Last Monday Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for president of the United States. Months of campaign speeches, accusations and promises from people across the political spectrum will follow. What are Christians to make of Cruz entering the ring? Is the fact that he made his announcement at Liberty University, founded by evangelical preacher Jerry Falwell, a sign that Christians should take this campaign particularly seriously?
As Christians think about how to vote we have to challenge ourselves to draw distinctions between our own political preferences and Biblical guidance about the responsibility of those in authority. If we believe that government is subject to God’s dominion, then government has a Biblical responsibility. One of our most important questions should be: What direction does God give to rulers?
Throughout Scripture we see God telling those in authority to act with justice toward the poor, the sick and the weak. Furthermore, in Isaiah 65 we see God’s description of a wonderful city. The people will work and enjoy the fruit of their labor; the ill will be taken care of; people will not die too early; there will no longer be the sound of weeping or crying. This is what we are to strive for in a broken but now redeemed creation. This must guide our thinking about candidates and the policies they support.
Raphael “Ted” Cruz, a 44-year-old Republican, was elected in 2012 as the junior senator from Texas. He is very smart. As an undergraduate at Princeton University he was a champion debater. After law school, as the Solicitor General of Texas, Cruz authored dozens of briefs to the Supreme Court, appearing before the court on some of the biggest cases of the last decade.
There are at least two things that give me pause when evaluating Cruz as a presidential candidate.
Ted Cruz is a committed Christian and he argues that his faith must inform politics. For this reason he opposes abortion unless the life of the mother is at stake. But, there are at least two things that give me pause when evaluating him as a presidential candidate.
First, Christian is not a synonym for Tea Party conservative. With the exception of his concern for the unborn we see little evidence of Christ’s love in Cruz’s political perspective. His rhetoric about sealed borders demonstrates he is uninterested in global poverty and economic issues; his unwavering commitment to Israel involves no acknowledgement that Palestinians have been unjustly treated. Cruz is dismissive of the work evangelical Christians on both the right and the left have done in working across the aisle for justice for immigrants and for creation care. He is hostile toward compromise and will not concede that views other than his own might be rooted in Christian faith.
Second, Cruz is prone to hyperbole. When he tells us to imagine abolishing the IRS and he compares policy compromises to appeasement of Nazis, we know we have to take what he says with a grain of salt. In announcing his bid for the presidency he argued that we are in a period of “economic stagnation” and that “record numbers of small businesses” are closing. Both of these facts are incorrect. We have had five straight years of economic growth and the closure of businesses is far below the record height in 2008.
The coming political year will be long, but it will also be exciting. Candidates like Cruz are unlikely to emerge as a party nominee, but they shape the conversation. In order to participate in the conversation Christians have to have some understanding of what we believe God wants government to do. Republican, Democrat, Tea Party - these categories are not sufficient. How will the weak fare? What will happen to children or to the mentally ill? Are we using God’s gifts responsibly? These are the questions we must keep in mind.