Last week Richard Land, a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention, former member of the George W. Bush’s administration, and president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, published an open letter to Newt Gingrich. In it he expresses his good feelings toward Gingrich, and also his concerns that Gingrich has a problem with the Evangelical women: his “marital past.” While “marital past” is a broad description, Land probably means Gingrich’s consistent record of adultery, i.e. of breaking the Seventh Commandment. But Land never uses the Biblical word adultery; he is a pastor, after all, and pastors don’t need to use Biblical categories when they speak about sin, it would be too judgmental. “Marital past” sounds much more “forgiving” and “ministering” to the soul of Newt Gingrich.
So those Evangelical women, Richard Land says, won’t vote for “Mr. Speaker,” and their reason is Gingrich’s “marital past.” Land has a solution for his friend; his solution is based on what these Evangelical women want to hear. Newt, Land says, tell them you are sorry, ask for forgiveness, say that you regret your past actions and that you understand. If you do that, many of them will vote for you. It’s that simple. Pick a pro-family venue and give a speech. Take advantage of the fact that Evangelicals are a “forgiving people.” Imagine a “40-something Evangelical married woman whose 40-something sister just had her heart broken by an Evangelical husband who has just filed for divorce.” Focus on her. Land prudently doesn’t advise Gingrich to focus on the divorced sister herself, it is pointless; but if he is smart and skillful, he’ll be able to sway the one that is still married because there is not too much bitterness there yet. It’s not a job interview, he says, it is a courtship. (We bet Gingrich knows that part of life better than most of us.) Tell her what she wants to hear, promise her the stars, and you will be surprised at the results.
I will have to go emotional here. I can’t help it. My readers, being the forgiving crowd they are, according to Richard Land, will have to forgive me.
This is disgusting. In fact, this is the most disgusting piece I have ever seen coming from a high-level Evangelical minister. This is the product of a cynical, amoral mind, of a man whose conscience is seared with a hot iron. This piece shows complete ignorance about even the simple ethics of the human every-day relationships; and complete denial of the ethical and spiritual principles of the Bible.
Land addresses a serial adulterer, a man who thought nothing of cheating on his wife, and then even cheating on the woman whom he took after her! There has never been any sign of repentance in Gingrich, not even when he is confronted about his sin of adultery publicly. Not only that, but Gingrich has been exposed as cheating the taxpayers by taking money to lobby for the institutions he publicly criticizes and vows to end – Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae. He made a fortune from the Federal bank stimulus; and he has switched positions many times on many issues.
On the spiritual side, Gingrich declared that he is now a Roman Catholic, and that he has left his original Southern Baptist membership. Why? Not because he had a revelation or because he wants to have a closer relationship with Jesus Christ which is one of the central tenets of the Baptist doctrine for personal conversion. Not at all. The “turning point” was his meeting with the Pope. The “joyful and radiating presence of the Holy Father” is what made him a Roman Catholic. Some people become Roman Catholics because of an alleged encounter with Jesus Christ; or they believe they will find a better relationship with Him there. But Gingrich publicly admits he is an idolater, that his change of faith is based on the divinization of a man. And Land knows about it since he says, “I know something of your faith journey over the last 20 years.” It is highly improbable that a Baptist minister of that magnitude wouldn’t recognize idolatry for what it is. But he condones it. And he even tries to help the idolater to become a President.
And how does he do that? There is not a single suggestion about repentance, let alone heart-felt repentance, in the whole letter. Gingrich’s spiritual condition is taken as what it is, and Richard Land, a Baptist pastor, actually tells an unrepentant sinner to act externally in a way that will be man-pleasing! Or, in this case, women-pleasing. Land never really mentions the fact that women may not be so stupid; that just an outward “I’m sorry” won’t be enough for them because they know very well – oh, yes, women do know very well – when an outward behavior is hypocritical and that there is no corresponding change of heart. Land is practically saying: “Newt, our Evangelical women are stupid and easily manipulated. They are concerned about what you have done in the past, but this can be solved very quickly, you just tell them what they want to hear. They want to hear something mushy, that you ask for forgiveness, and all that kind of stuff. Weave in your speech something about your faith journey, and that’s gonna help. It is an easy job, just one speech, and our women will believe you and will vote for you. And make sure you express your love and your loyalty to your wife – to whichever wife you are with right now, of course, not the one who is your legal wife by law and whom you have abandoned and against whom you have committed adultery.”
Imagine a Baptist pastor who makes the altar call and says, “Come on, you who are not believers, just say the words we want you to say, and we will accept you as members. It is that easy.”
Land’s view of women is so denigrating and humiliating that it beats the Muslim view of women. If I hear someone advising a politician whom I detest for his immorality and his policies, what words he needs to say to get my vote despite my moral repugnance, I would be greatly offended. I don’t think there are many Evangelical women that won’t be offended by the very suggestion that their moral feelings can be manipulated by simply a speech.
