On Losing Our Prophetic Voice

James Dobson had a brief interview with Newt Gingrich yesterday on the Focus on the Family Radio show. The transcript of that session follows but before you read it I want to ask you this question:

"What is the christian definition of perjury?"

You will understand why I ask the question after you read the transcript.
DOBSON: Let me ask you about your family life. This is very, very personal and delicate and I appreciate your willingness to address it again. But you've been married three times under some circumstances that disappointed some of your supporters. And there are some questions associated with that era that remain unanswered with regard to an affair or maybe more than one. Would you take a run at that for our listeners?

GINGRICH: Yeah. And it's a very painful topic and I confess that directly to you. And it has some elements of it that I'm not in any way proud of.

In fact, some elements that, in the past, you know, I wouldn't … I'm now a grandfather. I have two grandchildren: Maggie who's 7 and Robert who's 5. And I think you get to a point – I'm 63 years old now – and you get to a point in life where you look back and there's some elements you want to caution your children and grandchildren not to follow you on. And things you need to learn. And I was married very young and had my first daughter when I was very young. In fact, at the end of my freshman year in college. I have two wonderful children and we're very, very close. And after a period of time, about 18 years, things just didn't work out and it's difficult. Although we do share both our two daughters and we share the two grandchildren. I then remarried and went through a very difficult time, some of which was covered even in news media coverage, and we had a big difference about public life. And that was, frankly again, very painful.

I think what I found difficult in going through all this is that I don't believe in situation ethics and I don't believe in saying, "Well, this was right and that was wrong" and then changing the rules according to my behavior, according to what … you know, to justify what I've done. And I'd have to say in all honesty, as I said to you the other week, there were times when I was praying and when I felt I was doing things that were wrong. But I was still doing them. And I look back on those as periods of weakness and periods that I'm not only not proud of, but that I would deeply urge my children and grandchildren not to follow in my footsteps.

DOBSON: On that occasion I asked you a pretty bold question. And I appreciate the fact that you didn't seem offended by it. But I asked you if the rumors were true that you were in an affair with a woman obviously who wasn't your wife at the same time that Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were having their escapade.

GINGRICH: Well, the fact is that the honest answer is yes. But it was not related to what happened. And this is one of the things the Left tries to do and one of the places, where frankly, I think the way this report of the special counsel was written weakened the case.

The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge. He was involved in a sexual-harassment lawsuit in which his behavior was a direct question of whether or not the woman who had accused him was telling the truth. The president of the United States, who was a Yale-graduated lawyer, had been attorney general of his state, knew better, deliberately committed perjury. Perjury is at the very heart of our legal system. And is very often punished very intently by the courts. I was very aware of this because of the very painful thing you've raised, which is I had been through a divorce. I had been through depositions.

I had once had a lawyer tell me, "Well, you can just fudge on this," and I said, "No! You can't fudge on this!" You're at the very heart of our legal system. If you don't tell the truth under oath the whole system breaks down. And the challenge I was faced with wasn't about judging Bill Clinton as a person. I'm not going to cast the first stone, and I clearly know that I can't cast the first stone.

Because I have, in fact, as I think every member of every jury in America, has had weaknesses and if that was the standard our whole system would collapse. That's not the standard. The standard is in a court of law, should somebody who's popular get away with committing a felony? And if this week it's perjury, and next week it's theft, and the week after that it's having somebody beaten up, then what morning do we end up as a corrupt country like Nigeria where the corruption is so deep that it eats at the very fabric of our society?

And I drew a line in my mind and again, our listeners may not agree with me. But I drew a line in my mind that said, "Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept felonies and you cannot accept perjury in your highest officials."

DOBSON: Well, you answered that question with regard to Bill Clinton instead of referring to yourself. May I ask you to address it personally? You know, I believe you to be a professing Christian and you and I have prayed together, but when I heard you talk about this dark side of your life and when we were in Washington, you spoke of it with a great deal of pain and anguish, but you didn't mention repentance. Do you understand that word, repentance?

GINGRICH: Absolutely. And I answered … maybe it was the way the question was posed in terms of how the cross-parallels of the two things. In terms of my own life, let me say that I was raised initially as a Lutheran and I ended up converting and becoming a Southern Baptist when I was in graduate school at Saint Charles Avenue Baptist Church with Dr. Avery Lee, who was just a great, great preacher and moral leader. And so that's my background.

I believe deeply that people fall short and that people have to recognize that they have to turn to God for forgiveness and to seek mercy. Somebody once said that when you're young you want justice and that when you get older you want mercy. I also believe that there are things in my own life that I have turned to God and have gotten on my knees and prayed about and sought God's forgiveness. I don't know how you could live with yourself and not end up breaking down if you didn't find, try to find, some way to deal with your own weaknesses and to go to God about them.

DOBSON: Well, I appreciate your allowing us to delve into that. Obviously the reason that I ask is that you are a national leader, despite the fact that you're not in public office at this time. And many of the concepts and ideas that you've expressed, last time and today, are things that I agree with, and I think it's really important and will be for many of our listeners to know your responses to that point of disappointment back there someplace. And I really appreciate your willingness to do so.

