Gingrich: You Cannot Trust Politicians Who Do Not Pray

Recently, I wrote a column in the Washington Post about the increasing use of faith as an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. In the Western Republican Presidential Debate, the candidates appeared to double down on the use of politicized piety. Rick Santorum reaffirmed that a candidate’s faith was essential to his qualifications. Newt Gingrich, however, used the opportunity to again attack agnostics, atheists, and secularists – saying that you cannot trust any leader who does not pray.

Gingrich demonstrated vividly how leaders in this country and other countries have portrayed secularists and atheists as the new scourge and threat to world stability. Gingrich has just defended Romney and said that we should not attack people for how they pray or who they pray to. He then quickly took that uplifting message and turned it around to attack those who do not pray – or use religion to guide their policies. It was the perfect “don’t attack Mormons . . . attack secularists” moment.

In the debate (look around the 72 minute marker), Gingrich said religion was a “central part” of a candidate’s qualifications and then asked “how can you have judgment if you don’t have faith and how can I trust you with power if you don’t pray?”

The audience responded with rapturous applause to the attack.

In a speech in March, he promised to protect America from atheists, secularists and, incongruously, Muslims: “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, [my grandchildren] will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

Of course, terrorists pray. They just pray for the wrong thing and then kill people. Nevertheless, people like Tony Blair think that atheists may be a bigger threat than terrorists to the future of the world. Religious and political leaders around the world also opened up attacks on secularists as a growing evil.

It has become not just politically correct but politically popular to hate secularists, atheists, and agnostics. It reflects a deep insecurity among political leaders that faith-based politics could be challenged if people begin to evaluate their candidates solely on their performance and their credentials. For Gingrich, this means a type of prayer test — proof that you pray to God and will be guided by religious values in carrying out public duties. “Non-believers” have become the Willie Hortons of the 2012 presidential campaign and the implications of this new theme among the candidates is a dangerous form of demagoguery in a country dedicated to separation principles.

47 thoughts on “Gingrich: You Cannot Trust Politicians Who Do Not Pray”

  1. The only mention of religion in ANY context in the Constitution of the United States of America is in Article VI, which says,

    “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    Everywhere the Constitution refers to swearing an ‘oath,’ it also allows for an ‘affirmation,’ since many see swearing an oath in a religious context and making an affirmation as having no religious context.

    Anybody who runs for President must recite the following:

    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    My legal concern is that, merely acknowledging holding an opinion about the necessity, or even desirability, of any religious belief or practice as a qualification for becoming President is, ipso facto, an acknowledgment that the person is incapable of living up to the oath of office, and will be, by definition, subject to impeachment the moment he or she swears (or affirms) the oath.

    It seems that everybody supports the Constitution, but darn few have actually bothered to read and comprehend it. It’s as if the Constitution doesn’t mean what it says, but what they would like it to say.

  2. To matingugino:

    What contempt? Suggesting that for purposes of apologetics one would do better using a modern translation of the Bible that more accurately reflects the meaning of the original writings? — while at the same time noting that KJV has its own uses as devotional material?

    Perhaps chiding someone who dogmatically refuses to accept that the word translated as “kill” in the 10 commandments and in Luke 18:20 actually means “murder” as evidenced by the modern translations? Guilty, and gladly so.

    Still, I am ready to be corrected.

    The whole KJV translation was an attempt to stem the Protestant tide – it wasn’t about getting the Bible into the hands of the people. The King instructed the translators to ignore Puritan influences and bolster the ecclesiology of the English Church, which is why he also ordered that the Authorized version was to be based on the Bishops Bible (which Protestants found objectionable). In actuality almost every English translation had an impact, especially Tyndale’s. Tyndale published his NT in 1525; his friend John Rogers (under the name Thomas Matthew) published the entire Bible translation in 1537, the year after Tyndale was burned at the stake.

    About 3/4 of the Authorized version of the OT and 90% of NT is similar to the then latest version (#4) of Tyndale’s Bible. The Tyndale Bible was the first English Bible to be based wholly on Greek and Hebrew sources. So I guess now my question to BVM is whether all biblical scholarship since 1611 is nothing but a liberal effort to discredit the 1525 Tyndale NT and the 1537 Tyndale Bible?

    The nascent stage of biblical research in 1604-1611 and the King’s purposes may help to explain why the text of the KJV Bible in the hands of BVM is not the same as when 1st printed in 1611. Over 100,000 changes have been made to the text since — most of which do not affect the substance of the text, but some do.

    “Kill” v. “murder” is one of the substantive changes.

  3. Oro Lee, to help with the level of contempt in your answer, you might have noted that the KJV was based on the Geneva bible, based on Tyndale’s translations, making it in reality even older, by and large.

  4. Atheists are one of the very few groups left about whom you can say almost anything without repercussions.

    Insert virtually any group into Gingrich’s statement. Had he said that you can’t trust politicians who (are gay, are any religion other than his, are Democrats, are liberals, are women, etc.), it would have been a huge deal. It hasn’t created a blip in the national news.

    It’s this sort of thing that makes me laugh when I hear about Christians being persecuted in this country.

  5. I used to like Gingrich, probably because he thought that the public school system in DC should be improved, especially one presumes in Anacostia, an idea that Clarence Thomas would find demeaning to all black people, based on his concurring opinion in Missouri v Jenkins, for reasons different from Bel Hooks’s.

    He has exposed himself as untrustworthy however, and demonstrates that the last refuge of scoundrels is not always the flag.

  6. “Praying is all well and good if it provides personal comfort while under stress, ”

    Patton movie quote:

    Clergyman: I was interested to see a Bible by your bed. You actually find time to read it?

    Patton: I sure do. Every goddamn day.

  7. BVM:

    KJV??? You are relying on KVJ asyour authoritative translation! Really? You figure that if Old English was good enough for the apostles, it’s good enough for you? Or is it that all biblical scholarship since 1611 is nothing but a liberal effort to discredit the 1611 KJV? You do know that the KJV was first printed in 1611? And you do know that the KJ stands for King James I of England, the first Scostman to be crowned king of England (he became King James IV of Scotland when he was one year old).

    Up your game,dude. NIV for the masses, NASB for the transliterative; and the HCSB 2d ed. for probably the best, modern translation (yeah, it’s SBC but it is more gender neutral than the others).

    Seriously, KJV is OK for private devotional material, but pretty lacking for apologetics.

  8. Gov. Rick Perry, hypocrite
    Gregg Easterbrook
    Aug 17, 2011

    Though fine in Constitutional terms, Perry’s ostentatious public prayer was hypocritical in terms of scripture. Jesus taught, at Matthew 6:5: “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in synagogues and at the street corners, so they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

    Standing in front of his own image on a gigantic Big Brother video screen in a football stadium, Perry surely was praying for the purpose of being seen by others, a behavior Jesus condemned. “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them,” Christ also taught. Jesus was disgusted by self-flattering public displays of being holier-than-thou – exactly what Perry, hypocritically, did to help launch his campaign.

    To top it off, Perry told the Houston rally, “God is wise enough not to be affiliated with any political party.” Boasting of his obedience to God, Perry said this just before declaring for leadership of a political party.

    Perry is further hypocritical by spending taxpayers’ money lavishly on himself, while cutting school budgets, health care appropriations and other spending essential to the average people whom Jesus loved.

    For several years, Perry has been traveling around Texas, and sometimes overseas, surrounded by a phalanx of Texas state troopers. The bodyguards are not present for security — a local police officer could handle that role. They’re present to make Perry seem more important, as if a visiting head of state. When Perry attended the Indianapolis 500 in 2010, for example, he brought eight state troopers with him at Texas taxpayer expense — to make him seem important, plus allow him to double-park and cut to the front of lines. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a humble man, had no bodyguards at the Indianapolis 500. Perry, a man who thinks “government waste” is spending on other people, strutted around surrounded by guards.

    Texas newspapers have been filing the state’s equivalent of Freedom of Information requests, asking how much Perry spends on self-glorification. Two months ago, Perry snuck through the state legislature a rider that prohibits the Texas Department of Public Safety from revealing how much it spends on bodyguards for Perry and his wife on their personal trips. The prohibition lasts until 2013 — that is, till after the 2012 presidential election — and is transparently intended to prevent voters from knowing how much money Perry is hypocritically spending on himself. Not long after enacting a government-secrecy rule to protect his own appropriations, Perry called for “substantial cuts in government spending.”

