Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn once denied that Newt Gingrich was a conservative. Instead, said Cockburn, Gingrich is “a Benthamite liberal with his head stuffed full of futurist nonsense.” Others have dissected Gingrich’s political philosophy—which ranges from glib to insane—in equally unflattering terms. One thing that no one seems to have called him, though, is a fundamentalist Christian.
Better known for his venomous attacks and his personal sins than his church-going, Newt Gringrich would hardly seem the man to give the commencement address at Liberty University, soon after the timely death of its founder and spokesman, Reverend Jerry Falwell. But there he was, white-haired and black robed, inveighing mightily against the evil abroad in the country today.
Gingrich was particularly incensed by "a growing culture of radical secularism in the nation." Is this the same growing culture that Falwell, and other similar bigots, denounced in the 1970s? If it’s been growing since then, it ought to be huge by now—as well as very, very radical. So, what has this entrenched cabal of wickedness been up to?
“We are told that our public schools cannot invoke the Creator, nor proclaim the natural law, nor profess the God-given equality of human rights,” said Gingrich. “In hostility to American history, the radical secularist insists that religious belief is inherently divisive and that public debate can only proceed on secular terms when religious belief is excluded.”
It sounds as though Gingrich just discovered that there’s another side to the church-state debate—the same debate that’s been around since Henry VIII. And if the secularists are in their ascendancy, why has every Democratic candidate sought to detail his or her relationship with the Almighty? Why do the number of professed atheists in Congress number in the single digits? Why are megachurches growing in number and size, equaled only by the Wal-Marts they seem to resemble? Why have the armed forces turned into vehicles for near-compulsory evangelism?
Because, as Gingrich well knows, there are few places in the United States where religion is contested. When someone points out that science and religion are separate systems with separate premises and goals, he or she is called a radical secularist. If someone protests that religion is a personal matter and that a candidate’s political philosophy and past actions are what’s important, not their religion or lack of same, they, too are sure to be assailed.
Gingrich isn’t really as smart as he made himself out to be, but he is broadly knowledgeable. He knows that religion in the United States is about as endangered as are professional sports. But he bravely stands up at a glorified Bible school and attacks people who would never vote for him anyway.
But that’s because Newt Gingrich is an opportunist who, no matter how many times he gets proven wrong, or caught cheating on his spouses, still wants badly to be given a title and some power. But he once had a title and was second-in-line in presidential succession, but he resigned the House speaker’s position and left his seat in Congress.
And they wonder why we’re concerned about the separation of church and state.
| Wednesday, May 23, 2007 11:27 AM