A little over a month ago I received an email from a liberal ordained Christian minister friend of mine. Attached to it was a word processor file purporting to contain a Ted Cruz quote about God and immigrants. Of course, it made Cruz sound like a theological buffoon. Also of course, it was without specifics as to when he said it or what was the context. There was no way I could verify the accuracy of the “quote.”
Yesterday, at Liberty University, when Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for president, he invoked God and Jesus multiple times and did not sound at all like a theological buffoon. And yet I could not help but think that he made at least as many intractable enemies with his overt invocations of the Almighty as he did friends.
The left-leaning portions of the Internet blew up almost immediately with anti-Cruz and, sadly, anti-Christian rhetoric. It was entirely reminiscent of the “look at those idiotic religious beliefs” storm that fell on Mitt Romney – the only difference was that in this case the storm came from the left and center instead of the left and the far right. That is unfortunately a very significant difference. Religious faith is not fungible on the far right, but it is in the center and the fact that the anti-Cruz attacks came how, and from where, they did is a sign that genuine Christian faith is being increasingly ghettoized.
Most conservatives revere Ronald Reagan as a great and godly president. But his faith was hardly on his verbal sleeve. I recall long debates with friends during his presidency about whether he really was a Christian at all because of how rarely he went to church and how little he said the “right” words. History has revealed to us that his church attendance patterns were primarily out of respect to others whom he did not wish to disturb with the entourage necessary for a president to attend church. And while his rhetoric was specifically religiously neutral, he did not shy from invoking a more generic Almighty and the legacy of his governance speaks for itself. One cannot help but think of I John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
Christianity has come to be reviled in a large portion of the American populace. We Christians can tick off reasons for that like we can count our fingers – schools , TV, movies, etc. But I cannot help but think that one of the reasons it has happened is that we have earned it. We insist that our candidates utter precise theological formulations to gain our support, and look only secondarily at their actions and policies. Worse, we insist that the policies be a precise reflection of our belief rather than a move in our direction. Christian political action seems reduced to “bad” or “good” instead of “better” or “worse.” It is as if a Christian act is only a Christian act if it is accompanied by the theologically correct utterance. Is it really any wonder we find ourselves in a political ghetto?
I deeply respect Ted Cruz’s faith. I would love to share communion with him. Any presidential candidate makes him, or her, self a target when they announce their candidacy. But I sure would appreciate it if they took the hits for their faith rather than set their faith up to take the hits for them.