Ted Cruz has made a serious mistake—one supported by sentiments of millions of American evangelicals—and it could cost the lives of many Christians.
I suppose you’ve heard by now that Ted Cruz was recently “booed off stage” for a senseless, ill-placed “stand with Israel” gaffe at a banquet for persecuted Middle East Christians. The worst part of his comments is not that they were calculated for self-serving political purposes—as others have noted already. Although that is certainly bad enough, it is hardly as offensive as the main implication of what he said. Apparently, we must agree with him, or else we are filled with hate and anti-Semitic.
When he said, “Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state,” boos and jeers erupted from a vocal minority of the audience. It is not clear what their exact motivation or angle was, but it is clear that they did not agree fully with the political import of Cruz’s statement. The unfortunate twist came, however, with how Cruz interpreted their opposition: it has to be “hate”; it has to be “anti-semitism.”
It can’t be that Middle East Christians have a had a worse experience with Israel than the rainbows blessings Ted Cruz has learned about in some pro-“Israel” Bible study, safely tucked away in America somewhere between the pages of a Scofield Bible and a Left Behind novel, with hands laid-on by a charismatic millenarian prophesying about blessing “Abraham’s seed.” It can’t be that Middle East Christians are stuck in a much messier political scenario than is convenient for American evangelicals to comprehend within the box of their tidy eschatologies.
Whatever it is, it can’t be more complex than can be solved by the type of shameless political demagoguery you would expect from a Clinton. If you don’t follow my distant-eyed prophetic view of this political mess, Cruz essentially says, then you must “hate Jews.” So he immediately twisted opposition to his “no greater ally” with this gem:
If you hate the Jewish people you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ.
This can, of course, mean two different things. If he’s speaking of hate in general, then of course! Christians are not allowed to “hate” (in that sense) any select group of people. But this is not the flavor of his talk. It seems what he’s saying is that if you don’t support the modern-day, political state of Israel, then you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ.
And that, is not only hooey, it is not only far from biblical, it is simply dishonest to pervert someone’s opposition of a tenuous political position into the absolute expression of religious and personal hatred. Who said anything about hating anyone? After all, the statement, “Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state” is about as radical as anything that can be said—given the scope of human history. Simply to disagree with that statement is hardly anything close to “hate” for Jews. I can disagree with that claim and still wish them the best, and even hold that state in high regard, theoretically. Even if you don’t hold them in high regard, it is still not “hate.” To make that leap is simply incredible, inexcusable, and reprehensible.
Shame on you Ted Cruz: what you did is exemplify how the worst of the left and liberals speak. Conservatives, and especially Christians, are supposed to rise far above this abysmal standard.
Others have noted that this was premeditated on Cruz’s part, and planned in conjunction with the Washington Free Beacon. The Washington Post reports that another conservative Congressman, Charlie Dent (R-PA) was sitting on the front row. His reaction exposed Cruz:“He was speaking to people outside of the building. . . . It was a willful and deliberate confrontation, and very self-serving.”
Another relates, “It seems, however, that he had the episode planned. Before giving the speech, Cruz met with the editorial board of the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website, which then ran an obligingly alarmist account of the upcoming event with the headline ‘Cruz Headlines Conference Featuring Hezbollah Supporters.’ Apparently, the whole thing was a setup, a farce to make Cruz look good with his base and shore up his credibility as a pro-Israel hawk. Mollie Hemingway has the evidence over at The Federalist.”
Yet others have noted the sheer shameless demagoguery of Cruz’s act. Daniel Larison of the American Conservative writes,
As one would expect, Sen. Cruz pretended that he had done nothing wrong, and went so far as to make the ridiculous claim that he had taken a stand against anti-Semitism. Cruz’s behavior was unnecessary, it was insulting to his hosts, it was needlessly provocative to the audience, and it was an embarrassment to his voters. Because he has proven time after time to be a shameless demagogue, none of that will bother him.
It is a serious problem when particular brands of Christian “last days madness” blend with particular brands of neoconservativism and Zionism to give us politicians who think they are doing God a favor and “reflecting the teachings of Christ” by using a polarizing “hate” agenda in reckless and insensitive abandon.
We will never be free from theological and eschatological presuppositions. That’s fine, necessary, and acceptable. But this does not mean we can afford to allow ourselves to be blinded by them—especially if they are wrong, but even if they are right. Even if—and in my opinion this is a nearly impossible if—the dispensational thesis regarding the modern-day state of Israel and the ethnic Jewish people were true, it would still not mean in any way that we must necessarily support or even defend the Israeli state. It is possible to acknowledge a variety of factors that would mitigate such a view.
And since I see the dispensational thesis a remote possibility at best—and more like absolutely refuted by Scripture—then such support and defense is not only unwarranted, it is unnecessarily dangerous to the lives of many.
If political leaders who are evangelicals cannot step back and examine this thesis, its inherent dangers, and the recklessness to which blind support of Israel, and the polarization of those who disagree as “hate” and “anti-Semitism,” lead them, then they should not be political leaders, and they should certainly not be lecturing others on “reflecting the teachings of Christ.”