An increasingly heated debate is raging among Iowa Christian conservatives about whether to endorse twice-divorced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich or other conservatives with preferable marital histories but lower poll ratings.
To hold their lead, Gingrich supporters have been making the case personally to religious leaders in Iowa and other early-voting states. On Saturday night, thousands of conservative Christian ministers in key states received an email from Jim Garlow, the pastor of Skyline Church in La Mesa, Calif., who played a leading role in pushing in 2008 for passage of California’s Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry.
“There is a fundamental conflict underway about what kind of country we’re going to be,” Garlow wrote in his 9,000-word essay to pastors. “It is no longer a case of ‘right vs. left’ as some might say, thus suggesting these two positions are moral equivalents. They are not. It is not “right vs. left,” but “right vs. wrong.”
“ ... Destroying the definition of marriage is not merely “left.” It is wrong. It is sin. Stealing funds from future generations and spending it so that they will be closer to slavery than freedom is not merely “left.” It is wrong. It is sin. Although Mr. Gingrich is not running for ‘Theologian-in-Chief’ but ‘Commander-in-Chief,’ he grasps these issues. He understands the moral component.”
Garlow has been backing Gingrich for the last few years and has served on the board of one of Gingrich nonprofit organizations, Renewing American Leadership, dedicated to “preserving America’s Judeo-Christian heritage.” Garlow’s weekend letter went on to describe Gingrich’s positions on marriage (including his past transgressions and request for forgiveness), abortion and judicial activism.
The Saturday letter from Garlow included praise for other conservative candidates, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. A section called “Thoughts on Romney” included a faint reference to a possible future endorsement: Garlow said the former Massachusetts governor “will have my hesitant support if he wins the nomination. My objection to him is not that he is a Mormon, as it is to some of my evangelical colleagues. My objection to him is that he appears untrustworthy on cardinal issues.”
And then Garlow made a fundamentally political argument against Romney.
“If Romney is the nominee, the evangelical voting response will likely drop from the 2010 level (approximately 28%) of the electorate to the 2008 level (approximately 23%) and Obama will be elected to a second term.
Garlow’s letter included supportive statements for other GOP candidates. It also included an appeal for a faith-based view of the current economic debate.
“I do not see a separation between “social issues” and “fiscal issues.” I see only “biblical imperatives,” he wrote. “As such, I care about many issues, as do most evangelicals. Along with the sanctity of life and the sacredness of marriage is the biblical command that “thou shalt not steal”…from future generations. Thus, our staggering national debt is not merely a “political” issue. It is a biblical and moral issue. And, as such, our national debt is obscene and immoral. The pulpits of America should thunder with that message.”