SCBC President: Forgiven Gingrich Tops Mormon Romney

South Carolinians grappling with issues of faith and fidelity will vote for the philanderer who's asked for forgiveness over the man who's not a Christian, the Rev. Brad Atkins said.

When South Carolinians take to the polls on Jan. 21, two of the major contenders they'll see on the Republican ballot will invoke thoughts of more than just political views.

They will raise the issues of faith, fidelity and the very definition of Christianity in a state where God and the gospel are staples as culturally entrenched as grits.

On one side is current frontrunner Newt Gingrich, who has a double-digit lead but continues to be haunted by questions about his infidelity and two failed marriages.

On the other is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the man in second place who has been married to the same woman for more than 40 years with no such baggage.

The new president of the S.C. Baptist Convention, a part of the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest religious group in the state with nearly 1,900 churches and 900,000 adherents in 2000), says the choice is clear.

The Rev. Brad Atkins, tabbed in November to lead the group for the coming year, told Patch on Friday that while Gingrich's infidelities may represent a major obstacle for some Christian voters, it isn't an issue that necessarily excludes the former speaker from consideration. Rather, it's an issue that calls for prayerful consideration of Gingrich's numerous public confessions to his wrongdoings.

The issue presented by Romney's faith may be more deeply rooted to South Carolinians.

"In South Carolina, Romney's Mormonism will be more of a cause of concern than Gingrich's infidelity," said Atkins, the pastor at Powdersville First Baptist Church in the Upstate.

"Conservatives can process and pray their way through the issue of forgiveness toward a Christian that has had infidelity in their life, but will struggle to understand how anyone could be a Mormon and call themselves 'Christian.'"

Some political experts think Gingrich faces a tougher test within his own party over his past failures than he would in a general election if he were to pull out the nomination.

Robert Oldendick, executive director of the Institute for Public Service and Policy Research at the University of South Carolina, said that in any other year, Gingrich's personal history would present a major issue. In a general election, scenario, however, it is likely to be but a minor one, for three key reasons. 

Firstly, Gingrich's personal issues are old news that many voters have already confronted and judged. Secondly, because Gingrich is now the frontrunner, any attacks made based on his infidelities is likely to occur by his conservative competitors. Thirdly, Gingrich has thus far been able to deflect such attacks successfully, as evidenced by his strong poll presence.

"His 'I made mistakes; I hope people will judge me on who I am now,' seems to be acceptable to the independent voters that he will need in the general election," Oldendick said.

The fact that America still faces high unemployment, a weak housing market and a slowed economic recovery would only make attacks from the other side of the aisle not only likely ineffective, but poor strategy.

When Gingrich was calling for Clinton's head in the 1990s, he was doing so when America was not facing economic turmoil. Now that Gingrich is under the spotlight, his moral shortcomings may seem trivial compared to the macro-level issues being considered.

"It would be difficult — and probably not a good strategy — for the Democrats to make 'family values' an important theme of the general election," Oldendick said.

"The 2012 election will turn overwhelmingly on the economy, and to the extent that the glimmer of good economic news that has been seen in the past couple of months continues through late October, President Obama's re-election chances are enhanced."

Americans' narrow focus on the economy is one Atkins considers myopic, ill-informed and wrong.

"The tragedy is that again this year the majority of committed Christians that will have registered and be able to vote, when push comes to shove, will cast their vote for a candidate on jobs — the economy," Atkins said.

"As a state, and as a country, this has sadly been our track record. I believe that God is not going to bless this nation again and bring us out of this economic disaster until we repent and start focusing on the moral, spiritual issues. Abortion, infanticide, marriage between a man and a woman and homosexuality have to take center stage."

Still, the state's fascination with religion may make otherwise longshots more competitive with Romney, who has been firmly planted in the top tier of the GOP field from the get-go.

"Both (Texas Gov. Rick) Perry and (Minnesota Rep. Michele) Bachmann will most likely fare better in South Carolina because of their openness to discuss their faith, but Gingrich can also speak about his Christian faith and values very openly as well," Atkins said.

