Weigel

Newt in the Pulpit

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 03: Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks during a campaign rally at Stoney’s Rockin’ Country February 3, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Gingrich is campaigning ahead of Nevada’s February 4 caucus. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS – The International Church of Las Vegas takes the name seriously. It’s not quite a megachurch, but it strives for that, with stadium seating giving clear views of worship on the stage. The ceiling hangs heavy with flags from every continent; the lobby, on Friday night, was full of merchandise for Newt Gingrich’s struggling presidential campaign. This church is part of the world, part of the political world. Proudly so. Before Gingrich spoke, Pastor Jim Garlow, the co-chair of Gingrich’s Faith Leaders Coalition, warned parishoners not to shy away from politics.

“It’s time for pastors not to be intimidated, muzzled, churches silenced, Christians silenced!” said Garlow. “It’s time for us to speak out, and not be intimidated by wrong information from the secular left.”

Garlow spun a history of religion and politics in which pastors were hushed up by liberal politicians, seeking revenge via the IRS. “They knew full well that he who has the power to tax, has the power to control, to destroy,” he said. Enough of that. “Tearing up a baby in the womb is wrong. It’s called sin. Redefining marriage so the marriage will lack either a mommy or a daddy is wrong, it’s a sin, it should be called. Spending money you do not have and stealing it from future generations is wrong, it’s called thievery. Thou shalt not steal from future generations!”

The stage was set for Garlow to talk about Gingrich, the man he knew. “A friend said to me, you’re supporting a very flawed candidate,” he said. “I said yes, as flawed as King David in the Old Testament!”

Garlow’s quasi-sermon fit like a Jenga block into the argument all Gingrich surrogates make. They back a leader of Churchillian proportions; it would be a tragedy if he was brought down by Lilluputians. When he took the pulpit, Gingrich asked all of the children in the room younger than 12 to stand behind him.

“This is the future of America,” he said, gesturing at his flock. “The reason we’re here is we want to learn what kind of future are they going to have. Are they going to have a future of opportunity, of safety, of freedom? Or are they going to have a future of dependence on government, control from Washington, danger from foreigners? This election may be the most important election of their lifetime, and they can’t vote yet.” Beat. “Maybe in Chicago they could.”