I have a confession to make. Newt Gingrich changed my life. It was 1984 and my friend, Martin Cothran, recommended that I read a book by a young Republican Congressman from Georgia, Newt Gingrich. Marty's suggestion occurred in the middle of a discussion over coffee and pie in a diner in Santa Ana, California. We were both M.A. students in the Christian apologetics program of what was once called Simon Greenleaf University (which has since merged with Trinity International University). As was our routine, we would, every Friday night after our Koine Greek class, retire to a close-by coffee shop, where the conversation would inevitably turn to politics.
At the time, I was a self-described moderate: liberal on issues of economic justice while conservative on moral issues such as abortion. I was, for the lack of a better term, an FDR Democrat, though I was becoming more convinced that my 1980 vote for Jimmy Carter was a colossal mistake. I grew to like Ronald Reagan, the man who defeated Carter, even though I was allergic to what seemed to me to be Reagan's weakness on the welfare state. For I was, like most young liberals, convinced that free markets were detrimental to those in poverty.