Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary Saturday by a landslide. Exit polls showed that 60% of voters said that religion and a candidate's faith was the primary reason they voted for someone. And an overwhelming majority of those folks voted for Gingrich, the thrice-married philanderer whose current wife Callista is an admitted cheater who slept with another woman's husband for six years. Then there's Rick Santorum, the bible-thumpin' pseudo-preacher with the seemingly rock-solid marriage, who came in a distant third. What's wrong with this picture?
Perhaps South Carolina's uber-religious believe that absolving Newt of his past indiscretions simultaneously absolves them of their own, maybe even giving them license to continue this salacious behavior. It's a little club of rich, white, God-fearing male philanderers with a self-serving philosophy towards faith and fidelity:
"We are Christians. We believe in Jesus. We believe that people should live a clean, wholesome, family-values life. We believe in the sanctity of marriage, and that this great institution should be between a man and a woman. We believe that those who don't share our views on God and religion are not people of faith. Now, we do accept the fact that some of us may chase some tail every now and then, and when we do, the Lord will be be quick to forgive and forget. No sense gettin' all crazy over a silly little affair... or two... or three. But we'll continue to lecture everyone else in the world about how they should behave."
The hypocrisy in Saturday's primary results is mind-numbing. Gingrich arrogantly preaches about the "sacrament of marriage" and rants on endlessly about President Obama being the most "radical" president in history, yet when it comes to his own bedroom and relationships he's been so radical he's practically re-written the marital laws single-handedly. True conservatives, especially evangelicals, should be running from him like he was Lucifer incarnate. Instead they lavish him with a landslide. They believe Newt and Callista make for a perfect First Couple; the perfect symbols of American marriage, and appropriate role models for our children (one wonders just what Callista's official "cause" would be if she were First Lady. Loyalty? Honor? Integrity? Fidelity?).
South Carolinians, and perhaps conservatives elsewhere as the primary season continues, appear oddly happy and eager to forgive Gingrich, the "68-year-old grandfather," for his sins. I think that says an awful lot about religion, and its role in Republican politics, in America today.