Awhile back I raised the prospect of a Romney-Christie ticket which would be unique in American life, a Mormon-Catholic ticket. It'd be sui generis because of Romney's Mormon faith and rare because of its absence of a Protestant. (There have been a number of unaffiliated Christians presidents who you might not call Protestant because they're not from the mainline branches like Methodist and Baptist and Episcopalian. So the Obama-Biden ticket was arguably Protestant free and certainly WASP free.) Of course, now that Gingrich is the GOP front runner a ticket of him and Romney seems less implausible than it did a week ago and a Catholic-Mormon ticket entirely plausible.
All of this raises questions of tolerance just as the election of an African-American president did.
But one thing that doesn't seem to jar anymore is conversion and it shouldn't.
Gingrich was raised a Lutheran, became a Baptist after high school and recently converted to Catholicism. Will it be an issue?
I doubt it and it shouldn't be.
The Bushes were protean themselves. George H.W. Bush is an Episcopalian, the "frozen chosen" he once joked. George W. Bush became a Methodist like his wife, Laura. Jeb Bush is now Catholic.
In American politics, flip flopping is the deadliest charge. Ask President John Kerry. We hate when politicians change their minds. But we're not so judgmental about pols and their faith. Perhaps because they look like us. A quarter of Americans have switched faiths. That number rises to 44 percent within Protestantism. (Methodists who become Congregationalists; Baptists who become Unitarians and so on.)
Newt Gingrich's path to God is circuitous and very, very American.
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