And while Romney has been married to the same woman for more than 40 years, the fact that he's a Mormon receives different consideration from some South Carolinian christians who are willing to forgive Gingrich's behavior as merely past actions, and not a worldview.

"Since most believers have had at least some moral failings, our only consideration should be where they are presently according to their own testimony. Christians must always give the 'benefit of the doubt.' Where the candidate is now is the main issue," Atkins said.

"It (Gingrich's past) will probably have a greater impact on his electability in South Carolina than some other states because, at least to some degree, we remain a morally conservative state. However, we have to accept his confession that he has made mistakes, has asked for God's forgiveness in regards to those, and that he is deeply committed to his wife now. There will be many voters in not only South Carolina, but also around our nation that will pray over this issue as they consider him as a potential candidate for president."

Danielle Vinson, who chairs Furman University's political science department, said while she believes Gingrich's past is a mainly a primary, not a general election issue, that opponents could have an opening that broaches the topic of more than his mere personal failures. 

"Gingrich's personal life might surface in the general election as part of a larger storyline about whether he has the character and steadiness to lead or as part of his own political hypocrisy over the years — criticizing Clinton's affair while carrying on his own, changing positions on issues, and that sort of thing," Vinson said.

"In the general election, it won't be the infidelity itself but rather what it says when combined with other episodes about his character and leadership abilities."

Jack Hoey Jr., chief operations officer at Mount Pleasant-based megachurch Seacoast, said Gingrich, like all candidates, is flawed. But voters will must determine on their own how to proceed in light of those flaws.
“Is infidelity wrong? Yes,” Hoey said. “Is infidelity worse than other sins? No. If you’re applying that and trying to understand that, you can’t just look at it as if it is a flawed candidate amidst a group of perfect candidates.”
Although faith played a role in political decisions, Hoey said the election was not really a “Christian issue” but rather an issue for society at large.
“People are going to have their own take on whether someone with a checkered past is most capable to do this job,” Hoey said. “Some people would put his past aside if they think he would do a good job. Some people would say, competence aside, ‘I could never vote for someone I couldn’t trust to date my daughter.’
“As a church, we don’t try to say, 'here’s the way you should think about it.' From our point of view, that’s something people are going to handle in their own ways.”

