Is Newt Gingrich America’s King David?

With Newt Gingrich sharply rising in the polls, more and more Religious Right activists are saying that his personal background of serial adultery and multiple divorces will not be a deal breaker for social conservative voters. Bob Vander Plaats cited Gingrich’s “life transformation” and “Christian-historical worldview,” and Tony Perkins told Lou Dobbs that Gingrich is still viewed as more conservative and trustworthy than Mitt Romney, even though he is Romney’s “opposite” when it comes to their personal lives. “No one knows the story of redemption better than Christian evangelicals,” Perkins said.

Back in May, Michael Youssef used the analogy of King David to argue that Gingrich’s “personal struggles and successes will aid him in being not only a seasoned candidate but possibly one of the finest presidents since Ronald Reagan.” In 2 Samuel, King David had an affair with and impregnated Bathsheba, whose husband David later had killed by putting him on the frontlines of battle. Yesterday, conservative columnist Dennis Prager, without naming the presidential candidate, also used the King David analogy to make the case that Religious Right voters can still rally behind a politician with a sordid past:

But there is a larger issue that needs to be addressed first: What does adultery tell us about a person? For many Americans, the answer is: “Pretty much all we need to know.” This certainly seems to be the case with regard to presidential candidates. The view is expressed this way: “If he can’t keep his vows to his wife, how can we trust him to keep his vows to his country?”

I am a religious conservative, but I know this statement has no basis in fact. It sounds persuasive, but it is a non sequitur. We have no reason to believe that men who have committed adultery are less likely to be great leaders or that men who have always been faithful are more likely to be great leaders. To religious readers, I point to God Himself, who apparently thought that King David deserved to remain king – and even have the Messiah descend from him – despite a particularly ugly form of adultery (sending Bathsheba’s husband into battle where he assuredly would be killed).

And while on the subject of leadership, another question for religious and/or conservative readers who believe that a man who sexually betrays his wife will likely betray his country: Who would you prefer for president? A pro-life conservative who had had an affair, or a pro-choice man of the left who had always been faithful to his wife?

Beyond that, I do not want to know anything about the sexual life of any candidate. Media reporting or questioning about candidates’ sexual lives constitutes a form of hypocrisy so deep that the English language does not have a word for it. Media people report on the sexual lives of candidates – for virtually any public office – on the grounds that since these politicians have great power, the public needs to know all about them. Yet, they offer no insight into their own sexual lives, even though some in the news media are far more powerful than almost any politician except the president of the United States. If we cannot trust a candidate who committed adultery, then why can we trust a news reporter or editor who has committed adultery?