Virgil said that “…no day shall erase you from the memory of time.” Likewise, a momentary outburst does not erase a lifetime of enriching thousands of souls.
Much of the nation’s introduction to Greg Gianforte consists of a ten-second audiotape recorded on Wednesday. But you probably haven’t met the Greg many of us in Montana have known for years. The one who, with his wife Susan, has donated over $50 million to charities through the Gianforte Family Foundation, which they founded a decade ago and funded from the sale of an IT company they started in their basement in the early 1990’s. The Foundation’s recipients include a Christian ministry spreading the Gospel in Africa, Christian colleges from Montana to New Jersey to New Zealand, a nonprofit group building custom wheelchairs for people with disabilities in developing nations, the Alliance for Choice in Education, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, Love In the Name of Christ, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the American Center for Law and Justice, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, Intermountain Opera, the Gallatin Historical Society, and countless food banks and soup kitchens.
This list is not exhaustive, and also includes Petra Academy, a classical Christian school here in Bozeman, Montana. Greg and Susan built it and endowed it with scholarship funds to ensure the children of middle and lower income families can escape what Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) correctly calls a “present-minded education that produces cultural amnesia.” (Full disclosure: that same scholarship fund enables my wife and me to send our four children to Petra Academy, something we could never do otherwise).
None of this excuses what happened on Wednesday. The audio recording and first-hand testimony from Fox reporters make clear the assault charge against Greg is supported by probable cause. Montana law will rightly require him to either admit guilt or submit to a jury of his peers.
The question after that is whether Greg will submit to a corrupt, soulless Republican establishment. For those of us hoping Greg is one of those persons the Lord is raising up for such a time as this, his victory speech wasn’t encouraging. His apology to the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs absolutely needed to be said. But the remainder of Greg’s Chamber-of-Commerce-inspired speech was scrubbed of the faith that has animated his life. Greg promised to Make America Great Again™ without acknowledging that God made it great originally and is the only One who can again. Not a word about ending abortion, or even making it rare, a goal that even Democrats embraced not all that long ago. Not a word about defending religious liberties from the kinds of attacks never seen in our nation’s history. Not a word about advancing school choice and liberating low-income families from public schools hell-bent on instilling hatred of America’s Founding.
Greg vowed to “drain the swamp,” but didn’t give a shout-out, or even a kind mention, to the House Freedom Caucus, the only House Republicans serious about doing any draining.
Republican leaders will forever demand a secular penance from Greg without ever extending real grace to him. The RNC’s chair declared Greg’s apology “was a good first step toward redemption and I hope Gianforte continues to work toward righting his wrong.” Greg’s continuing to right his wrong will require silent acquiescence as a Republican-controlled House continues funding Obamacare, Planned Parenthood chop shops, and undeclared wars and defunding tax-cuts and border walls.
Nothing Greg does will keep the more odious members of what was once the family values party from preening. Take Rep. Mark Sanford (R-Buenos Aires), for example, who said that Greg’s confrontation with Jacobs “sounds horrendous.” Actually, a family man shoving a reporter is far less horrendous than a philanderer who sleeps with one while abandoning the wife of his youth, his four young sons, and his duties as the chief executive of a state.
The Lord has broken Greg’s pride, as He does with us all. But a Walmart optician can fix the glasses Greg broke on Wednesday afternoon, and on Wednesday night Greg returned to his house a life-long faithful husband and father. Mark Sanford, Newt Gingrich, and countless other Republicans have broken their families. They did not return home last night as life-long faithful husbands and fathers. And they won’t tonight, either. And they never will. Greg has nothing to learn about virtue from these men, and he owes them nothing.
The Left will always hate Greg, and will shout it from the rooftops every day he is in Washington. Republican leaders hate him, too, but won’t tell him to his face so long as they can pick his pockets and dictate his floor votes.
So Greg should strive to be hated for the right reasons. That means showing up in Washington in a few weeks as the man we got to know in Bozeman for many years. The one who spoke up for Christians and put considerable monies where his mouth was. The one you haven’t met yet. The one Montana Christians would be proud to introduce to you.