Kyle December 22, 2011 at 12:51 AM
Stan, what a loving way to put things. What a great example you are of what you hate.
ev December 22, 2011 at 12:54 AM
Kyle you are a moron!.................There is planet waiting for you and its called Mutt!
stanley seigler December 22, 2011 at 01:12 AM
have difficulty following some comments...but just stating facts...if some see them as ugly and angry...apologies and not the intent...i am not angry.
Tonto December 22, 2011 at 02:42 AM
Stanley, are you the only one buying Obama's communist agenda? Any retired dog catcher could stomp Obama. Bigotry, racism, save the children, tax the rich, all Republican candidates are whores and scoundrels, Obama the tax cutter. What a total bag of feces :(
Dr. John December 22, 2011 at 05:03 AM
Stanley, I am surprised you are getting caught up in these non-starter arguments regarding racism. I believe that people resort to calls of racism/bigotry when they can no longer defend the real issues being debated. It is no longer about debating ideas but leveling absurd charges not related to the issue at hand. The more serious the charge, the more we expect the other person to just shut up. Stanley, you and I both know that there are people ( a small percentage) who are not capable of debating issues who will level out-of-this-world allegations and name-calling. Look up ANY of Mimi's comments and you will see a prime example. I am a conservative, I love everyone equally. That is, no one person to me is more important than another. I believe that conservatism, when articulated with truth and compassion, does not need a message for blacks, a seperate message for Hispanics or a different message for women. We all strive to do the best we can with what we are given, some will always do better than others. Some will fall behind and others will not be able to provide for themselves. It is our job as citizens to provide help to allow people to get back on their feet or, for some, provide compassionate care with dignity for those who cannot provide for themselves. I stopped posting here because some people used this forum for name calling, not to debate issues. Stanley, I enjoy posting with you. Leave the bigot/race speech to others who cannot debate w/intelligence.
Lou December 22, 2011 at 01:23 PM
ev - It appears that YOU are the MOST "brainwashed" person on all these posts. Just because we have a different "understanding" of God and Jesus Christ does not mean we are talking about a different God or Jesus Christ. It is the height of pumpousness for YOU to be telling US what WE believe. Stick to telling people what YOU believe, then you will have a bit more credibility. And stop sucking at the teat of Baptist Ministers for your information about Mormons. All they are interested in is to protect their JOBS. The Mormon Church is growing at a much faster rate then theirs.
ev December 22, 2011 at 01:39 PM
Thanks Lou you have now totally convinced me that I am correct about Mormonis. As for "your church is growing faster then theirs",well you are at an advantage . So share with Lou us how many wives do you have???? lol
Patrick December 22, 2011 at 01:40 PM
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints & I believe that Christ is the Savior of the World. I believe that true happiness in life comes through doing our best to live His teachings & that Salvation comes only by & through the Savior. Im not here to fight for Mitt or bash Newt, but to ask that we come together on the things we can agree on & work towards repairing the morally defunct state of our nation.
Lori Adams December 22, 2011 at 01:52 PM
If I remember right, aren't Mark Sanford and John Edwards from South Carolina? Not a very good track record. Why should the rest of the country care how the bigots vote there? The rest of us are voting for the best person for the job based on the kind of person he or she is. Thought this country was founded on principles to get away from this kind of thing. It's this kind of thinking that causes liberals to believe the way they do about religious conservatives. Come on people, join the modern world!
Trevor December 22, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Rev. Akins is absolutely right about the need to forgive and woefully wrong about "Mormons" not being Christians. I am a 43 year old member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a Christian. I joined the church at 27 of my own free will. Most “Mormons” I know earnestly strive to lead Christ-like lives but like our Evangelical friends, are fully cognizant of the fact that in spite of our best efforts, we are ultimately saved by grace. I was raised in a Methodist, Lutheran and Episcopalian household and have therefore had occasion to associate with (and appreciate) Christians of many different stripes. In attempting to discern Christian from non-Christian, might I suggest that we consult a legitimate authority on the matter? Christ himself said, "Ye shall know them by their fruits." (Matt 7:16) I take that to mean that the membership card in your wallet or purse, or what you happen to call yourself, is not the ultimate arbiter of one's Christianity. It is preposterous for Rev. Akins to suggest otherwise.
Trevor December 22, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Gary, you are right and I thank you for your reasonable perspective. Jesus Christ actually had something to say on the matter: Matt 7:16-20, and Luke 6:43-45, 3 Nephi:14-16. James 1:5-8 also contains some pretty good guidance when it comes to discerning truth from error.
Trevor December 22, 2011 at 02:37 PM
I also like James 1:5-8. Seeking truth? This is the key to finding it.
