Gingrich, Marriage, & Our Hypocrisy

There will be plenty today who clearly see the hypocrisy of Newt Gingrich. He is adamantly for “the sanctity of marriage” and yet asks his second wife (who was his first mistress) for an open marriage so that he can continue his affair with the woman who will later be his third wife while remaining married to his second wife. In what sense does this confusing story reflect any belief that marriage is sacred?

It doesn’t. But what will be more telling is that poor Newt will be a scapegoat. Once again, we get to point the finger at the hypocrisy of another so that we can avoid seeing it in ourselves. More specifically, as evangelicals, our stances “for the sanctity of life” and “for the sanctity of marriage,” is really just a disguise. Our lives reveal that we are not “for” these things in any tangible sense. While it might not be as stark or public as Newt, our lives often reveal that what we really mean is we are not for the sacredness of life or the sacredness of marriage, we are “against abortion” and “against gay marriage.”

Once again, we do not want to go where our logic and “black & white” stances take us. It’s much safer and self-confirming to point out the wood we find in Newt’s eye, all the while blind to it in our own. And so we are, unknowingly, a walking contradiction. And unfortunately, it is a contradiction that is unwilling to recognize its own hypocrisy.

It is only when we are actually confronted with our “second wife” that we admit to it.

If we were for the sacredness of marriage, the divorce rate among evangelicals would not be the same as the rest of the US. If we were for the sacredness of marriage, we wouldn’t be secretly looking at pornography or finding ourselves in emotional and physical affairs. If we believed that marriage was sacred, we wouldn’t just passively shake our head when another couple in our church is going through tough times. But these are things we are not willing to admit to ourselves. Most of our lives reflect that we aren’t for the sacredness of marriage, we are against gay people getting the same treatment from the government as we enjoy. To be more accurate, we are probably afraid of what will happen, just as those who are in power are always afraid of changing the status quo in favor of those without power.

Again, if we were for the sacredness of life, we would not simply voice our outrage over the killing of fetuses, we would be actively involved in caring for single-soon-to-be-mothers. To be “for” something is to do whatever it takes, not just say what I think. Are you willing to mentor single-mothers? Are you willing to sacrifice some of your kids extra-curricular activities or open a room in your home to passionately love a mother who sees no way out? If not, do not tell me you are “pro-life.”

If we were for the sacredness of life, we would not rejoice over the defeat of America’s enemies, perhaps we would be anti-war altogether, like our Mennonite brothers and sisters. If we were “for” the sacredness of life, perhaps we would value life over budget and stop buying the cheapest products even though we are aware they are likely cheap because they are made by slave labor.

Perhaps this is too much. Maybe you are not ready to make these changes to your life. I am okay with that. In many areas, neither am I. But be honest with yourself. Stop saying you are “pro-life” and start aspiring to be “pro-life” or just say what you mean: “I think abortion is wrong but I’m not really at place in life where I willing to make a difference.”

Allow yourself to be confronted with your own hypocrisy and fear and you might find that the wars we wage do not happen between “us” and “them” but between “us” and “us.” The idea that we are fighting “them” is an illusion that keeps us from being confronted with the chasm we find between the beliefs in our head and the reality of our lifestyle.

11 responses to “Gingrich, Marriage, & Our Hypocrisy

  1. Excellent, Jared. This needs to be a short film. It is dead on and timely. I recently filmed a conference with James Hunter, the author of “Change the World.” He articulated many similar thoughts. Besides a short film option, your core narrative would make a fascinating documentary that would investigate this concept and help the viewing ask new questions about what it means for them as a follower of Jesus to that the “pro” perspective on any issue.

  2. good post, jared. i found myself thinking “yeah… you tell ’em,” which is ironically the disposition that i must combat in myself. it’s so easy to think that Newt is a jerk or a hypocrite without even thinking once about how my own behavior reflects (or does not) the teaching/presence of Jesus. it’s so hard to be real with myself.

    at the same time, you bring up sound points about the harm that is caused by those who maintain overly simple, black/white views of the world. i wonder if the best thing we can do is admit our own propensity to do the same but also share how Jesus liberates us from that kind of thinking (rather than just point the finger; the importance is to admit that we too are inclined to do the same but have discovered a better way).

    and i love the “to be” instead of “are.” i’m going to start saying, “i’m trying to be… X,Y,Z.” e.g. I’m trying to follow Jesus.

    • Funny you should say that since your reaction was mine. I intended to write a “Why Newt’s a Hypocrite” post but I couldn’t help but see that’s exactly the type of reaction I find contrary to Christ.

  3. It seems to me that the ONE action that many take is to vote for the candidate who also ‘stands’ ProLife and ProFamilyValues. And to make those 2 ‘issues’ the primary criteria for their vote. Not that any of the ProLife presidents in the last decades have done much that is consistently for life and family, especially poor lives and families.

  4. I’m equally fascinated by the collective decision of most evangelical conservatives to ignore Newt’s personal life. I don’t think either self-righteous indignation or studied willful blindness is particularly helpful. (Not that I think you’re advocating the latter.)

  5. I have read this post several times in the past few days and find that I keep coming back to it. It so perfectly describes the hypocrisy behind some of our common phrases. All the while, hiding behind the term “pro-life” as if people who are pro-abortion are anti-life. When you really take those terms to their fullest extent, there are few who can claim to live in a pro-sanctity of marriage and pro-life manner. What would it look like if Christians really did?? Really fabulous posts. Just discovered your blog this week and am eating it up.

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