For a while now, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention has been calling Mayor Giuliani’s split from his second wife “divorce on steroids” and saying that he didn’t think Southern Baptists would vote en masse for a guy with the kind of personal life Mayor Giuliani has. But now he’s upped the ante. According to the Florida Baptist Witness:
If the choice for president in 2008 is between Rudi Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, Richard Land says he’ll skip that portion of the ballot.
Responding to a hypothetical argument that Christians should support Giuliani because he’s solid on other issues, Land responded, “What I would say is the lesser of two evils argument has its limits, and this is beyond those limits…. It would violate my principles, it would violate my convictions, and I would be a hypocrite for having said that character was a key issue with Bill Clinton, and then turn around and make it less of an issue when it’s a candidate that I like better than I like Bill Clinton. I couldn’t compromise my principles to that extent to do so.”
[Guest host of the Albert Mohler radio program Russ] Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Land, “I agree with you on that completely.”
While Giuliani and social conservatives may agree on 80 percent of the issues, Land said, “[T]he most important 20 percent are where the disagreements are.” Moore said the 20 percent “includes the lives of unborn children.”
Even if Giuliani pledges to appoint strict constructionist judges in order to get conservative support, Land said he wouldn’t vote for him.
“How can we believe him?” Land asked. “He promised … two wives that he would love, honor and cherish and be faithful only unto her until ‘death us do part.’ And twice he lied to his wife—twice. He broke his marital vows. That gets to the basic issue of trust, the basic issue of character. As Harry Truman once argued, he said, ‘I would never knowingly hire a man to work for me who cheated on his wife.’ When he was asked why, he said, ‘Well, if he’ll lie to his wife, he’ll lie to me. If he’ll break his oath of marriage he’ll break his oath of office.’ It’s pretty hard to argue with President Truman’s logic.”
Dr. Land thinks that was a different animal from Senator McCain’s 1980s divorce:
“John McCain has acknowledged that he was unfaithful and it was a major cause of the breakup of his first marriage,” Land said on the Mohler radio program. “He’s expressed regret for that. He said it has grieved him deeply. He has been in a second marriage now for more than 20 years, and by all outward appearances it’s a strong and committed marriage. There’s never been a whiff of scandal about John McCain as a senator. That’s very different than being in a third marriage, as Rudi Giuliani is, and publicly humiliating your wife…. I find most evangelicals, while they’re not affirming of a divorce and a second marriage, see a huge difference between the number two and the number three.”
But McCain has his own set of problems with conservatives, Land said.
“They know he’s pro-life, but I’ve had numerous pro-life leaders say to me, ‘John McCain’s pro-life, but do we have any reason to believe that his being pro-life would have anything to do with who he would nominate to the Supreme Court?’” Land told CNN’s Paula Zahn. “It’s that kind of uncomfortability with his unpredictability—the maverick nature that makes him so popular with independents—that gives conservatives pause.”
He’s also not satisfied–in contrast to James Dobson and Jerry Falwell–with Speaker Gingrich’s much-noted comments to Dr. Dobson:
Newt Gingrich’s recent acknowledgement of past unfaithfulness fell short of what Land would like to have seen. Gingrich, who is twice divorced and on his third marriage, said on Focus on the Family’s radio program he has had “periods of weakness” and “periods I’m not only not proud of but that I would deeply urge my children and grandchildren not to follow in my footsteps.”
“I listened to that program, and I didn’t hear the word repentance,” Land told Moore. “…You and I would express special significance to that term. I am delighted that he has acknowledged this, that he has acknowledged his misbehavior, that he is sorry for it, that he would certainly counsel his children and his grandchildren not to follow his behavior. … But it is still a fact that Newt Gingrich was unfaithful to his first wife, he was unfaithful to his second wife.”
And finally, here are his thoughts on Governor Romney:
“I don’t think it’s necessary that [a candidate] be a born-again Christian,” Land said on the Mohler program. “I think it is more important, in terms of their performance of their office, that they be operating out of a Judeo-Christian worldview. So, I would vote for a Jew who agreed with my Judeo-Christian worldview when it came to issues of abortion and marriage over a self-professed born-again Christian like Jimmy Carter.”
So the Southern Baptists’ emissary to the political world would rather vote for a Mormon who lives out the importance of–and has fought for–traditional marriage than for someone who has publicly dishonored the institution. Do you think he’s alone in that? (It’s an honest question.)