nana December 22, 2011 at 02:37 PM
So the Mormon haters comments make me believe that they once were members and couldn't live handle living a more Christlike life, or had family\friend who are members or were excommunicated. Sorry you have had a bad experience with members of the church or the gospel. You have your free agency to choose who or what you follow. May you be blessed in your endeavours to find happiness. Bitterness can never be happiness. You will find that most Mormons are happy whether you like them or not.
LJ December 22, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Ev: You KNOW full well that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does NOT practice polygamy! The HBO (Big Love) "pseudo-mormons" portrayed are nothing but an apostate sect that rejected church doctrine so they could practice plural marriage. Ev, when you continue to apply the "Mormon" nickname to such groups and individuals whose fringe practices are rejected by the ACTUAL "Mormon" church (again, the correct name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), you demonstrate that you are either willfully ignorant of the truth (since correct information is abundantly available), or diabolically driven by an agenda to smear and create a guilt by association, when no association or relation exists. Again, I have difficulty believing that you don't know this already. Attacking a church for the sake of preserving your paycheck, or your pastor's paycheck was referred to in the scriptures a priestcraft. Money seems to be the motive in attacking a religion, using only distortions and outright lies. See what most evangelicals REALLY think by visiting evangelicalsformitt dot com. Last time, they admit that Evangelicals woefully failed the IQ test when they took the religion bait from Huckabee. But guess who Huckabee is supporting this time? You guessed it. Newsmax cited Huckabee's support for Romney recently. So if ol Huck can be honest about this...just sayin'. Give honesty a try.
Dana del Francia December 22, 2011 at 05:48 PM
I would like anyone to prove their religion to anyone else? Show me one piece of evidence that Jesus was reuurected and is alive today? Show me one piece of evidence that Moses tablets still exist? Show me one piece of paper that Jesus wrote on? Show me one piece of an original document from the writers of the New testament? Old testament? You can't prove any of it. Impossible! You may believe these things, stories, concepts, creeds, etc. but there is no proof baptists, Catholics, evangelicals, or Mormons can demonstrate that they are correct or that their writings are actually from God. It is by faith that religion is based on. Some have faith in the ancient writings in the present bible declaring they saw and heard visions and other things from God. In each of those intantances, most people did not believe them. The stories tell us, that most others never saw or heard any visions. Religion is revealed to mankind from God through chosen people. Some will believe and demonstrate faith, Most others will doubt. I'm a believer! I have faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. I believe God lives and therefor can speak to us throug His holy spirit as well as holy scripture. Christ was a Jew but was told he was not a Jew by those who described themselves as true followers of God. This is the pattern of all revealed truth. The established churches reject the very God they profess to follow.
David December 22, 2011 at 06:05 PM
I suppose this is what you get when you lose site of the doctrine that "Faith without works is dead." I am never disappointed when I hear the hypocrisy of the Evangelical lapdogs. They always sound like the little kids in their fort with the sign "No girls allowed." Mormons can't be part of our Christian club. "No Mormons allowed!" You are more willing to accept that regardless of what sinful behavior one engages in, as long as he says Amen and Hallelujah, he's saved and should be trusted more than the man who actually has remained faithful to his wife for decades, has served (without pay) as a shepherd over a flock of congregants providing counseling, advice, assistance and guidance, has paid a faithful tithe and faithfully reads the scriptures and attends church every Sunday, not just on Christmas and Easter. (What was it Jesus said about "by their fruits?") The main theme of the radical Evangelical right appears be as follows... We will accept anybody who has been an adulterer, liar, and done absolutely nothing to promote Christianity, we'll love and accept Muslims, Gays, Jews, and even the child molesters and prostitutes, but by darn we won't accept them Mormons, cause they are just too weird."
David December 22, 2011 at 06:20 PM
When the Evangelicals start "hating" on Mormons and acting like children... ("No mormons allowed in our Christian Club") I am reminded of the Pharisees and how they reacted when this poor kid showed up and actually had the audacity to claim to be the Son of God. Can you imagine that kind of chutzpa? How could he possibly be smart enough to claim to know anything about God? He is poor, only a carpenter's son and we are rich, educated, and we know so much more than he does. We should not just ignore him, or love him for the good works that he is doing, we should hound him, call him names and make sure that everybody knows what a charleton and evil person he really is. In fact, we should not only hate him, but we should have him killed because he certainly can't be one of us. Hate! Hate! Yeah, that's what the Evangelicals make me think of when they react like this to one of them silly Mormons. Silly Pharisees....
