David Brooks on Ted Cruz and Christian Brutalism

Texas Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in Maryland February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4RBXR
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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.

• David Brooks

• • •

What is your idea of a “Christian” politician?

If a candidate for President of the U.S. claims to be a Christian, a Bible-believing Christian, and an evangelical Christian (one who believes in and promotes the good news of Jesus Christ), what characteristics do you expect that person to display?

Ted Cruz claims to be just such a Christian, and in David Brooks’s opinion, he fails to match his perception of what a Jesus-follower seeking public office should look like.

In an op-ed in the NY Times, “The Brutalism of Ted Cruz,” Brooks is as blunt and unsparing as I’ve ever heard him to be as he critiques Cruz for his “brutal, fear-driven, apocalypse-based approach,” which the columnist says is the antithesis of everything healthy conservatism (and Christian politics) should stand for.

He begins with an illustration. During Cruz’s tenure as solicitor general of Texas, a man was incorrectly sentenced to sixteen years in prison for stealing a calculator from a Walmart. When the error came to light, the prisoner tried to get it corrected and his sentence overturned. Cruz led an effort to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court to keep him in prison for the full original sentence. Brooks quotes one of the justices, who asked Cruz, “Is there some rule that you can’t confess error in your state?”

That is instructive, according to Brooks.

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.

[However, see this clarifying response –it appears Brooks didn’t fully do his homework here.]

Brooks is no conservative basher. He praises other conservative Christian (and Republican) politicians in the past for their commitment to the less fortunate and those treated unjustly. However, Cruz doesn’t match the template.

…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.

He describes Cruz as someone who trades in “apocalyptic fear,” who describes everything in terms of “maximum existential threat,” who “manufactures an atmosphere of menace.”

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.

David Brooks is a conservative and a Republican, but he’s one of those moderates that seem to be in danger of extinction. The kind of conservatism and Christian faith he finds wanting in Ted Cruz is a “happy, hopeful” kind that emphasizes the dignity of all people and puts priority on public service, not incendiary rhetoric.

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.

In a column where readers responded to this editorial, not everyone agreed with David Brooks.

One of them wrote:

Tell that [i.e. that Cruz is a stranger to Christian virtue] to the unborn children he is fighting for every day. I didn’t see Obama leave an empty seat for them during the State of the Union speech. Tell that to the nation of Israel, whose trust and relationship the current administration has thrown away.

But I think this reader misses the point, as do so many who are flocking to the Trumps and Cruzes of the world. David Brooks is arguing “Christian” politics should be defined as much by the way positions are advanced and fought for as by the positions themselves.

However, as another reader noted, this (at least so far) has been an election campaign “where angry sells,” and so, at this point, people like Cruz (and Trump) are getting a lot of attention.

Personally, I find myself agreeing with Brooks on this one. But I’m interested in hearing what you think.

164 thoughts on “David Brooks on Ted Cruz and Christian Brutalism

  1. At some point, they became less about what they believed in and more about “whatever is anti-Democrat”.


  2. I am another of those who holds to many very conservative positions (even born in Texas), but is constantly embarrassed by the way that those vocal for the causes hold them — with the kind of cold, heartless, meanness, etc., exemplified by Cruz. Or Trump. Or . . . .

    Yes, it is not only the conservative side engaged in this kind of tactic. But it doesn’t make the conservatives any better. It just gives them more company in the dog house.

    And gives me fewer real choices at the polls.


  3. Question: Why is it that the conservatives seem to always be the ones labeled as fearmongers and people using scare tactics? It seems to me that the left/liberals/Democrats do the same thing right? Remember the the fear tactic of “They’re going to take your health care away.” Or “They are going to take your reproductive freedom away.” Or “They are going to take your kids lunches away.” Or “They are going to cut spending and run up the deficit.” Or “They are going to send your sons into war.” Or “They are going to pack the court with more Scalias and Thomases.”

    It seems like fearmongering and doomsday and using scare tactics is pretty common on both sides. Any ideas why (even here in this thread) the conservatives are labeled with it while the liberals do it with seeming impunity?


  4. David Brooks sounds to me like he thinks we would do better with another George W. Bush.

    Brooks says: “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.”

    As Althouse pointed out, George Bush portrayed his own politics as “compassionate conservativism” (whether it was truly ‘conservative’ is another discussion). He also did not defend himself against critics, turning the other cheek.

    He got no credit for this, and still got portrayed in media as a monster.


  5. Google “Dominionism/Christian Reconstructionism”; you will find the Cruz name involvement. Good post dumb ox.l.p.


  6. I don’t doubt the talk radio pundits say what they do for ratings above everything else, but that’s not what many, many listeners take from it. They take the words of fear to heart and truly BELIEVE what they hear. Did it matter if Hitler really believed that Jews were the root cause of Germany’s problems? No. What was important was that enough people that listened to him believed it.


  7. Ending the electoral college is a pipe dream; it would require the majority of states to voluntarily participate in giving up power they have no intention of giving up, and leave all elections to be decided by the East and West coast population behemoth states. Ain’t gonna happen. The Constitution was rigged in favor of the electoral college by the founding fathers, when they required a supermajority to repeal it.


  8. Don’t they know any US military people? Virtually all of them would be appalled at the suggestion.


  9. The term precision bomb is the mother of all oxymorons.

    Is there anything more immoral than a powerful nation-state? How many tons of bombs would a nation-state have to drop before it would be considered to be engaging in terrorism?


  10. >>neither Trump nor Cruz seem very electable towards the general population. . . . Am I the only one who sees this?

    No, Miguel, but it is passing over the heads of most people of both major parties. Just as an exercise, try listening to what Trump says and what he does as if his purpose is not to become POTUS but to insure that the Republican party does not win the election. You might find this all makes much more sense. If Trump does not secure the nomination, he could run as an Independent and secure the same goal. And I agree with your assessment of Rubio, not that I expect it to matter. Things are not always as they seem.


  11. I found the link. We dropped 20,000 bombs in 2015, claim to have killed 25,000 terrorists and ( ludicrously) claim to have killed only 6 civilians. Anyway, whatever one thinks of that, the idea that Cruz seems to be pushing is that we have been soft, so he wants to carpet bomb ISIS. Which is stupid demagoguery at best.

    I posted this link just a few minutes ago, but can’t find it, so here it is again.



  12. Oddly, I think talk radio does this more for ratings and numbers than they do for ideological control. I think in the long run more and more people are just going to get tired of it. I don’t know if there is a new, younger crop of hard-line commentators coming up to replace these geezers. I do hope Ben Shapiro stays above that, he seems far more intelligent. But part of this happens, I think, when people just get tired of fighting the same old battles. The enemy becomes a stubborn force of nature rather than a rational human being.


  13. Everyone who sets boundaries and enforces consequences gets called mean at one time or another. I agree that striving for the middle ground is ideal, but there are always those who resent discipline, even when merited and necessary. I know some very nice teachers that students complain about as being “mean.” I guess when I originally said “mean” I really meant “strict,” but that’s what I see in Cruz more than belligerence. Though as I said elsewhere, I’m ok with belligerence towards ISIS, and I’d add Planned Parenthood to that list as well. Keep in mind, Jesus had no trouble resorting to such sever rhetoric when it was called for. Not in every situation as tends to happen in politics, but there is a time and a place.


