Is America Surrounded by Paganism? Newt Thinks So

Addressing a crowd gathered this weekend for the “Rediscovering God in America” conference, former House speaker Newt Gingrich told the audience that “we (Americans) are surrounded by paganism”. He didn’t mean it as a compliment. But what did he mean?

Newt’s no fool. Agree with him or not, but this is a really smart guy. So what is talking about? Is “paganism” now synonymous with whatever certain Christians don’t agree with? Is that a riff borrowed from the Hebrew Bible, which might be summarized as one lengthy battle with idolatry, which is often thought of as the same thing as paganism?

But are they same? Is the Hebrew term avodah zarah, literally strange or foreign worship, the same as either of those English words?

A more careful analyses (and this is not the place for it) might yield a definition of avodah zarah which is a function of strangeness over familiarity, hostility to Judaism over tolerance of Judaism, and a false absolutization of the infinite. This would explain why Jews living under more hospitable Christians (the Meiri for example) found no idolatry in Catholicism, those living under Islam found none in that tradition, and why it seems that we ought not find it, in Buddhism for example.

In fact, it seems to me that many of what we might rush to call pagan or idolatrous traditions, are actually acutely sensitive to the infinite and make images precisely because they know that such images are not full picture of the infinite but aids to approaching what is. Ironically, if Newt is any example, we may be witnessing a far more idolatrous i.e. falsely absolutized, version of Christianity than we are getting from the traditions against which he seems to be railing.

I might have this confused, but isn’t Newt the one who trashed Clinton for his White House affair, all the while cheating on his own wife?

It’s one thing to “make a mistake”, as the guilty like to say, but it’s another to so publicly trash someone for doing exactly what you’re doing. That takes a special kind of creep.

If this is the same guy, why does anyone care what he has to say?

Newt converted to Catholicism a few weeks ago. So he is of some interest in these parts.

Why did he convert? What was he before?

Catholic or not, why does anyone care what he thinks?

Newt is in a very good position of running for President in 2012. His wife Callista is Catholic, and probably played a part in him becoming Catholic. Newt on becoming Catholic:

I don’t know that it’s much different. That’s part of what led to my conversion is the first time we [he and Callista] went to St. Peter’s together. It’s St. Peter’s. I mean, you stand there and you think, this is where St. Peter was crucified. This is where Paul preached. You think to yourself, two thousand years ago the apostles set out to create a worldwide movement by witnessing to the historic truth they had experienced. And there it is. The last time we were there we were allowed to walk in the papal gardens and you get this sense that is almost mystical.
The moment that finally convinced me [to convert] was when Benedict XVI came here [to the United States] and Callista in the church choir sang for him at the vespers service and all the bishops in the country were there. As a spouse, I got to sit in the upper church and I very briefly saw [Benedict] and I was just struck with how happy he was and how fundamentally different he was from the news media’s portrait of him. This guy’s not a Rottweiler. He’s a very loving, engaged, happy person.
I’d first seen Pope John Paul II when he came to the U.S. when Carter was president and I was a freshman congressman. And I [later] met him as Speaker.
The other sense is that the church has had two of its most powerful popes back to back, in their intellectual ability to engage the secular world on behalf of Christ. And the weight of all that, and going with [Callista] to church every Sunday to the Basilica [in Washington, D.C.], a magnificent church with a wonderful mass. In that sense I felt differently a long time ago, which is why I converted.
And part of me is inherently medieval. I resonate to Gothic churches and the sense of the cross in a way that is really pre-modern.

Mainly because he has a functioning, intelligent brain and has been in politics for years and has a clear understanding as to what is going on behind the backs of the american public which unfortunately most americans are lazy and apathetic as to what is going on in washington unless it personally effects them. .Only an unintelligent person would NOT care what others think when it comes to social,political.ethical, financial issues, I guess the old saying Ignorance is bliss fits a lot of people these days…Ignorance and apathy

So I should care about the opinion of an immoral person who lied to his wife and his country?

Someone else posted his comments on converting to Catholicism. He likes really big, really old churches. And he met 2 popes. Besides, he’s at Mass every Sunday anyway.

And I’m supposed to care what he thinks? :smiley:

He may have been keeping his reasons private, but the public statement, you have to admit, was pretty bad. :slight_smile:

I’m not thinking that a guy who has been married three times, was committing adultery while chastizing a sitting president for doing the same, has had two marriages annulled so he could join the RCC, in the hopes? of perhaps garnering votes in 2012 is someone I would be listening to on his take on morals?

I have nothing against the guy for his marriages, his divorces, his annulments, his infidelities. They are part of the human condition. But when he starts telling us about morality, I rather draw the line.

I think he can’t deside whether to follow Rush’s leadership of the GOP or Huckabees. I suspect he will be more plausible with Rush than trying to be the moral compass of America.

“The whole effort to create a ruthless, amoral, situational ethics culture has probably driven me toward a more overt Christianity.”

I think Newt is saying he repents of his previous actions in his social and political life (which had a lot to do with the coarsening and polarization of US politics, which has persisted to this day.)

I guess I am suspicious of his actual attitudes, but I want to give him a chance to show that his spots really have changed.

As for his “we are surrounded by paganism” speech, I suspect it was a pitch to secure a religious right political base to support his rumored 2012 run for US president.

SM, we agree! Will wonders never cease. :thumbsup:

I invite believing Pagans to define paganism and hope that some will do so here. 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.

Interesting that you left this part out.

In fact, it seems to me that many of what we might rush to call pagan or idolatrous traditions, are actually acutely sensitive to the infinite and make images precisely because they know that such images are not full picture of the infinite but aids to approaching what is. Ironically, if Newt is any example, we may be witnessing a far more idolatrous i.e. falsely absolutized, version of Christianity than we are getting from the traditions against which h seems to be railing.

Very interesting, and very insightful.

A word to the wise is sufficient.:wink:

Gotcha. :wink:

Isn’t it amazing Kalt? LOL…do you like vanilla or chocolate ice cream? Choc. for me! lol.

I think that we would all do well to review the “ad hominen” fallacy…

Hmm. I usually order vanilla. But if it’s really good, rich premium choc. ice cream, there’s nothing better.

We might agree on more than we disagree. Who knew! :slight_smile:

Newt is as usual right on the mark.

Society today is self-focused which by itself fills the bill. Then add to it lust for money, power, sex and the picture is rounded out.

In 1970 About 75% of professed Catholics fulfilled Sunday and Holyday obligations; today that numer is [Pew report] at 23%. About 70% went to Confession, nor “less than 10% go even once per year.”

I’m not sure of what he gave as causes, but he is “right on the mark” in his sumanation. dear God help us, Socialism IS COMMING! That to requires idols and false gods.

He WAS granted the annuments (I assume)
The Church IS about forgivness.

What was it Jesus said about casting the first stone?

“Why give a word to the wise its the fools that need the wisdom,” Bill Cosby.

Well newt will just have to be more gingerly depending on who his audience is.

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