Musing, News, and the Past

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Ted Cruz and the most cynical, despicable political stunt of the year


Since the second half of the 20th century, some of my fellow Christians have been the most persecuted religious group in the world. They still are. You probably are surprised to hear this. That’s because most of these persecuted Christians don’t live in the West. They are, as the awful phrase has it, too foreign for the right and too Christian for the left.

In recent weeks and months, however, the West has heard about the plight of at least one set of these persecuted Christians: those in the Middle East. These communities, many of which date back to the very beginning of Christianity, are now facing outright extinction. And it’s happening at the hands of ISIS, the West’s Public Enemy No. 1.

It is in this context that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) indulged in what might be the most cynical and despicable political stunt of the year, which is certainly saying a lot.

A summit was held this week in Washington, D.C., in support of Middle East Christians, and Cruz was supposed to be a keynote speaker. However, right in the second paragraph of his speech, he began exalting Israel. After a while, the assembly started to boo and heckle him. Cruz said, “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you,” and left the podium.

Keep in mind that many Christians in the Middle East are ethnic Arabs who live under Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and therefore have negative feelings about Israel. Of course, there are also many Middle East Christians who are supporters of Israel (indeed, there are even Arab Christians who serve, with distinction, in the Israeli Defense Forces).

As the excellent coverage, transcript, and recording provided by The American Conservative's Jonathan Coppage shows, the audience in Washington applauded Cruz's first lines of support for Israel and the Jews. The crowd turned against him only when it became clear that he was launching into a rah-rah pro-Israel stump speech that had nothing to do with what they were doing there.

Now, I am no Ted Cruz antagonist. I am a supporter of the Tea Party — it’s done, on the whole, a world of good for the Republican Party by reinvigorating it and strengthening it. I even supported Cruz’s push to shut down the government to stop ObamaCare implementation. And I am also a full-throated supporter of Israel.

But let’s be clear about what Cruz was doing in D.C.: using one of the world’s most beleaguered minorities as a prop for his own self-aggrandizement.

Why would he do this? This is speculation, but perhaps Cruz, who is a Southern Baptist and whose father is a fundamentalist Baptist preacher, was subtly pandering to a segment of fundamentalist Christians who do not believe that Middle East Christians are “real” Christians. To a serious undercurrent of American Fundamentalism, the Catholic Church is the Antichrist that has been oppressing the “true” Church for millennia, and anything that looks vaguely Catholic, with ordained priests and ornate liturgies, is equally evil. Of course, this is hokum: Middle East Christians were Christians (with their priests and liturgies and incense and icons) for 1,800 years before the Fundamentalists invented their revisionist history.

This much, however, is absolutely clear: Cruz tarred and attacked one of the most powerless and beleaguered minorities in the world, solely for personal political gain. He was speaking truth to the powerless. He was strong against the weak.

In the end, what was most striking about Cruz’s tirade was the last phrase: “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.” Cruz was literally standing in a room with his fellow Christians. In the Bible, the idea of the fellowship of Christian believers is a very important one, and to break fellowship is to put oneself outside the community. What Cruz was saying was that agreeing to his views on Israel was more important as a badge of fellowship than believing in Jesus Christ.

There are many things Christians disagree about, but surely one of the things they should agree on is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is more important than anything, and certainly more important than any political cause, as good as that cause may be.

That is Christianity. Obviously, whatever Ted Cruz believes in, it’s something different. And I hope that Christians who are registered to vote in America realize it.

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Ted Cruz Booed Off Stage At Middle East Christian Conference


Sen. Ted Cruz was booed offstage at a conference for Middle Eastern Christians Wednesday night after saying that “Christians have no greater ally than Israel.”

Cruz, the keynote speaker at the sold-out D.C. dinner gala for the recently-founded non-profit In Defense of Christians, began by saying that “tonight, we are all united in defense of Christians. Tonight, we are all united in defense of Jews. Tonight, we are all united in defense of people of good faith, who are standing together against those who would persecute and murder those who dare disagree with their religious teachings.”

Cruz was not reading from a teleprompter, nor did he appear to be reading from notes.

“Religious bigotry is a cancer with many manifestations,” he continued. “ISIS, al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas, state sponsors like Syria and Iran, are all engaged in a vicious genocidal campaign to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East. Sometimes we are told not to loop these groups together, that we have to understand their so called nuances and differences. But we shouldn’t try to parse different manifestations of evil that are on a murderous rampage through the region. Hate is hate, and murder is murder. Our purpose here tonight is to highlight a terrible injustice, a humanitarian crisis.”

“Christians have no greater ally than Israel,” he said, at which point members of the crowd began to yell “stop it” and booed him.

EWTN News Nightly’s Jason Calvi caught the moment on video.

“Those who hate Israel hate America,” he continued, as the boos and calls for him to leave the stage got louder. “Those who hate Jews hate Christians. If those in this room will not recognize that, then my heart weeps. If you hate the Jewish people you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ. And the very same people who persecute and murder Christians right now, who crucify Christians, who behead children, are the very same people who target Jews for their faith, for the same reason.”

The cries of “stop it, stop it, enough,” and booing continued. “Out, out, leave the stage!” At this point IDC’s president, Toufic Baaklini, came out to the stage to ask for the crowd to listen to Cruz, but Cruz had already had enough.

“If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews,” he said. “Then I will not stand with you. Good night, and God bless.” And with that, he walked off the stage.

Many Christians in the Middle East take issue with Israeli military policy, which has made life for Palestinian Christians in their homeland very difficult, and driven many from their homes. “Israel’s policies have led to demographic pressure that’s made the West Bank and Gaza far more Muslim than in 1948,” explained one Middle East analyst.

IDC’s Executive Director, Andrew Doran, then came out on stage, saying “For the love of God, we’re here to talk about Christians and we’re here to be united.”

Antiochian Orthodox Metropolitan Joseph Zahlawi, who leads the Antiochian Orthodox in North America, soon after led those present in the Lord’s Prayer.