  14. Everyone likes Ronald Reagan better. Conciliatory leadership is a good thing. There’s a time and place. For example, I am the music director at our congregation, and I teach music in our parish school. In the former, I’m much more conciliatory, given I’m working with volunteers. In the latter, I’m far more stringent, since I’m responsible for discipline. One style is certainly more favor with the populace right now, and while Cruz may or may not be the best the GOP can do right now, I always appreciate a person who is willing to be called all manner of uncharitable and intolerant names simply because they call a thing what it is. That’s what I see in Cruz, not merciless rhetoric. He draws the lines, picks his side, and throws himself into the cause. I can relate to that. Is he a xenophobic racist? Most people called that these days aren’t. Could he afford be less melodramatic? Probably. Mark my words, if he’s gonna win, he’ll probably have to.


  15. Carpet bombing is by definition indiscriminate– you drop enough bombs to destroy everything in an area. The most charitable interpretation one can give to Cruz’s statement is that he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Less charitably, he deliberately used that language to appeal to voters who think he sounds tough. The least charitable interpretation is that he actually means it.

    I don’t have the link handy, but the number of air strikes the US carried out in 2015 was in the many thousands. These were meant to be precision strikes aimed at terrorists and chances are they still killed civilians. In some other thread I might talk about Obama’s drone strike program and its victims, but carpet bombing would be much worse.
    Cruz is just coarsening the debate with his nonsense and it doesn’t speak well of his voters if they find this language appealing.


  16. All your comments are welcome and appreciated Damaris. You’re a gem. I really do appreciate that tidbit as such a good quote deserves proper credit.


  17. I understand the frustration with both parties. If the lesser of those two evils is still too unacceptable, vote independent, Libertarian, Green, Constitution, etc… They won’t win, but it’s still a chance to vote against the greater two evils while lending your support to underdogs with better ideas.


  18. None of what you state her is news to me. Been in and around education too long for that.

    There is a middle ground between trying to be the nice teacher/students’ friend and being mean. In that ground you will find the best teachers, who set boundaries, enforce consequences, engender respect, and convey a love of learning and of their students.

    All without being mean.


  19. Miguel,

    I hope you will take my comment into consideration, as one who lived through the Viet Nam years, whose father was a Marine in all the worst battles of the Pacific in WW II, and as one whose daughter and son-in-law are presently serving in the military and would go to the Middle East tomorrow if that was what was asked of them, and I respect them greatly for that. (My son-in-law has been to deployed to Iraq in the infantry, and to Afghanistan 3 times as an EOD tech, the guy who takes apart the IEDs so that others don’t get blown up. Quite a number of his friends and co-workers have been blown up.) Not only that, but I belong to a faith tradition that has its roots among those very Christians who are being wiped out in Syria and Iraq.

    First, it’s pretty clear that ISIS is just waiting for the West to descend on Syria to that they can fight the Armageddon-like battle they hope to provoke. Do some research. The advice our State Department has been getting is not the absolute worst, but it’s not the best, either. Nobody is looking at this from the religion angle, and those who understand the Middle East the best, including the Christians who still live there, are being pretty much ignored in terms of input to help make policy decisions.

    Not only that, but the “second generation” of all-volunteer military folk who enlisted when the Armed Services would take anybody to keep up the numbers (and a bunch of whom are those “born-again Christians” referenced above) are now coming into command positions. Individuals differ, of course, but many of them do not have the same training or quality of ethic that was given to soldiers in the pre-volunteer military years, or in the last few years when enlistment requirements have tightened up. This is going to cause problems in the setting of our Joint Chiefs, no matter who is President, that could very negatively affect any action we take in the Middle East – and the rank-and-file soldiers are apprehensive about this situation as well.

    I will not vote for ANYBODY who calls for extensive unilateral or coalition bombing of Syria. Doing that will play right into ISIS’ propaganda.



  20. I think you’re spot-on, Miguel — Rubio seems eminently more electable than either Trump or Cruz. It’ll be interesting to see how the later primaries might actually bear this out.

    By the way, we might or might not vote the same way come November, but if I had kids, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to have you be their teacher.


  21. I was just thinking of how much better a Ronald Reagan wouid be, that’s all. He, too, got the job the job done (ending the Cold War and all), but without a universally divisive approach.

    I don’t expect Cruz to be anything other than who he is. I’m demanding nothing of him: I’m demanding someone else.


  22. I think this history is roughly accurate. Evangelicalism is a like a rocket that failed to achieve escape velocity and is now tumbling back to earth – returning to its Fundamentalist roots.


  23. None of the third party candidates are worthy of your consideration? It doesn’t have to be the lesser of TWO evils. It can be the lesser of all names on the ballot. If both major parties suck, vote against them both by supporting a worthy underdog.


  24. I think the party at large does see this, but can’t stop the train wreck. For years, the conservatives have been pandering to a certain demographic, whipping up the masses with scare tactics, and now it’s coming back to bite them.
    When my son was in his early 20s, he had a job doing grounds keeping at a summer camp. To pass the time, he listened to the radio, some music, some talk. His assessment of talk radio to me? He said it was pretty simple. You scare people about stuff and tell them they won’t hear this truth anywhere else because ‘they’ don’t want you to know what is really going on. Bingo! Those scared listeners will keep listening to hear the ‘truth’ and the more you scare them, the more they’ll listen, and they’ll keep coming back for more. Problem is, those people are now so scared, they trust no one except a select few who are getting more & more extreme. It’s how genocidal regimes gain power–by making you fear & blame those others for whatever problems you have in your life.


  25. “He is absolutely sloganeering, and he has no intention of implementing brash and ineffective military strategy.” How do you know that? I watched the debate during which he was asked how he could bomb ISIS and not hurt anyone else, especially children, and he really didn’t have an answer, but basically said it was necessary. It was, to me, chilling. (It was at this point that Carson gave a side comment that it was kinda like brain surgery on kids. They don’t like it but it’s good for them in the end.) From what I’ve read, Cruz’s religious views are very dominionist. He sees the USA as God’s little slice of heaven by design and all stops must be pulled out to keep it that way. It’s not that people of a Judeo-Christian background have been in power but that God put them there and demands that they be kept there or else.

    Trump would be an embarrassment as President but Cruz, to me, is flat out scary. The world right now has some bad actors on the stage and the last thing we need is an extreme ideologue directing the action with script revisions he believes are divine.


  26. Just throwing this out there: Regardless of whether they run against Clinton or Sanders, neither Trump nor Cruz seem very electable towards the general population. The demographic they pander to most will, I think, become more of an obstacle to the final race. It is just me? How does the party at large not see this? I think Rubio is the most likable personality when it comes to a national popularity contest, regardless of who the best, most qualified, or most competent candidate is. Am I the only one who sees this?


  27. Um, yeah. You have to be pretty consistently nuts for me to take that kind of statement literally. I may be cynical, but I’m not that afraid of the fundy-right bogeyman. I mean, it’s hard not to be paranoid about something these days, but that one would genuinely surprise me, from nearly anybody.


  28. This is true. History has been a bit kinder to a few, but not many.

    Some of us on the right are aware of this, though. We view all elections through the cynical “lesser of two evils” lens. “God’s candidate” malarky may be vocal, but I really doubt very many take it seriously these days. That gimmick seems to have worn itself out.


