-year affair before finally tying the knot. This is often a point of debate with other candidates, and Gingrich has freely admitted he’s made some mistakes in his personal life. The fact that he has changed religion more than once, and is now a Roman Catholic, also doesn’t seem to sit well with his evangelical Republican peers.
For more on Newt Gingrich and religion, be sure to read:Gingrich Says Secular Government is a Nightmare
Be sure to read our religious profiles of other key political players: