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Easter with Newt Gringrich

Easter is a time of joy, a belief in miracles, and reconciliation. But some people draw the line at people from another political party, as Joe Borich, who served as Consul General in Shanghai from 1994 to 1997, recounts. This excerpt is taken from “Shanghai Stories,” commemorating 30 years of the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai.

You can read other stories about Congressional delegations in No-Tell Codels and a consular run-in with Bianca Jagger and Congressman Torricelli.




BORICH: It was the spring of 1997 when Newt Gingrich, who was then Speaker of the House, arrived in Shanghai on Easter Sunday morning. He was scheduled to depart for Beijing that evening, but he was mine for the day.

Since it was Easter he wanted to go to church.  On our way to the Protestant non-denominational church on Hengshan Road, Newt made more than a few references to the “rampant religious persecution” in China that he’d heard and about. I allowed as how there was such persecution in some parts of China, but that it was nowhere near as widespread or systemic as he apparently believed.

He was more than a bit surprised to find that there were easily over 1,000 Chinese in or outside of the church (there were too many worshippers for all of them to fit inside).  We sat through an unremarkable Easter service (except, of course, for the fact it was all in Chinese) and then went on to our other events for the day, including a lunch with Mayor Xu Kuangdi and an early evening reception at the Consulate General.

I took Newt to the airport after the reception and bade him farewell. Upon returning home I decided to give my mother a call, it now being Easter Sunday morning in South Dakota where she lived.

Now, there are two things you need to know about my mother:  1) She was a devout Catholic (though quite ecumenical in her views on religion); and 2) She was a devout Democrat. (Somewhere along the way I lost my zeal for both of her passions.)

Having wished her a happy Easter, I started the conversation as follows:

(Me)  “Mom, Guess what? I went to church on Easter Sunday this morning for the first time in 25 years.”

(Mom)  “Saints be praised!”

(Me)  “With Newt Gingrich.”

(Mom)  (After a pause of about 30 seconds):  “I’ll continue to pray for you, Son.”