  29. I’ve had people tell me to my face that the fruit of the spirit essentially don’t matter. That becoming those things spoken of by the fruit is not in any way an indicator of Christianity’s truth or success.

    I don’t know how to respond to such.

    What’s the point.


  30. No accusations here. I’m completely in the “faith without works is dead” camp.

    However, I wonder if it is possible for someone to sincerely believe in Jesus, as shaped by their own cultural and spiritual lens, be passionate and fervent in their belief, and be completely, flat-out, dumb ass wrong. Can you believe in the wrong kind of Jesus and be totally clueless about it?


  31. Well obviously no teacher enjoying long term success is mean all the time or for mean-ness sake. The point isn’t that being a jerk to students is the cure to misbehavior. But classroom procedure, a controlled environment, and consistent discipline are important even if they hurt someone’s feelings. I have never seen, in my life as a student and teacher, a single case where academic discipline was viewed as just and warranted by the punished. Everyone being disciplined sees it as mean and unfair to them. That doesn’t make it important and unnecessary. It is in the best interest of the classroom environment, the academic progress of the classmates, and the social development of the individual student. The most effective disciplinarians I have observed have no trouble being tough with students when it is necessary. “Don’t smile before Christmas” is the maxim I hear given to new teachers across the country. The “nice” teacher who tries to be the students friend is the one that usually has the most difficulty maintaining order and control in the classroom. I’ve been both sides of this equation, and I can tell you which one I do not want in the oval office.


  32. I’ll take a “tone of menace” from anyone who will get the job done, before a “tone of politeness” from somebody who will not. I share some but not al of his enemies, but I appreciate that he is clear about where he stands.

    But wouldn’t you prefer a happy warrior?

    This is you demonstrating the generosity you demand of him? Nice.


  33. Forsooth. “We need a real sonovab*tch to get things done!” is a notion evergreen in it’s popularity and dumbness.


  34. If you are more worried about mean rhetoric than terrorist threat, THAT is the problem. I am a mean teacher. My students respect and love me for it. You don’t get results and a controlled environment by being primarily concerned with everyone’s feelings. Discipline, upholding my own classroom rules, and following up with dissenters are beyond essential. I’ve made some of my students cry.

    As a longtime believer, former teacher and one who has been married for 28 years to a teacher who has been teaching that long, I really don’t understand on any level how you can see meanness as necessary to being strong or maintaining discipline, much less as something to which a believer should aspire. It’s simply not. Love and courage are what are needed. Meanness arises from insecurity and fear and can too easily lead to cruelty. I think we should worry about both rhetoric and terrorist threats (e.g. James on the importance of controlling one’s tongue). No either or. I don’t think there’s anything to be proud of in having made students cry. As a brother in Christ, I’d ask you to really examine and reevaluate your words and direction of thought here.


  35. A new Joshua? No indeed: What we want from pretty much any president–Republican or Democratic–for the past 30 years or so has been a Jonah: Somebody to whom we can pin all blame, all frustration, all confusion for things being hard to understand, all existential angst and, thereby, feel better about ourselves. Notice how most politicians–and *certainly* all presidents–leave office under something of a cloud these days?

    Clinton or Sanders or Cruz or Trump: No matter who’s elected, we’ll do it them,


  36. You’re saying dumb things and I am calling you out on it.

    No, you’re just contradicting. You’ve yet to give me a single reason other than to insist that your view are correct at face value. This is your toddler “is not! Is too!” rhetoric again, also known as trolling:


  37. *Is there a possibility that a person can have a profound and genuine belief in the good news of Jesus as Lord, and also be an a-hole, or misguided, or insensitive, or incompetent (or, in Cruz’s case, all of the above)?*

    I would say no, you can’t. There’s this idea that, “Well yeah he’s a b*stard but he’s a good believer.” But Jesus and his folk dealt with people like that all the time: They were called Pharisees.

    You may now, if you wish, accuse me of ‘works righteousness’. Me, I just understand that term as just ‘righteousness.’


  38. Those are one and the same to most of the people Cruz is appealing to.

    No it isn’t. Your fundamentalist bogeyman is a minority report. Plenty of us have Muslim friends. Plenty of us know we have developed peaceful relationships with the vast majority of Muslim nations, despite their insanely brutal treatment of Christians.

    He has demonstrated, as has those people, that they are not concerned about traditional Christian values, at all. They are far more concerned with maintaining their power in the name of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. They will witch hunt and destroy any who criticize them, including those on their own team.

    …and you’re upset about HIS appeal to peoples fears? Cruz has demonstrated a commitment to many traditional Christian values, just not the ones you want in the ways that you expect.

    He has demonstrated that fundamentally he is a racist xenophobic warmonger

    No, he’s just sick of our people dying on the altar of political correctness.

    Ted Cruz is unfit to be an American president. Let alone a new Joshua to the Christian church.

    He is extremely well educated, very intelligent, a skilled debater, has government experience. That is about as qualified as political outsiders get. You don’t like his policies or rhetoric. I’ve never seen a politician who have pretty rhetoric.

    Nobody wants any politician to be a new Joshua to the Christian church. That loud noise you hear is just the dying breath of the family values, God and country movement. Seriously, that kind of fundamentalism is so over. You try passing something like that on to your kids today.


  39. From what I read, Brooks’ article still seems to refer to “Christian” as an adjective to describe nouns, and that’s problematic and confusing. Even if we use “Christian” as a description of how someone advances an idea, I think that might be an unwarranted label.

    Is there a possibility that a person can have a profound and genuine belief in the good news of Jesus as Lord, and also be an a-hole, or misguided, or insensitive, or incompetent (or, in Cruz’s case, all of the above)?


  40. *You’re holding him to a higher standard of rhetoric*

    No, I’d be fine with him having any standard at all.

    *If you are more worried about mean rhetoric than terrorist threat*

    I’m not actually more worried about that.

    *My students respect and love me for it.*

    Do they now.

    *Discipline, upholding my own classroom rules, and following up with dissenters are beyond essential.*

    “Dissenters”, huh?

    *I’ve made some of my students cry.*

    I don’t doubt it.

    *You gonna lecture me on sensitivity …?*

    Yes, I am. Sorry did I not make that clear? You’re saying dumb things and I am calling you out on it. It’s a pretty straightforward exercise of judgement.

    *Oh no, their misogyny, intolerance, and barbaric murders pale in comparison to the violent rhetoric of infidels like Cruz. That’s the real threat, there.*

    That’s a really silly sentiment. Glad I never said it or anything like it.

    As it happens, Ted Cruz’s proposals for dealing with ISIS are pretty much The Obama Strategy: Thousands of bombs, dozens of SOCOM operations, and a ton of arms and training to Iraq. That’s really about it. Oh sure, he’s made a ton of noises about ‘working with’ ‘partners’ in the region–which, again, Obama’s been doing from the get-go. And there’s also his generally meaningless statement about ‘carpet bombing’. By his own words he’s ruled out a ground offensive by U.S. troops.


  41. Yeah, I seriously don’t understand why that can’t be taken with a grain of salt. He is absolutely sloganeering, and he has no intention of implementing brash and ineffective military strategy. Saying those things is just a facade to boast how tough you intend to be against our enemies. I have no trouble being bellicose against ISIS.

    No, seriously. I never thought for a second he did not mean “carpet bomb” in a more metaphorical sense. Carpet bombing is a ’60’s military stretegy. We have insanely more precise weaponry these days, Cruz knows this.

