Just yesterday I found myself engaged in a very moving and inspiring conversation with some of the Jewish inmates I teach at an Ohio correctional facility. The topic was how do we worship God beyond prayer? How do we fulfill the commandment to love God with all our heart and soul?
The answer to me has always been quite simple, love other human beings. Show respect and compassion of all of God’s children and you are expressing love and devotion to God who is the Source of all love and life.
I suggested that people who proudly wear the mantle of one faith or another but use their religion to sit in judgment of others; to speak condescendingly of others; use God and the Bible to denigrate others, are ultimately guilty of blasphemy.
Thank you David Brooks. You and I are on the same page when it comes to Ted Cruz and Christians who think and behave like him.
(reprinted from the 1/12/2016 New York Times)
The Brutalism of Ted Cruz
In 1997, Michael Wayne Haley was arrested after stealing a calculator from Walmart. This was a crime that merited a maximum two-year prison term. But prosecutors incorrectly applied a habitual offender law. Neither the judge nor the defense lawyer caught the error and Haley was sentenced to 16 years.
Eventually, the mistake came to light and Haley tried to fix it. Ted Cruz was solicitor general of Texas at the time. Instead of just letting Haley go for time served, Cruz took the case to the Supreme Court to keep Haley in prison for the full 16 years.
Some justices were skeptical. “Is there some rule that you can’t confess error in your state?” Justice Anthony Kennedy asked. The court system did finally let Haley out of prison, after six years.
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The case reveals something interesting about Cruz’s character. Ted Cruz is now running strongly among evangelical voters, especially in Iowa. But in his career and public presentation Cruz is a stranger to most of what would generally be considered the Christian virtues: humility, mercy, compassion and grace. Cruz’s behavior in the Haley case is almost the dictionary definition of pharisaism: an overzealous application of the letter of the law in a way that violates the spirit of the law, as well as fairness and mercy.
Traditionally, candidates who have attracted strong evangelical support have in part emphasized the need to lend a helping hand to the economically stressed and the least fortunate among us. Such candidates include George W. Bush, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas spoke in Storm Lake, Iowa, on Wednesday.One Town at a Time in Iowa, With Ted Cruz Senator Ted Cruz of Texas with Bob Vander Plaats, one of the most influential leaders of Iowa’s politically activist evangelicals, in Rock Rapids last week.Ted Cruz’s Diligent Courting of Evangelicals Pays Off in Iowa Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, far right, highlighted his background — the son of a bartender and a maid — during the Kemp Forum in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday. Mr. Rubio also noted that Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, sitting next to him, understood the challenges of struggling Americans, with a father who delivered mail.Republican Candidates, Minus Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Play Nice at Poverty Forum
But Cruz’s speeches are marked by what you might call pagan brutalism. There is not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy. Instead, his speeches are marked by a long list of enemies, and vows to crush, shred, destroy, bomb them. When he is speaking in a church the contrast between the setting and the emotional tone he sets is jarring.
Cruz lays down an atmosphere of apocalyptic fear. America is heading off “the cliff to oblivion.” After one Democratic debate he said, “We’re seeing our freedoms taken away every day, and last night was an audition for who would wear the jackboot most vigorously.”
As the Republican strategist Curt Anderson observed in Politico, there’s no variation in Cruz’s rhetorical tone. As is the wont of inauthentic speakers, everything is described as a maximum existential threat.
The fact is this apocalyptic diagnosis is ridiculous. The Obama administration has done things people like me strongly disagree with. But America is in better economic shape than any other major nation on earth. Crime is down. Abortion rates are down. Fourteen million new jobs have been created in five years.
Obama has championed a liberal agenda, but he hasn’t made the country unrecognizable. In 2008, federal spending accounted for about 20.3 percent of gross domestic product. In 2015, it accounted for about 20.9 percent.
But Cruz manufactures an atmosphere of menace in which there is no room for compassion, for moderation, for anything but dismantling and counterattack. And that is what he offers. Cruz’s programmatic agenda, to the extent that it exists in his speeches, is to destroy things: destroy the I.R.S., crush the “jackals” of the E.P.A., end funding for Planned Parenthood, reverse Obama’s executive orders, make the desert glow in Syria, destroy the Iran nuclear accord.
Some of these positions I agree with, but the lack of any positive emphasis, any hint of reform conservatism, any aid for the working class, or even any humane gesture toward cooperation is striking.
Cruz exploits and exaggerates that fear. But he reacts to Obergefell in exactly the alienating and combative manner that is destined to further marginalize evangelicals, that is guaranteed to bring out fear-driven reactions and not the movement’s highest ideals.
The best conservatism balances support for free markets with a Judeo-Christian spirit of charity, compassion and solidarity. Cruz replaces this spirit with Spartan belligerence. He sows bitterness, influences his followers to lose all sense of proportion and teaches them to answer hate with hate. This Trump-Cruz conservatism looks more like tribal, blood and soil European conservatism than the pluralistic American kind.
Evangelicals and other conservatives have had their best influence on American politics when they have proceeded in a spirit of personalism — when they have answered hostility with service and emphasized the infinite dignity of each person. They have won elections as happy and hopeful warriors. Ted Cruz’s brutal, fear-driven, apocalypse-based approach is the antithesis of that.