AMAZING GRACE

As I sit down to dictate these lines, it is a cold morning in January. With a prayerful thought, January will soon be over. This essay will not be a religious one. Worse than that, it will combine the third rail of all essays in that it will comment upon politics and religion.

The title was carefully chosen by the author, namely me, to illustrate a point which will pervade this whole essay. I suspect that a good many of my readers are aware of the old Protestant hymn called “Amazing Grace.” It was written by John Newton, who was engaged in the slave trade until a storm wrecked his ship and he survived. He evidently believed that it was a miracle that he survived, which he attributed to the intervention of God. There is no evidence about the slaves who were presumably enchained below decks. Their fate is unknown. But before his life was done, Newton gave up sailing in the slave trade business and became an Anglican bishop.

The name of Newton has a special significance tied to this essay. After Mr. Newton reached dry land and was toweled off, he set about becoming a preacher. In time, he reached the exalted title of bishop in the Anglican Church. At some point or other, Bishop Newton took a Scottish tune and penned the lyrics to his now famous hymn of “Amazing Grace.”

The first lines are instructive as they relate to this essay. Those lines are:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

The significance of these lines is that Newton referred to himself as a wretch. Newton wrote the lyrics almost 300 years ago. In so doing, he may have foreseen the events that have taken place in the Republican primary elections this year. In this case, a fellow named Newton has fulfilled all of the requirements of wretchedness that could be asked for.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would hardly ever listen to the Republican debates in a primary election. My heart is not with the Republican Party. During the Republican debates, my thoughts are on such matters as those of celestial ones. But they would hardly ever qualify as the subject of another essay. But the current Newton richly deserves an essay not only about his politics but about his philandering.

As I said earlier, I am not given to listening to Republican debates. Even at my advanced age with all my disabilities, I have better things to do. But in this case I am struck or I should say thunderstruck by the temerity of the latter-day Newton (Gingrich) to claim that God has laid his hand on him and has forgiven him.

The current-day Newton Gingrich has a long history, including being asked to leave the speaker’s role in the American House of Representatives. But in the meantime the current Newton has been engaged in other extracurricular activities. Simply put, he is a philanderer par excellence. This current Newton has been married on three occasions. On one occasion, we are told that he told his wife that he intended to divorce her while she was in the hospital recovering from a serious illness. His current wife, who is 22 years his junior, spent six years in an affair with Mr. Gingrich. This made his second wife very angry and at the moment she is lashing out at Gingrich.

Now here is what attracts my attention. As you might say, it also disturbs me. Newton Gingrich proclaims that he has apologized to God and that God has forgiven him. There is no correspondence on this subject because we presume that God does not ever write letters or emails. All we have to go on is that Newton claims that he has been forgiven. There is no third party to verify such events.

In the recent past, there have been occasions when the pastors of mega-churches have strayed into homosexuality. In the recent case of Bishop Eddie Long, it appears that he is being divorced because his wife contends that he has become involved with young boys. I suspect that in the case of Mr. Long and Ted Haggard, also the proprietor of a mega-church, there will be a period of disappearance from the public scene. At the end of that disappearance, the preachers will apparently return to the limelight and contend that God has forgiven them and that they are ready to resume their preacher duties.

Perhaps it is unseemly for a non-believer like myself to comment on celestial matters. But I am thoroughly curious about how Newt Gingrich learned that he was forgiven by God. Do you really think that a person as busy as God would take time to review a philanderer’s case simply because he has been Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States? I don’t know.

Somehow or other, preachers and politicians stray from their marital bonds. In almost all cases, they take a bit of time off and return to the public scene claiming that God has forgiven them. I realize that in some instances I am a disputatious individual. But in the Gingrich affair,
Newt proclaims that God has forgiven him and has apparently extracted no penalties.

You can mark me down as a doubter of the first order. Newton claims that the pressures of life in Washington were so great that as a patriotic duty he strayed from his first two wives. Now I know that the preceding sentence doesn’t make sense, but it is all that we have.

As things now stand, Newt Gingrich claims that he has been forgiven by God. Would it be sacrilegious to question those forgivenesses? My bafflement is quite sincere. But until I can see some more proof of God’s forgiveness, I will remain a full-fledged skeptic. I believe that in the case of Newton Gingrich, he has been a wretched man since he appeared on the American political scene. And it will take a lot more than Newt’s own testimony that he has been forgiven to convince me.

So now we see that some three hundred years apart, we have examples of wretchedness. I suppose now that the latter day Newton, given his political ambitions, may very well run for Pope. Upon his election to Pope, I will find time to praise his thoroughgoing wretchedness.

E. E. CARR
January 27, 2012

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Was not expecting a Newt essay when I opened this one tonight. Well executed, though.

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