    I will concede this: Cruz had every opportunity to clarify any intentions to take precautions to protect innocent civilians, and he opted to stand tough instead. This did concern me when I saw it in the debate, but let’s be honest with what’s going on here: He’s leveraging terrorist fear to rally troops to himself as the one who will be toughest on our enemies. That is literally all there is to it. He isn’t hell bent on killing women and children. Nobody is (except for maybe Trump?). The primaries is not the place for the subtle nuance of effective military strategy. I am convinced that he’ll have those conversations with the appropriate people at the proper time. In the meantime, he can at least look at Islamic terrorism and call a thing what it is.


  42. …when the gospels were written, who the hell even remembered Barabbas?


    …imagine if all our modern translations had him as Jesus Barabbas, lol. And interesting that some historians see him as the same person as Jesus of Nazarus, thus a truly violent revolutionary against the Romans who was either let go or crucified.

    liar lunatic lord or legend…lol



  43. You’re holding him to a higher standard of rhetoric when all the substance you offer is a toddler’s level “is too!!”?

    If you are more worried about mean rhetoric than terrorist threat, THAT is the problem. I am a mean teacher. My students respect and love me for it. You don’t get results and a controlled environment by being primarily concerned with everyone’s feelings. Discipline, upholding my own classroom rules, and following up with dissenters are beyond essential. I’ve made some of my students cry.

    Haha, no, no I’m afraid I’m not inclined to take instruction on the topic of ‘entitlement mentality’ from conservative Christians.

    Anyone here can tell you I’m no Falwell fanboy or poster child for the moral majority. You gonna lecture me on sensitivity while you generalize and stereotype like that?

    No it isn’t. Get a grip.

    Really? ISIS is not that evil? Oh no, their misogyny, intolerance, and barbaric murders pale in comparison to the violent rhetoric of infidels like Cruz. That’s the real threat, there.


  44. Someone on a military forum said that the most likely result of President Cruz demanding ‘carpet bombing’ would be a string of Air Force officers resigning rather than carry out his order. We really have never done “carpet bombing”, not even in the darkest, most fevered days of Nixon’s Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia endgame. The very term is a gimmick rather than a real military tactic.


  45. I may be wrong about this, but I believe he said he would carpet bomb ISIS, not carpet bomb Muslims generally.

    In no way shape or form does ISIS have 100% support in any of the territory it controls. So “carpet bombing” them automatically puts innocent lives at risk. But even if we assume that they do have 100% support, what good would “carpet bombing” do? It didn’t work in Vietnam, after all.

    You want a candidate who takes US security seriously? Fine! But let’s at least have an honest conversation about goals and means to those goals, rather than bellicose sloganeering.


  46. On a lighter note: I always liked to think of Barabbas as being like the lovable town drunk of Jerusalem. Like Norm from “Cheers”. Or Falstaff.

    “Free Barabbas!”–he having been tossed in the drunk tank for the 10th time that month– was just a standard demand of unruly mobs, circa 35 AD.


  47. Yeah no, it isn’t actually required that if you say one thing about one person then you must say the same thing (or every thing) about every person. I am SURE you don’t operate that way and you’d reject the idea as ridiculous if anyone said you should. That isn’t the way inquiry and expository writing work.


  48. People support Cruz because we can see that he is serious about the safety of the free world. I may be wrong about this, but I believe he said he would carpet bomb ISIS, not carpet bomb Muslims generally.

    Full stop.

    Those are one and the same to most of the people Cruz is appealing to. He has demonstrated, as has those people, that they are not concerned about traditional Christian values, at all. They are far more concerned with maintaining their power in the name of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. They will witch hunt and destroy any who criticize them, including those on their own team.

    Softening rhetoric doesn’t mean jack. So he started strong and may go soft. Others started soft and went strong. He has demonstrated that fundamentally he is a racist xenophobic warmonger. He is a spokesperson for ongoing terrorism, and wants to turn this country even more so into the biggest terrorist organization in the world.

    Need a good example of someone who is gentle, merciful, and compassionate but without compromising? He’s in the office currently. And America, and Christianity, has rejected him. We want Barabbas. We want the bread and circuses.

    Ted Cruz is unfit to be an American president. Let alone a new Joshua to the Christian church.


  49. *ISIS is the Hitler of our generation*

    No it isn’t. Get a grip.

    *Are we seriously arguing for compassion and compromise with them?*

    No, we aren’t. Nobody has argued for that, seriously or otherwise. This is just a total misrepresentation on your part.

    *We need a mean president.*

    Yeah, this right here is the point at which you went astray.

    *Anyone who passes the liberal “nice” test will never have the cajones to make the kind of tough calls that are necessary today.*

    I don’t even need to mock this. It mocks itself.

    *The left always paints the right as heartless and cruel when they threaten entitlement mentality…*

    Haha, no, no I’m afraid I’m not inclined to take instruction on the topic of ‘entitlement mentality’ from conservative Christians.


  50. Way to go, David: You have now achieved the level of understanding of these people that the rest of us achieved in 1994.


  51. Doing away with the electoral college would have drastically changed the last few elections.

    Dare I say for the better.


  52. The current Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, is a big fan of Ayn Rand. In 2005 he said,

    I grew up reading Ayn Rand, and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.

    This is what’s running our country; this is what the Republicans have put up as their Speaker. And Trump is the best they can do as their front-runner, unless it’s Cruz.

    Here’s an article by Garrison Keillor from August 2004, during the heat of that election year. Same thing. I was embarrassed then for my Republican parents, and I’m embarrassed now. What a disgrace that party has become.

    Garrison Keillor: “We’re Not In Lake Wobegon Anymore”:


  53. ” Instead, his speeches are marked by a long list of enemies…..”

    ISIS is not a long list.

    It’s the broader tone of menace Cruz is generating that is altogether to Brooks’ point. Iran is not ISIS is not Saudi Arabia is not the EPA is not Planned Parenthood.

    You want a mean president. But wouldn’t you prefer a happy warrior?


  54. I can’t believe I’m seeing all this complaining about violence and lack of mercy as if killing terrorists and eliminating ISIS were a bad thing. What, do we seriously expect to make them lie down on a couch, talk to a shrink, and be rehabilitated? People support Cruz because we can see that he is serious about the safety of the free world. I may be wrong about this, but I believe he said he would carpet bomb ISIS, not carpet bomb Muslims generally.

    This piece is patently ridiculous. Of course Cruz is using fear mongering and apocalyptic rhetoric. He’s pandering to the right, that’s how you get to the front. You don’t judge a person’s character by the rhetoric of their appeal to the popular vote. You judge it by their actions and decisions, their performance record, and their policy. Cruz has compassion on the people he is called to protect and is willing to take bold steps to keep safe the people he is responsible for. It is not the government’s responsibility to show the gentleness, mercy, and compassion that Brooks demands to those who actively, intentionally, and strategically threaten the safety of the government’s people. You can be a VERY gentle, merciful, and compassionate person, in your personal life, and with people you actually know. But when you’re running the government, you better show no mercy to the evil that threatens good people.

    For pete’s sake, people! ISIS is the Hitler of our generation. Are we seriously arguing for compassion and compromise with them?

