Gingrich Hangover

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 8, 2009 — 37 Comments

It seems I wasn’t the only one drawn to Newt Gingrich’s “surrounded by paganism” comment, other religion blogs have weighed in on the significance of that (and Mike Huckabee’s) talk at Rock Church in Virginia. We start with fellow Pagan blogger Gus diZerega, who wasn’t very happy with the idea that Pagans might not be fully American.

“Apparently from Newt’s perspective we Pagans are not Americans, for in his fatwa he warned Americans that they are surrounded by “Paganism.” … Three old white geezers giving their race and gender a bad name, speaking to a crowd that gives its religion a bad name.”

Meanwhile, another Beliefnet blogger, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, suspects a bit of redirected anti-semitism.

“I am pretty certain that any time a non-follower describes any tradition, without at least the active presence of an actual believer or two, something bad is bound to happen. Any doubts? Think about how Judaism has been mangled over the centuries by non-Jews twisting it to meet their needs for a spiritual foil. My guess is that is what Newt was doing with paganism, and since it’s no longer acceptable in most quarters to do that with Judaism, he simply picked on another group which has fewer defenders. It was wrong to do to Jews, and it’s wrong to do to pagans.”

However, Bruce Wilson at Talk To Action sees something far more dangerous in Newt’s (and Huckabee’s) appearance at Rock Church than some lazy swipe at “paganism”.

“Leaders on the Christian right have been giving such speeches for decades, but the  two-day Rock Church conference was not business as usual. Rather, it showcased the rapid reconfiguration of the Christian right around the rising, highly militant but poorly understood charismatic wing of the new Christian right, a movement which includes both Ted Haggard and Sarah Palin.)”

Wilson goes on to look into Lou Engle (featured in “Jesus Camp”) , who presided over the event, and who has a long history of anti-abortion and anti-gay militancy (including providing a theological framework for the murder of doctors who perform abortions). It should surprise no-one that Engle has ties to C. Peter Wagner of the “Third Wave of the Holy Spirit”, with its emphasis on prayer-war and destroying the “Queen of Heaven” (who they see as the Virgin Mary of the Catholics, a major demon, and the Goddess of the Pagans all rolled into one).

If Gingrich, Huckabee, and other Republicans are nurturing these folks as the new core of a revived “Christian Right”, we better keep our eyes open. As Wilson points out, these Christians have an entirely different unifying rallying call.

“…the emerging face of a new type of fundamentalism in America that is multiethnic, multiracial and, because of that, can appear pseudo-progressive but which is in many ways farther right than traditional fundamentalism. The new axis of bigotry is no longer defined by racial and ethnic distinctions. It is religious supremacy.”

Maybe Gingrich, a recently converted Catholic, doesn’t realize the dog-whistle language he’s using. When you say “paganism” to these folks, it doesn’t merely mean secularists, or modern Pagans, or atheists, it also means Catholics, and any Christian who isn’t fully on-board with their mission of “religious supremacy”. They are just as proud of (allegedly) killing Mother Teresa as they are of (again, allegedly) blinding and giving cancer to a Wiccan with their prayers. Gingrich haphazardly invoking the spectre of “paganism” might make for good jokes, but it’s no laughing matter to the prayer warriors at Rock Church.

Jason Pitzl-Waters