By Bryan Fischer
Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point”
There is one major takeaway from Dr. Richard Land’s open letter to Newt Gringrich, calling for him to address his troubled marital past, and it is this: Newt’s past is still an issue, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
And it’s an indication that Newt’s efforts to deal with this in 2007, particularly through his mea culpa on James Dobson’s radio program, didn’t solve his problem.
In fact, he had to address it at length again during his interview just last night with Sean Hannity. There is no question that the left will beat him about the head and shoulders with this during a general campaign against President Obama.
There is no reason to question the sincerity of Newt’s new-found faith in God, nor to question the sincerity of his repentance over the perfectly terrible sexual and marital decisions he has made in the past. I’ve heard from pastors who have personally heard Newt address his failings with humility, honesty and candor in recent weeks. So let’s accept the premise that God has forgiven Newt, just as he forgives all repentant sinners. The promise of God’s forgiveness through the work of Christ on the cross is the glory of the Christian message.
But the question remains: does Newt’s disastrous personal history disqualify him from the highest office in the land?
We first need to clear away some debris. The issue has nothing to do with whether social conservatives have forgiven Newt. The reason is that we have nothing to forgive. Newt did not sin against us. He sinned against his first two wives and their children, and matters of personal forgiveness are issues he must work out with them, not with us.
No, the issue here is not forgiveness but fitness for office.
Some social conservatives are quick to point to the fact that God allowed David to keep the throne after he had committed the twin sins of adultery and murder. This of course is true.
But we must not forget that David’s kingdom faced long-term consequences for his morally flawed choices. David was told, “The sword shall never depart from your house,” by which the Lord meant his dynasty and his kingdom. David’s actions released a spirit of violence into his land that had a lasting impact on its tranquility and stability.
The point here is that when God forgives, he does not exempt us from the consequences of our behavior. One of the long-term questions in Newt’s case is whether America can afford to have as its leader a man who has so dramatically failed to fulfill his sacred oath not just to one wife but to two.
Given the abysmal state of the American family, many - and I include myself in this number (I am speaking just for myself, not for my organization) - believe that it is imperative that our next president be a man (“man” used generically) who has modeled for the American people what marriage and family are supposed to be.
We are awash in the catastrophic consequences of broken marriages and families. The collapse of the nuclear family is in fact the greatest crisis facing America today, greater even than our economic crisis, and beginning the process of repairing the damage must start at the top. We need a president who is not only a leader but an example.
Every GOP candidate in the race with the lone exception of Newt and possibly Herman Cain satisfies this character requirement. (I have serious reservations about the credibility of Cain’s accusers, including the latest one.) It would be a truly ironic thing if, in the 2012 election campaign, the standard bearer for the pro-family movement were to run against an incumbent liberal who has a far, far better record than he on issues of personal morality and marital fidelity.
A candidate or president with such a troubled past would have little or no credibility in talking about the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity and importance of the intact family unit. “Who are you,” folks would say, “to be lecturing us about the importance of family?”
And there certainly would be fallout for the American family and the institution of marriage if such a flawed individual served as our nation’s leader.
Daniel Moynihan spoke eloquently of how we have for decades been defining deviancy down. A president with such an in-erasable record of infidelity would lower the bar even further right at the time the bar needs to be raised. With the standard of marital faithfulness already hanging in tatters, we have a desperate need for role models everywhere, especially in the Oval Office, who are showing America a better way.
Newt is a brilliant man, with much to offer nation and our next president. And perhaps that is the best role for him: to advise the man who sits in the Oval Office rather than to sit in it himself.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)