    Mark my words, Cruz’s rhetoric will absolutely soften if he continues to advance and he needs to become electable to the general populace. I don’t give a damn if he sounds mean. We need a mean president. Anyone who passes the liberal “nice” test will never have the cajones to make the kind of tough calls that are necessary today. The left always paints the right as heartless and cruel when they threaten entitlement mentality, this is a terribly overplayed and tiring rouse.


  55. A question: How much of Cruz is fueled by Ayn Randy, and how much by the Bible?

    I’m struck by the fact that evangelicals and conservatives can go on and on about the godlessness of Marx, but, when it comes to Ayn Rand, who is every bit as godless as Marx, they see nothing wrong. Why is that? It puzzles me.


  56. Electoral college – yes, exactly. It’s design makes sure status quo is kept to just the two parties.


  57. Chaplain, I greatly appreciated the external links which filled out the story. I thought you had a very balanced approach.


  58. Amen to Carter.

    Dobson seems largely irrelevant nowadays. But don’t worry, Duck Dynasty gave Cruz their nomination.


  59. Maybe we just need a third option then – “Vote to Abstain”. I think I would happily pick that option, and be recognized that I voted, but I choose neither candidate.


  60. Gentlemen, gentlemen, gentlemen,
    Now that we’ve had a chance to let the giggling subside a bit, how about we focus on the larger point. Each candidate has shown the capability of saying whatever is necessary to garner the nomination – welcome to the political process. And they will boldly tack port or starboard in achieving that end.

    It makes no difference what you or I think about their actual bona fides. Their decision to play to their base is just that – their decision. We are in agreement that there are no “hard left” candidates as was stated earlier. I would hope we are also in agreement there are no “hard right” candidates either. It simply comes down to strategic positioning and posturing for base appeal during the nomination process.

    However, as stated earlier, as we move beyond the nomination circus, this election seems to have a different feel from recent elections. The underlying foundation of each candidate seems to be more transparent outside of the nomination posturing. The choices are lining up between a megalomaniac carni-barker, a self-assured pharisee, a pandering machine and a proletariat fanboy. This may be one of the few times where we actually know what we’re going to get.

    And Richard, the next time you’re in Asheville, NC, we’ll go grab a coffee at Malaprops with some of my maoist friends.


  61. I agree about the two-party system, but it won’t change until we do away with the electoral college. No third-party candidate could get enough votes to matter. As it is, a presidential candidate only has to campaign in a handful of states since the vote is pretty much guaranteed in the others. If you are a Republican in California or New York, you might as well stay home since your vote won’t count. Same is true if you are a Democrat in Oklahoma or Texas. With a popular vote, at least everyone’s vote will count. But, the powers that be have a vested interest in the status-quo (if not in this election cycle, the next one) – it keeps the two parties in charge and third-party candidates out.


  62. > misidentifies itself as Bible-believing

    Agree. I think the GOP candidates are the final proof of one thing – Christianity has exited the mainstream consciousness.

    Nationalism [what is called “Brutalism”] is brutal, and it is nearly irrelevant what adjectives you throw in from of it. That Cruz and his Evangelical following identify as Christian is a result of history and little else.

    This cycle may finally move enough people to drop the label? Evangelicalism *is* Fundamentalism, and neither are lower-case O orthodox Christianity in any meaningful way. One can always hope.


  63. “If you do not vote, you forfeit the right to complain about your government.”

    Practically speaking, that’s a reasonable take. But I’d push back a bit, at least on the narrower question of the Presidential election. Consider the following two voters:

    Person A: A housewife who shows up at city council meetings, writes letters to her state and federal representatives and senators, studies up on voter initiatives that will show up on a ballot, but decides in the end that she’ll not vote for either Presidential candidate.

    Person B: Slacker dude who doesn’t think about politics at all until Election Day, goes to the polls anyway, pulls the lever/pushes the button for Prez, and walks out with an “I’m a [Your State Here] Voter!” sticker.

    Which of these did the will of his founding fathers?

    Speaking for myself, I too much resemble Person B to feel good about my level of participation in this democracy of ours.


  64. Carter’s main problem was his staff. He surrounded himself with some of the worst, brainless, clueless folks ever. If he’d brought in some truly sharp people, his presidency might’ve turned out better.

    But he’s certainly proven himself post-presidency!


  65. One last comment: Cruz did prevail in his argument, winning 6-3 with a moderate and two liberals agreeing with him. And Haley didn’t spend 16 years in prison. His sentence was overturned and Cruz did not object. So your point is false by the facts of the case.

    Cruz wasn’t trying to keep Haley in prison. Cruz was objecting to the incorrect application of a long standing legal principle.

    I don’t think Cruz was dabbling in judicial activism. It was more likely the opposite. Again, read the articles linked to above. The circuit court had applied the legal principle of “actual innocence” in a way that it had never been used. That is the judicial activism–changing a legal principle. Cruz was arguing against that and SCOTUS (with a moderate and two liberals) agreed with Cruz. Are they brutal as well? I don’t think anyone would say that they are. So why was Cruz brutal in this case?

    I am not saying Cruz is a poster boy for anything. I don’t know much about him. My only point was on this particular case which Brooks misuses.


  66. I feel the same, E.G. Always considered myself conservative – still do, really – but the Republican party has certainly lost it. At some point, they became less about what they believed in and more about “whatever is anti-Democrat”. So divisive (both parties, really), but I’ve been exceedingly and increasingly disappointed in the GOP. This election season – with the Republican’s “we’ll send everyone out for a pass and see who gets open” slate of 16 candidates shows just how clueless they are.

    All that said, don’t get me started on the Democrats, either. Ugh, our countries two-party system SUCKS!


  67. This is not really new territory for conservative evangelicals by any means. Anyone remember Dobson’s breathless radio interview with and not so subtle endorsement of Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign? Seems evangelicals have gone even deeper into the territory of fear and those who would sell it like snake oil this time around, but the idea isn’t new, just maybe the intensity of it.

    Honestly, I think the most Jesus-shaped president in the past 50 years was Jimmy Carter. And his presidency is still vilified by the right.


  68. I’m going to assume that the apparent blunder by Brooks was not intentional. It certainly taints his whole argument, as well as him personally and the NYT along with it. I would call it a major blunder and most unfortunate. Much as I hate to say it, I think it is bad enough to call for an apology to Cruz, but doubt if one will be forthcoming unless this blows up big time, which I would not expect given the general media bias. Either way, I would call it giving aid and comfort to the enemy, no matter if not intended.

    To put Cruz and Trump in the same box just shows how good an actor The Donald is, fully as good as Ronald Reagan. There is nothing of the actor in Ted Cruz. He laid his cards out on the table when he showed he was willing to chance bringing down the whole world economy into ruins single handed to uphold an ideological position. As others have pointed out, he is a true believer, or as I choose to call it, a religious nut, and in my view fully as dangerous for this country as the Islamic State, maybe more so. The other candidates of either major party may be cynical or self-serving or naive or other than they appear, but with Ted Cruz, what you see is what you get. I don’t see any way he would be allowed to gain or keep that power, but he’s pretty scary anyway. David Brooks, you had your opportunity to do this nation a great service and you blew it badly.


  69. Your contention is duly noted. But, if Cruz had prevailed in the case, Haley would have spent 16 years in prison. Perhaps Cruz was only dabbling in judicial activism, you know, the very thing he claims to hate.