What is even worse is that Land doesn’t even mention the main Biblical verse about divorce:
Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery (Luke 16:18).
According to that verse, Gingrich is now in a double adultery. He has a legitimate wife, and he is not allowed to marry another. His first marriage is what is legitimate in God’s eyes, and Gingrich’s present marriage is pure adultery, not a marriage. No matter how much he says he “loves” his “wife,” she is not his wife. Land, in his advice to Gingrich, shows that he rejects and despises Jesus’s words about marriage and divorce; just like several months ago another Baptist minister, Albert Mohler, rejected and denied the clear meaning of Rom. 1:18-27 and declared that sodomy is “more than just a choice,” and therefore Evangelicals were guilty of “homophobia.” The fact that two Southern Baptist ministers of that magnitude can afford to openly despise the clear meanings of New Testament verses shows that the Southern Baptist Convention has come to a point where its worst enemies are those in high positions of authority within the denomination itself.
The similarity between Land and Mohler doesn’t end here. It goes further, to their views of politics. Mohler, as I have pointed before, when discouraging Christians from involvement in politics and government, always justifies it with the Christians’ lack of “competency.” There is this mysterious standard of “competency” which pagans have but Christians don’t, which threatens the Christian attempts to build a Christian culture and Christian nation and government. The same worship of “competence” is seen in Richard Land’s open letter to Gingrich. Land spends three paragraphs in the very beginning praising Gingrich’s skills for political survival. He calls him “extremely bright, knowledgeable, experienced on the issues and fully able.” Apparently these skills, this “competence” is what must make the Evangelical Christians ignore Gingrich’s consistent record of hypocrisy, lies, and adultery.
What Land is doing – just like Albert Mohler – is applying in practice a central tenet of the Two Kingdoms Theology, the separation of state – i.e. the “common kingdom” – from the Biblical system ethics, that is the Law of God. As I have explained this before, the Two Kingdoms Theology is radically dualistic in respect to the laws for the two kingdoms, the redemptive kingdom of the church and the common kingdom of the state. The church is under the Biblical revelation – in reality, only under a portion of it since most of the Law of God is not valid today – but the state is under a different system of law, one that is not found in the Bible and is common to all people, redeemed and unredeemed: the “natural law.” No one knows what that “natural law” actually says, so its proponents, like Mohler, boil it down to the vague notion of “competence.” Eventually, the political realm becomes completely divorced from any notion of morality. The result is Land’s open letter to Gingrich: An apotheosis of cynicism, hypocrisy, and immorality at the expense of the Law of God.
That Mohler can sell his Two Kingdoms Theology to his fellow Baptists shows their lack of knowledge and understanding concerning the true Biblical theology. If Land’s letter flies without any major opposition from conservative Baptists – and especially the Evangelical women whom Land so masterfully wants to manipulate to vote for Gingrich – this will reveal a very serious moral flaw in the Southern Baptist community. It is one thing when a seminary professor sells a heretical ideology; it is completely another thing when a pastor and high-level minister openly promotes hypocrisy and manipulation. Unfortunately, it seems that Land’s position is secure; even the American Family Radio, with its Baptist background and support, rooted for Newt Gingrich this last week in several shows and interviews. The irony of a Baptist “family” radio cheering for a serial adulterer who became Roman Catholic because of the “radiance of the Holy Father” is sickening; but it shows a deeper problem. It reveals that the idea of the comprehensive ethical standards of the Bible applied to every area of life, including politics, has been lost among the Southern Baptists just as it has been lost among the Presbyterians in the last generation. Spurgeon must be turning in his grave.
“The master of the American church is likely to be whatever cultural or intellectual fad has gained the ascendancy,” wrote Herbert Schlossberg in his book, Idols for Destruction. The cultural fad that has gained ascendancy today is the political power of the lobbyists, one of whom is Gingrich. Land himself has been part of it for a while. Anyone in political position of power is now above the moral scrutiny which churches normally have for their ordinary members. Politics is now a world of its own, and it must be judged by different standards; and the powerful of the day can not be subject to the same moral scrutiny as the ordinary members. If a certain group of voters still decides to examine a candidate by the same moral rules they examine everyone else – as those Evangelical women whom Land recognizes as hostile to Gingrich’s candidacy – the solution is manipulation. It’s just the political thing to do, after all, give a speech. And one thing is important: the realm of civil government has different ethical rules; it is subject to the standard of “competence” and “intelligence,” not to the moral standards of the Word of God. That is the logical end of the Two Kingdoms Theology: politics of cynicism, divorced from Biblical ethics, and eventually divorced from all scruples and all meaning. When it develops to its logical end, the result is tyranny.