Tonto December 23, 2011 at 04:19 AM
The Evangelicals would vote for a Muslim if he promised to line the pockets of the union they belong to :)
Al December 23, 2011 at 07:44 AM
Isn't the real issue how do you define a "Christian?" Isn't a Christian who follows Christ, is his disciple, and tries to do what he taught? Didn't Christ say "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35) Isn't love the hallmark or distiniquishing characteristic of Christians then? Christ said judge not and condemn not. Who is most Christian--Mormons who are almost always first on the scene after disasters to aid anyone in need, or those judging and condemning saying they are not Christians? How can anyone presume to judge who Christ is or what religion believes in the true Christ? Is that loving or being a true disciple and Christian? Are these not serious questions that all may have to answer when they stand before God on judgement day? Can a good spirit and feeling come from condemning Mormons and is that loving in any way? What would a true Christian do?
seayahlater December 23, 2011 at 08:03 AM
How does the title of this article "Forgiving Gingrich Top Mormon Romney" fit when the question is not even asked in the survey? They survey question is: What matters more to you? The Survey gives you two options either Newt Gingrich's personal history or Mitt Romney's Mormon faith? The results are overwhelmingly that more people care about Newt's personal history then Mitt's religion. There is nothing asked about which one would you be more likely to forgive... Whoever wrote the title of this article is worse than the Main stream Media about twisting the results of a survey around!
robert kramer December 23, 2011 at 09:15 AM
Hey Ev, you are just showing what a hypocritical retard you are. The real cult is the Baptist church which teaches all you have to do to go to heaven is say "Jesus come into my heart" and wham... you are instantly saved. They teach that after receiving Christ as your savior it doesn't matter how many people you rape, rob or kill, you will still spend eternity in Heaven just because you once asked Jesus into your heart. How cultish can you get? I was raised a Southern Baptist and they are the cult! Where in the Bible does it teach that those who preach the Gospel should get paid a salary? You keep saying that Mormonism is not Christian and that that is a fact...those are your wrong facts!!!
SDR December 23, 2011 at 02:45 PM
Matthew 12:37 By your words you shall be acquitted and by your words you shall be condemned.
Lou December 23, 2011 at 03:29 PM
Intelligent readers here will be able to tell who is reasonable and true followers of Jesus Christ and who the sniveling retard is. Enough said.
David December 23, 2011 at 05:14 PM
Hey Robert Kramer, your name calling is not helping.... Disagree, fine. But don't be disagreeable...
David December 23, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Seriously? again with the wives comment? You have nothing else to debate with? Come on... argue intelligently or get out of the debate.
Martin A December 24, 2011 at 06:09 PM
Let's see, am I more Christian than you? Hard to say. Over 650 separate faiths have a belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, believe the Bible is the word of God, and strive in various (sometimes unique) ways to keep His commandments as they understand them. The Church Mitt attends (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is one of these. Romney believes Jesus was and is the Son of God and the Messiah, the Savior of the world. So what if every point of his faith does not align with every point of mine. For me, being a Christian is linked inseparably and primarily to a belief in Jesus Christ and secondly includes a sincere effort to follow Him in ones everyday living. So Mitt Romney is much more of a Christian than Gingrich, or any other Republican candidate that I know of, for that matter. And he is the only one who understands finances, really understands. We have to make the call people, and America cannot endure another term with Obama.
Martin A December 24, 2011 at 06:16 PM
Doesn't someone who actually honors marriage and virtue through practice and example trump someone who has tried and failed, then tried and failed multiple times and who can only say, "Yes, but I will do better next time." I believe in repentance and forgiveness, but I also believe in example, and in example Romney wins hands down. In unsupported promises for the future that have no support in past practices, I would have to give Gingrich the edge. Is Gingrich good enough for this election? Not for me.
Roger Gunn December 26, 2011 at 02:57 AM
Ray ...you hit the nail on the head! Thank you. The Reverends of the Southern Baptist church are trying as hard as they can to keep their parishioners (and their money) from converting to the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS. Why else would anybody stand up to the pulpit and preach the hate and lies I hear coming from you?
Roger Gunn December 26, 2011 at 03:11 AM
Well said Bill. Whole congregations have been brainwashed by the likes of Rev. Brad Atkins. Why don't these so called Christians preach the love of Jesus Christ for all the children of God rather than tear down beliefs of other religions.
Don Goodlett March 10, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Mormons are Christians but the Southern Baptist Convention wants evangelicals to think differently. A different opinion from a Southern Baptist boy who married a Mormon girl. The SBC is hiding their true colors. WWW.MormonsMasonsandTemplars.com


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