    Cruz’s rhetoric of late hardly qualifies him as the poster boy for compassionate conservatism or compassionate evangelicalism. That’s the point Brooks makes and that at least appears to be the pattern in Cruz’s political career.


  70. In fairness, I should point out that the Wartburg Watch post on Mike Huckabee also alleges that he misrepresented his educational credentials during a previous presidential campaign.


  71. I think it’s just lazy apathy. If you hate both front runners, either support the lesser of two evils, or vote for one of the third parties. At least this way your protest is being registered. A vote for a non-republican and non-democrat shows that you are fed up enough with both so support a guaranteed loser to spite them. The more people do this, the more pressure there is on the dominant parties to take ostracized voters seriously.

    If you do not vote, you forfeit the right to complain about your government. Voting is a privilege that so many have no access to. Cynicism is not a legitimate excuse, just because you pay taxes. We truly ought to throw our weight in somewhere and be counted as a minority dissenter, or we shouldn’t complain when our voice isn’t “counted.”


  72. “Most people think great god will come from the skies, take away everything, and make everybody feel high.” (Bob Marley). Based on what I’ve read about his playing to different audiences, one side of Ted Cruz is the authoritarian and theocrat who says certain things to a home crowd with itching ears. Ted’s biggest fan is himself, and in his trail are a lot of rice Christians, tagging along because of the money and power he promises to bring them. Cruz is merely a reflection of a large swath of the voting bracket that misidentifies itself as Bible-believing. These are the folks who, when faced with a choice between Jesus and a this-worldly anarchist, shouted “we want Barabbas.” Who can blame an egotistical world dominator for using this sorry mess to his advantage?


  73. As far as Cruz & the Brooks op-ed goes, I think there’s a lot of truth in there.

    Seems to me that, as human emotions, anger and apocalyptic fear get a more immediate and explosive response than calls for say…sustained compassion and moderation, which demand a more patient and measured approach. They tap into something primal. I know many evangelicals who are strongly motivated by apocalyptic fear. Maybe that’s why it resonates.

    In the long run I think that constant state of heightened fear is harmful, but it seems to get results in primary season. Thing is, I don’t think it’s just a Cruz campaign tactic. It’s a pattern.


  74. I’ll share a couple of thoughts before I get back to unraveling another mess.

    First of all, David Brooks is one of those columnists I typically take with at least a grain of salt. I’m frankly not sure he made his case regarding Sen. Cruz. For example, I fail to see where ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood is an example of “destroying things.” And having had some unpleasant dealings with the IRS in recent months, I agree that agency is desperately in need of either major reform or outright abolition. Presuming taxpayers as guilty until proven innocent, as happened in my case, is not how the IRS should go about its business.

    A second thought: last night The Wartburg Watch, another blog I regularly read, published a post critical of Mike Huckabee on some doctrinal matters as well as his association with Bill Gothard and the Duggar family. So the timing of this post on Ted Cruz is also interesting.

    I’ll have to admit I’m having difficulty deciding whom to support in this year’s presidential campaign. All of the candidates running, including Sen. Cruz, have faults to some degree. Plus I’ve seen precious little attention devoted to our economic difficulties, the reckless fiscal policies embraced by the last two administrations as well as Congress, and the soaring cost of healthcare. As someone whose financial position has significantly worsened over the last eight years, I want to know how the candidates will deal with these matters.

    And now it’s time to deal with some more unraveling before I get ready for work.


  75. Sort of makes me wish that the percentage of the population who doesn’t vote gets counted against those who do vote. Obama beat Romney 47% to 42%? That’s great. 66% of Americans didn’t vote. Therefore, Obama and Romney both lost, start over, try again.

    Or something, idk. Fire everyone, add 2 years to the term, swap VP and P, something. But the amount of nonvoters should speak volumes, because maybe it’s intentional because there are no good candidates. It’s effectively a vote of NO to both, passively.


  76. The slanderous and misleading part is the assertion that Cruz took this to SCOTUS “to keep Haley in prison for the full sixteen years.” It implies that Cruz was brutal and vindictive to send a calculator thief to prison for sixteen years. Yet that was not why Cruz appealed to SCOTUS. It was over the method used to overturn the sentence (which you can read about in the article).

    Here’s another article with more information: http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/2016/01/an-nyt-hatchet-job-on-ted-cruz.html

    SCOTUS agreed with Cruz 6-3 (including O’Connor who wrote the opinion and Ginsberg and Breyer, who are hardly conservative sympathizers). The case was remanded to the Fifth Circuit who correctly overturned the sentence, a decision which Cruz did not appeal because he wasn’t trying to keep Haley in prison. He was arguing a legal point that sets precedent.

    Again, this is all in the article.

    So I do think it is slanderous and misleading to say that Cruz pursued this “to keep Haley in prison for the full sixteen years.” That was not why he pursued it. In fact, he didn’t pursue that at all.


  77. Whatever Brooks’ motives, they have no bearing on the truth of his analysis of Cruz’ positions and attitudes.


  78. Been There Done That: Our culture has fallen into the trap of assuming that a spurious, one-size-fits-all equality is the same as justice, but it really isn’t. Justice is not treating everyone equally but treating everyone appropriately. A criticism that can be leveled against one candidate might be irrelevant for another, and painting them all with the same brush is unjust. I believe Chaplain Mike is within his rights as a writer and a Christian here, whether he does or doesn’t go on to criticize Trump, Rubio, Clinton, or anyone else.


  79. From the very article you cite:

    “The reason that the sentencing enhancement was incorrectly applied is that the law requires that the felonies be “sequential”. Haley committed his second felony (crime #4) on October 15, 1991, which was three days before he was convicted of his first felony (crime #2), and so the felonies were not technically sequential to each other.”

    It’s hardly slanderous or misleading if it’s true.


  80. Well, let’s give credit where credit is due: “So shines a good deed in a naughty world,” said by Portia in The Merchant of Venice. It’s not surprising, of course, that Willie Wonka would be highly literate.


  81. Fair enough. Good catch.

    I don’t think it changes the overall message of the article, since the case was used as an illustration, but you are right to point it out and it looks as though Brooks didn’t do his homework thoroughly in this instance.

    I’ve made a note about this in the body of the post.


  82. The Pandora’s box that is Senator and Mrs. Cruz needs to be opened wide. Perhaps you’re just hunky-dory with Cruz’s appropriation of Christ’s name in a political agenda that includes carpet bombing muslims and requiring a religious test for refugees. Cruz is a front runner for the Republican party’s nomination and I am certainly not going to rely on Fox News to vet this candidate. I say this as a Republican who is wringing his hands over the state of my party. On another note, I really don’t understand your love affair with false dilemmas.


  83. ‘Really, Clinton is “hard left”?’

    The claim is indeed giggle-worthy. It also establishes that the person making the claim does not know any real leftists. In the real world, leftists dislike both Clintons, though probably not enough to refuse to vote for her, given the likely alternatives.


  84. My cynical response is that David Brooks exists to enunciate the mainstream Republican Establishment view. They to a person hate Cruz. Apparently Cruz is peculiarly unlikable. The joke is “Why do so many people hate Ted Cruz at first sight? It saves time.” The choice of strategies used to attack Cruz is interesting, and in this case even seems to be true, but the salient fact is the attack itself.