GINGRICH: Well, if I could just for a second, let me just say that I think that the most important form of leadership is to be a servant. And there are times that I have fallen short of my own standards. There's certainly times when I've fallen short of God's standards and my neighbor's standards.

But I think my job is to try to do for my country and on a very personal level for my children and for my grandchildren and for their future, try to do everything I can to be a servant in helping this country deal both with, with the domestic challenges to our very identity and that's what "Rediscovering God in America" is all about and to foreign challenges to our very survival. And I hope, you know, within that framework, as you know, you and I have worked together for many, many years.


GINGRICH: I hope that people will see me in that context. I'm not trying to be a leader in the sense of rising above my fellow Americans, but I am trying to serve, particularly as a teacher and as a developer of solutions, and as somebody who is trying to find how we get through the next 10 or 15 years in a way that makes us safe and free and prosperous, and gives our children and grandchildren the kind of extraordinary freedom that you and I have had.

DOBSON: Well, it's a pleasure talking to you. I enjoy every time we have a chance to be together and I think our listeners have really learned a lot today and I hope we can continue the dialogue.

GINGRICH: I look forward to it. And I'm always available for you because of the extraordinary work you've done across this entire country.

DOBSON: God's blessings to you, my friend.

GINGRICH: Thank you

Mr. Gingrich, like many politicians, believes that the definition of perjury is lying to the courts. It seems that, in his mind anway, the great sin that President Clinton commited was lying to the courts. I found his focus on perjury to be very telling ... it revealed how he could so righteously pursue and attack President Clinton while he was in the middle of an adulterous affair.

Apparently Mr. Gingrich's definition of perjury didn't include (continually) lying to his wife, the country, himself and to God ... how convenient. Mr. Gingrich eventually married the woman (20 years younger than he) after he divorced his wife ... and if I remember President Clinton sought the forgiveness of his wife and reconciled with her. How sad that the Clintons are looked down on by conservatives while Gingrich is the star of many conservative talk shows (like Focus on the Family) ... could it be that our conservative politics have become the proverbial log in our eye that is causing our vision to be impaired?

Another aspect of this interview that I found so troubling is the pass that Dr. Dobson gave Gingrich on this issue and how he allowed Gingrich to speak in generalities about repentance. How is it that he couldn't really get in his business for treating his wife the way he did? Why give him a pass and subtly endorse Gingrich's political aspirations? Why?

I believe that this interview is yet another example of how the church is ceding it's prophetic voice for a political voice. You know, when John the Baptist called out Herod for adultery he was exercising a prophetic voice ... and it got him killed. Many of the Old Testament prophets were also persecuted and killed because of this kind of a prophetic voice.

It seems that, in our nation, Martin Luther King Jr. was our last prophetic voice. After Dr. King all we seem to have is ambitious political Christian leaders who have been very ineffective in bringing any substantial change to America. Interviews like this one with Newt Gingrich are really part of the problem. I am sad that such hypocrisy is supported by an influencial Christian leader.


  1. Bob,

    As a fellow Christian in the faith, I can't thank you enough for your courage in speaking out the truth. The confession by Gingrich is nothing more than a shameless exercise in hypocrisy. It's a black day for Christians.

  2. Well, I'm going to come out here and say that I've been disappointed in Dobson for a very long time...he is one of the "powers that be" that control what Bible translations you and I get to be introduced to...and they will destroy any Christian book business that defies them. That said, I agree with nelson..it's a black day for Christians, but also for America in general. I'm disgusted with politicians in general. Thanks for this post, Bob.

  3. Bob - Right on for posting this! I admit I was a bit concerned before I realized where you were going with it. Sigh. It will be interesting to watch the rest of the history of our country unfold. :(

  4. This is more troubling to me than the original behavior. It would appear from this article that NG is still making excuses for his behaviour rather than repenting of it.

  5. Good post, Bob.

    Newt is simply a broken man, and probably not much different than the rest of us. We have no idea if he even really knows the Lord. The real problem is the illegitimate marriage of the church and politics. Whether its James Dobson on the right, or Jim Wallis on the left, its a mistake. Politics is about earthly government and controlling people's behaviour. The kingdom is about changed hearts and living like the heroes of Hebrews 11.

    "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city."

    Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world."

    Most of American Christianity wants all that this world has to offer, and heaven for dessert. Newt is not the problem. Our self-centered, carnal religious system posing as the faith of the Bible is our problem.

    You are dead on, Bob. We need anointed prophetic voices more than we could possibly know.

  6. Thank you for posting this Bob. I think not only MLK Jr but Bobby kennedy was also a prophetic voice, in going back and reading about him after having seen the movie *bobby* Jesus shows us what happens to those who stand for truth and God they get killed!!! Maybe that really is the ultimate root of the dilemma who really truly wants to die??? Only if God resurrects us


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