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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Newt’s Past Doesn’t Disqualify Him

One of the most beloved men in the history of humanity is the second king of Israel, King David. The “ruddy and handsome” young man, who was the legendary slayer of the Philistine giant Goliath, is a transcendent figure, significant not only within the religious realm, but the world over.

As America is embroiled in another presidential primary season, we would do well to keep the lessons of King David in mind.

When seeking out the successor to Israel’s first king, Saul, Samuel the prophet went to the home of Jesse. As Jesse’s seven older sons passed before Samuel, each was rejected. God then revealed that he had chosen Jesse’s youngest son, David, to lead His people.

David excelled at many things. He was an accomplished musician and authored many of the Psalms. He became a mighty military leader, defeating the likes of the Amalekites, Ammonites, Edomites, Moabites, Philistines, and Syrians. Furthermore, he was a prophet, with many of the Messianic prophecies attributed to him.

The New Testament lists David in the genealogy of Jesus. Jesus is often referred to as the “Son of David” and the “Root of David.” Throughout the New Testament, David is directly mentioned or alluded to as a “father” or “patriarch” of Israel. Truly, David was a blessed and revered man.

On the other hand, David also was an adulterer and a murderer. Early in his reign, while the army was away and David remained in Jerusalem, he slept with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, a soldier in Israel’s army. When she revealed that she was pregnant, David tried to hide his sin by calling Uriah back home in hopes that some time with his wife would conceal the fact that another man was the father of her child.

When Uriah nobly refused to allow himself the comforts of home while his comrades were away at war, David plotted with his generals to have Uriah killed in battle. His planned succeeded. Uriah was killed and David then took Bathsheba for his wife.

All of this, and yet God still called David “a man after My own heart.” Certainly David suffered dire consequences for his sin (including the death of the son Bathsheba bore), but God never abandoned him, and David repented and turned back to God. King David ruled Israel for over three decades.

Of course, this is not to say that we need to seek out adulterers and murderers as our leaders, but it is a fact that each of us has our shortcomings (“all have sinned”). How many of us would look “electable” if all of our baggage were laid out for all to see?

Newt Gingrich is a man with much baggage. A presidential candidate on his third marriage should give any voter great pause. It is quite noteworthy that, if not for his marital shortcomings, Gingrich would probably be the clear GOP frontrunner. (His critics point to other issues in his personal and political past, but by far the largest millstone around Newt’s neck is the failure of his marriages.) This speaks volumes to the consequences of divorce. I think it also speaks well of many within the republican electorate that such matters are still considered significant when going to the ballot box.

However, Gingrich’s adulteries alone should not disqualify him from being the GOP nominee. I don’t say this lightly. I despise the plague of divorce that has ravaged our nation for decades. As a teacher of teenagers for nearly 20 years, I know all too well the sad consequences that divorce brings.

When a politician’s past indiscretions (sin) are of such nature that it brings into question whether he is fit to lead, there are several things to consider—at least for a Christian voter. The first question to ask: is he currently walking in faith? The second question goes hand-in-hand with the first: is he repentant?

Now, as C.S. Lewis notes, “repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into…it means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death.”

I’m not sure if Mr. Gingrich has gotten to this point, but if he has, he needs to make it clear to us. Many evangelical voters took great comfort when, in the last presidential race, John McCain told Pastor Rick Warren that he took responsibility for the failure of his first marriage and that it was the greatest regret of his life.

Newt is certainly no King David, and this column is not an endorsement of him. In fact, I have issues with him that go beyond his marital past. However, each of the GOP candidates has his “issues.” Nevertheless, ANY of them is a VAST improvement over Obama, and I will eagerly cast my vote for whoever is the GOP nominee.

Copyright 2012, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

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