  85. “So Shines A Good Deed In A Weary World” – Willy Wonka
    That quote came at a touching moment in the original movie. Without being too sappy, that reminds me of David Brooks as he slogs the mucky mire of politics. A voice of reason. A voice crying in the wilderness. Whatever you like. He’s so normal in a world of bluster and buffoonery. Thank goodness for voices like his.


  86. ‘It was C.K. Chesterton who wrote: “A coziness between church and state is good for the state and bad for the church.”’

    Of course Chesterton was an English Roman Catholic. In that era Rome’s attitude toward the establishment of a church was, um…, pragmatic. It depended very much on the nation in question. In predominantly Catholic nations it was quite enthusiastic about state religion and unenthusiastic about personal religious freedom. In nations where Catholics were a minority, these enthusiasims were reversed.


  87. It is said the Republican establishment is annoyed by Trump but fears Cruz. For all Trump’s bluster and demagoguery, he is seen as someone who is unlikely to secure the nomination (“high floor, low ceiling”) and, even if he were elected, would be unlikely to truly shake up the corporate/government/military establishment which has worked to his own enrichment.

    But Cruz is viewed as someone who has the courage of his hard-line convictions. And if these convictions do not include values–grace, mercy, charity–consistent with his purported Christian beliefs perhaps Christians should fear him and call him out on this as well.


  88. Got to keep them happy, for some reason
    Don, if you ask me, I’d say that’s because of the resources we buy from them. If we didn’t have that trade relationship, we wouldn’t care about the Saudis at all, and if certain other powers had a relationship with them, we’d be denouncing their human rights record and repressive (though improving!) society with all the bluster we could manage.


  89. Why wouldn’t we have such columns? Religious hypocrisy on the part of politicians is fair game. But the topic here was brutal sadistic attitudes and how they seem to be part of the appeal for some voters.

    Brooks is not exactly a Trump fan either. Trump and Cruz are both brutalist in their attitudes.

    As for most of the other Republican politicians, they aren’t much better. They acted shocked by Trump’s proposal to exclude Muslim immigrants, but several have said things almost as bad. Islamophobia has been widespread among Republicans for years and the party has allowed it to fester.


  90. Example of compassion from a Lutheran congregation in my area: there was a fire at the Catholic church across the street from them this past year, and this Lutheran (ELCA) church took them in while their church gets restored. In doing so, they’ve dropped down from three services on Sunday to two, in order to accommodate the Catholic parish with three Masses (big congregation, in their own building they had no less than seven each week). This will probably be the way it is for the rest of this year, if the rumor mill is right.


  91. Bob, no Pandora’s box opening here. Just responding to one article I found interesting. As I’ve said many times, politics don’t interest me all that much. It was more the evangelical angle that caught my attention here. I imagine we might have a few more political posts this year because of the election, but this topic won’t be front and center unless it relates to our site’s purposes.


  92. Clinton isn’t hard left in strategies either. Especially not in foreign policy, where she is if anything a militarist.

    And speaking of that, the idea that Obama ” abandoned” Israel as the commenter at the NYT complained is ludicrous. If anything, the Iran deal has made them even more willing to give Israel more weapons. They’ve also given up on settlements. The Palestinians have been abandoned and so have civilians in Yemen, who are being bombed by our other noble allies the Saudis with American assistance. Got to keep them happy, for some reason, because they too were upset by the Iran agreement.


  93. Having had Kasich as my governor for the past six years, I’m going on record to say that his being “just like Jesus” is news to me. He did accept the Medicaid expansion from Obamacare (and support it with Christian language, something that takes substantial cojones in his party), so he is helping people be cared for, but I don’t see anything else in his career that’s radically different from what others are offering.

    Interesting thing to note: apparently he’s ACNA!


  94. Thank you, Robert, This needed to be said.

    If the White middle class lifestyle was based on the sufferings of others, as so many want to get us to believe, then it would perhaps be a good thing if it dies, but I don’t think that was the case. It was based, at least in part, on an unspoken accord between Americans that was savaged during the Reagan years behind a scrim of patriotic rhetoric. I dunno. Maybe when athletes started pulling down outrageous salaries due to free-agency, business leaders went a little bit nuts trying to emulate them. I have a couple of ex-classmates who made bank in the late ‘seventies and early eighties busting unions. They are now part of the donor class.

    Unless you have something of the brutalism of Ted Cruz – crush and destroy the weak; dissemble and betray the trusting, toady to the powerful – you can find it increasingly hard to obtain and keep a livelihood in what is left of the private sector. I also find it disturbing that disinterest in religion, or an active hostility towards it, is becoming a prerequisite for upward mobility.


  95. Agreed, no evidence of hard left convictions.
    However, considerable evidence of hard left strategies as long as the nomination is in sight. Hence the “pander-bot” moniker.


  96. In the interest of fairness, Chaplain Mike, can we now expect internetmonk columns on Trump’s saying he has never asked God for forgiveness because he has never done anything wrong (hardly a Presbyterian point of view), Rubio’s journey from Catholic to Mormon to Catholic again to Baptist/evangelical, Carson’s quiet Seventh-Day Adventism, Kasich’s “elect me, I’m just like Jesus” approach, etc., etc.? I sincerely hope not.

    You have opened Pandora’s box.


  97. In a separate though, how much of the lack of compassion and mercy is due to how we worship?

    Let me explain, as one who grew up SBC, and how Lutheran (LCMS), I now experience Confession and Absolution every week in Worship where I am and told and I confess that I am a sinner who deserves God’s wrath but I receive God’s mercy through Christ. I hear “Law and Gospel” in the sermon. The ministry of our small Church focuses on those in and outside of the Church who are suffering from hosting AA meetings, we support local Lutheran church in intercity St. Louis, we support Lutheran social service agencies. What we don’t talk about is politics since we strongly believe theology of the Two Kingdoms. When we talk about politics, outside of Church we have discussions that respectful since we start out as living as both Saint and Sinner.


  98. > white and comfortably religious middle-class life in America is dying

    Yes. The results of this election will tell us if they are, in fact, dying. Or already dead. Zombie-ism is a real thing in politics; as all the indicators people have to follow are lagging.

    What concerns me most in the long term is expressed in “No Money, No Honey, No Church: The Deinstitutionalization of Religious Life Among the White Working Class” – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315336/

    The level of disaffiliation is going to negatively impact people’s economic mobility and access to assistance [both institutional and cultural]. People seem disposed, at this moment at least, to cling-to-the-anchor, rather than looking at failure and changing course.


  99. Understood, as I mentioned in another comment I read a lot of this as grieving.

    Arguing with peoples **feelings** is pointless; feelings are not stupid or anything else, they are *feelings*.


  100. I’m not. I have never seen any evidence she has Hard Left convictions. Her husband, founder of the DLC (pro-business Democrats), is in the same category.


  101. I believe that want we are seeing is the calumniation of the years of people hearing and reading very negative, if not down right mean, language used to describe people that they don’t agree with. Just look at the language that Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Ann Coulter use when talking about the President and those who are “moderate” in the Republican Party. Just look at the words used to describe the Republican response to the State of the Union Address.

    For years, we have seen this “scorch earth” approach in congressional and senatorial elections. This has made its way to the many of those who are running for the Republican nomination.

    There is no mercy, no compassion. I am a person in search of a party. I am now too conservative for the Democratic Party (there are no more “blue dogs”) and I am too liberal for the Republican since I would be called a “RhINO”.