  9. “Love Your Enemies” (NIV translation)

    “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” – Jesus of Nazareth, as recorded in Matthew 5:44

  10. On the contrary, Newt. I don’t trust pols who put forth prayer as a solution. Praying is all well and good if it provides personal comfort while under stress, but praying will never solve a problem other than by blind chance. Solutions to problems require rational thought, work and the application of perseverance. The proof is not in the pudding but rather in the eating of the pudding. Verbs are important.

  11. Jill:

    “Not coincidentally, atheists advocate forming conclusions not by appeals to authority (religious, political party etc.) but by thinking things through. Atheism leads to anti-authoritarianism and I am certain that is a major reason the elites target them.”

    True that. See Ch 4 of the following —

    It’s also why public education and liberal arts are denigrated. In a public environment one meets and hopefully befriends people from different cultures and lifestyles, and learns that different is not bad or scary — just different. A liberal (not a leftists) arts education opens the mind (often times to reality) and teaches the students how to think for themselves.

    This is where the fight against authoritarinism/totallitarinism has to be waged — a liberal education among diverse populations. Like this blog.

  12. “In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.”

    ~ Mark Twain

  13. The Law of God is “Do not kill.” (KJV Luke 18:20), (Mark 10:19), (James 2:11) The Law of God is “Love your enemies.” (Matt. 5:44), (Luke 6:27) “Thou shalt not kill.” (Romans 13:9) “Do violence to no man.” (Luke 3:14)

    The servants of hypocrisy will attempt to argue that there is a difference of meaning in the translations of the words, kill and murder. Jesus put this lie to silence when he said, “Love your enemies.” (Matt. 5:44), (Luke 6:27) To hit, shoot, bomb, execute, kill, etc. are not in the definition of love. Killing someone is not loving them. “God is Love.” (1.John 4:8,16)

  14. American Politics More Religious Than American Voters
    Huffington Post

    By Nicole Neroulias
    c. 2011 Religion News Service

    (RNS) Has America gotten more religious, or just American politics?

    The country has grown less religious since the 1970s, while frequent churchgoers are now much more likely to vote Republican or support the Tea Party, according to recent studies.

    As a result, faith-filled rhetoric and campaign stops make Americans appear more Christian than they really are, according Mark Chaves, a Duke University professor of sociology and religion.

    The rise of megachurches, with their memberships in the thousands, also fuels the misperception that most Americans attend services weekly, when only one in four Americans actually do, he added.

    “The Michele Bachmanns and Rick Perrys of the world are playing to a base that’s much smaller than it was in the 1970s and 1980s,” said Chaves, whose new book, “American Religion: Contemporary Trends,” analyzes trends based on data from the General Social Survey and the National Congregations Study.

    Using data collected between 1972 and 2008, Chaves said America is not only losing its religion, but also has lost confidence in religious leaders and wants them to be less involved in politics.

    Researchers say the trends reflect myriad factors: disillusionment with clergy and political scandals; the country’s increasing diversity, fueled by immigration and intermarriage; and younger generations that tend to be more highly educated and socially liberal.

    Chaves also interprets these trends as a “backlash” against the politicization of religion that began with the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the rise of the religious right in the 1970s.

  15. “My problem comes when God strts telling you how to make ME a better person.” (angrymanspeaks)

    That’s called praying for prey.

  16. Are you sure he didn’t say he couldn’t trust politicians who don’t PREY?

    Seems alot more republican.

    I don’t have a problem with anyone who wants to pray. I hardly think that the fact that you do pray makes you more or less qualified as Presidential material. As matter of fact it could rule you out.

    I think it’s great that you talk to God.
    I think it’s ok if God talks to you, in a sense.
    As long as he is telling you how to make yourself a better person.
    My problem comes when God strts telling you how to make ME a better person.

  17. Pete:

    “you can’t trust politicians who hypocritically point fingers at actions in others that they themselves are engaged in:”

    True that! It’s so easy for folks to see their own faults in others. It’s why I don’t trust psychotherapists.

  18. BVM

    God’s Commandment is “Thou shalt not [murder].”

    Get a trustworthy translation. Even the weak-kneed NIV gets it right.

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