For the last 50-odd years, some of our fellow Christians have been possibly the most persecuted religious group in the world, and they still are. Some people when I explain this (in my RL anyway) are often surprised by this. Because most of these persecuted Christians don’t live in the West. They are (awfully), too foreign for the right, and a tad too Christian for the left.
But in recent months we have heard about the plight of at least one group of those persecuted Christians, in the Middle East. These communities (many of which date back to the beginning of Christianity) are now facing extinction - and it’s largely happening at the hands of ISIS, currently our Public Enemy No. 1.
So this is the context for Cruz’s indulgent, most cynical and despicable political stunt of the year. The summit at which he was a keynote speaker was about the plight of these ME Christians, but from pretty much the start he was exalting Israel instead, ending, following heckling, with “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you”, and he left.
We probably ought to keep in mind that many Christians in the ME are ethnic Arabs who live under Israel’s in the West Bank, and therefore might have negative feelings about Israel. Of course there are also plenty of ME Christians who support Israel and even serve with distinction in the IDF.
The transcript shows that Cruz’s audience was happy to applaud his support for Israel - only turning against him when it was clear he was launching into a rah-rah pro-Israel stump speech.
I’m not a Cruz-hater. I’m a nominal supporter of a lot of what the Tea Party has tried to do (if sometimes in awful ways), and if nothing else it’s reinvigorated the Republican Party. I also support Israel.
But we have to be clear about what Cruz was doing - using one of the world’s most beleaguered minorities for his own self-aggrandizement.
Why would he do this? We can only speculate, but perhaps Cruz, (a Southern Baptist whose father is a fundamentalist Baptist preacher), was subtly pandering to a segment of fundamentalist Christians who do not believe that ME Christians are “real” Christians. To a serious undercurrent of American (and definitely British) 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 bunk: ME 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 clear: Cruz 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.
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. As we all will recognize, Biblically, the idea of the fellowship of Christian believers is a very important one. 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 one of the things we MUST 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 apparently, to judge from this, something else. I hope that Christians who are registered to vote in Texas realize it.