The Common Good

Tony Campolo: Newt's Surprising Evangelical Fan Base

The need for Red Letter Christians to no longer be labeled "evangelicals" became abundantly clear this past Saturday following the South Carolina Republican Primary. Most Evangelicals claim to be politically non-partisan, and say they only identify with the Republican Party because the Republicans are committed to "family values."

The truthfulness of that claim became questionable this past Saturday when South Carolina Evangelicals voted in surprisingly large numbers for Newt Gingrich, in spite of the fact that he's hardly a model husband in their eyes. Not only is he on his third wife, having had divorce papers served to one of them while she was lying in a hospital bed recovering from a mastectomy for breast cancer, but, if his second wife is to believed, wanted an "open marriage" so that he could have a sexual affair on the side.

Now Mr. Gingrich has been converted to Catholicism, and has, as part of his conversion, confessed his sin and asked for God's forgiveness. Evangelicals will say that this being the case we should forgive, forget and move on "to other concerns." I have to ask, however, why they didn't do this when a Democratic president repented of his sin?

Are we to assume that there are two different standards for "forgiving, forgetting and moving on," or could it be that evangelicals are willing to forgive and forget because they have found in Newt Gingrich a very bright and articulate debater who might defeat President Obama in the upcoming presidential debates?

If the latter is true are they then ready to admit that their desire to elect a Republican president trumps the "family" values that they deem so very important.

I, for one, am quite willing to join the "forgive, forget and move on" crowd, but it does make me wonder if Evangelicals are going to sound believable when they say that they tend to vote Republican because of their religious commitments to the family.

Red Letter Christians believe in the doctrines of the Apostle's Creed, are convinced that the Scriptures have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, and make having a personal transforming relationship with the resurrected Christ the touchtone of their faith. But we want to be more non-partisan politically than appears to be the case for so many of our South Carolinian Evangelical brothers and sisters.

Tony Campolo is founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE) and professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University. Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyCampolo. This post originally appeared via Red Letter Christians.

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