    I don’t know who I will vote for or if I will even vote this year.


  102. Please do not read this to mean that I support or like Trump or Cruz or their ilk; I don’t. But I understand the feelings and fears of many of those they appeal to, because I share them.


  103. There’s been a lot of economic dislocation in this country in the last decade for people in the lower middle-class (I know, because I’ve suffered some of it); this is also the class location of most of the conservative religious population. Many at this location are moving down, toward the lower-class; the more educated, less religious upper middle-class is moving up, toward the upper-class. A great fissure is forming in the middle-class between those with good prospects for a bright future and upward mobility, and those with bad to nor prospects and a future of downward mobility; this fissure also separates those who have more interest from those who have less interest and investment in institutional religion. The widening of this fissure is playing out in our national political drama in a big way, but the fissure has been there for a long time, noticed only by sociologists and academic geeks. If you are on the side of this middle class that has a bright future, don’t assume that you’re in the same boat as the other side; it would do well if we could all understand each others fears, and see each other as human rather than as caricatures.


  104. Or she is clever enough to be playing the long game – and in ~8 years – when the fear-mongering has worn out – and another 8 years of Boomers have exited the voting pool – she can step into the ring.

    Remember, she is only 43. A conservative female candidate, just a wee bit older than the Millennial population boom, with family connections to both the military and high-culture institutions. Hmmm…


  105. Nah, this brand of Conservatism lacks that kind of Grand Vision. I doubt these fellows have any kind of end-game, just getting through the next cycle of polls.


  106. > “now the military is full of Born Again Christians.”

    I remember that. And some pastors who were excited about it – it meant the military would refuse the orders when the government told them to ‘come for us’. Nuts.

    I do not understand how quickly this kind of thing gets forgotten.


  107. > Hard left for likes of Clinton and

    Really, Clinton is “hard left”? Perhaps it looks that way from a position on the right; but Clinton is a die-hard centrist with no novel solutions to anything. She is most certainly not Left.


  108. > Conservative Americans are afraid of losing a way of life

    That is pretty much it, in a nutshell. The fear has probably reached this fever pitch as, in their hearts, I suspect most of them know they are not “losing a way of life”, but that it has been *lost* [done deal, gone]. Some of this is grieving. These long-term political guys have run off past the end of their playbook.

    The hopeful thing is that people very much *rise* into political power. From school boards, to city councils, to state positions, to federal positions. And there are many sane low-ranking Conservatives in local positions. This is **in part** the American demographic problem – the first generation with a significantly extended life-span and that has forgotten how to update or to know when to call it quits. These guys do not even know what the actual problems are – hoping they will propose rational solutions is rather wishful.


  109. We are all aware of the hard turn strategy that is needed to get the nomination. Hard right for the likes of Cruz and Trump. Hard left for likes of Clinton and Sanders. Once the nomination is secured, all move toward the center. This is a strategy as old as the election process itself.

    I sure do hope you’re right. But I am feeling a great disturbance in the Force, and I do fear that this time WILL be different…


  110. THIS. Consciously or no, lots of folks are waking up to the realization that the white and comfortably religious middle-class life in America is dying – culturally, economically, and demographically, and they. DON’T. Like it. And they will listen to anybody who will loudly promise to Set Things Right. It’s even to the point that if it comes down to it, economic and social restoration trumps (pun intended) religious concerns – hence the Donald’s lead in the polls over Cruz.


  111. We are all aware of the hard turn strategy that is needed to get the nomination. Hard right for the likes of Cruz and Trump. Hard left for likes of Clinton and Sanders. Once the nomination is secured, all move toward the center. This is a strategy as old as the election process itself. It’s only after the election that we begin to see their true intentions revealed. And those intentions are typically not some new revelation of wisdom granted to a new president. They are concealed in the summation of the prior actions that make up their lives.

    This election however feels different. Where in the past we had to decipher what a candidates true intentions are, this cycle seems more clear to me. If you want a megalomaniac, vote for Trump. If you want pharisaic assurance, vote for Cruz. If you want a shifting pander-bot, vote for Clinton. And if you want a populist scape-goater, vote for Sanders.

    On the positive side, I feel there is more clarity in the choices this go around. Oh, but what choices they are.


  112. I share your concerns and what’s even worse…most of the “brink of apocalypse” is manufactured and is a total lie… Freedoms are not being eroded. They are not experiencing real persecution. They still have more food and clothing and stuff and opportunities than most people on the planet now or in the past… They have more freedom of speech and more places to spout off than ever before – yet they constantly think and verbalize this “woe is us, we have to get it back” verbage… – so sad and so many christians are at the pointy end of american individualism/entitlement/nihilism. (What a great witness to the Gospel/Good News! **Sarcasm**) God help us.


  113. I’m with you and was also surprised and heartened by what Nikki said as well. But my immediate thought was, “the base isn’t going to like this… she’s probably been branded a RINO already and for some, she’ll now be considered an enemy…


  114. > I thought this possibility had gone by forever

    Nah, it waxes and wanes, and occasionally is eclipsed. We’ve been here before; it will pass, the question is just “when?”. Hopefully sooner rather than later.


  115. Sadly, Cruz represents what much of evangelical Christianity has become.

    “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Kirche”?


  116. If I remember right, during that shutdown we heard calls for a military coup from a lot of pulpits.

    Fit right in with Focus on the Family’s eighties-vintage brag that “now the military is full of Born Again Christians.” Guess the Reverends thought that after the coup the Born Again Christian military would turn all the reins of POWER over to them. God Wills It!


  117. It was C.K. Chesterton who wrote: “A coziness between church and state is good for the state and bad for the church.” As a complete outsider(living in South Africa), I find the current conservative political climate in America horrifying fascinating. The mix of nationalism and Christianity is very much ingrained in the whole mindset. The two leading candidates are very much the opposite of Jesus. The love of money is instilling a spirit of fear and with that comes the fight back of “We will make America great again.” The “cause” is all important and overpowers silly details like… grace for example. Conservative Americans are afraid of losing a way of life. This fear is deliberately fueled by politicians like Cruz. And violence does not sound like a bad option for people who are told they are living on the the brink of the apocalypse.


  118. Sadly, Cruz represents what much of evangelical Christianity has become. I’ve always been a Republican, but I’m disgusted by the lack of quality in the leading candidates. If Jim Webb (D. Virginia) runs as an independent, I’m going to consider him.


  119. As someone who has always considered themselves conservative, the conservative movement has been heading into dark regions in the past decade or so. In the US and Canada alike. I hope for a change in the winds someday.


  120. I have not followed politics much because i dont have the stomache for it anymore, what i know of Ted Cruz is how he filibustered to shut down the government. I know people who think him heroic for that but it seemed like cold self righteousness to me. He seems to be a “true believer” as much as Obama is for his causes. This i find scary.


  121. I was surprised and pleased with what Nikki Haley said last night. I have heard that the pundits who are worshipped by the ‘base’ were not happy with her at all. (this did NOT surprise me)

    It was one bright moment for those of us in this country who still believe that a HEALTHY two-party system is good for our country. I thought this possibility had gone by forever, but apparently there are still voices in the Republican Party that are sickened by the hate and fear-mongering. I wish those voices were louder.


  122. I’ve never liked Cruz, even more so after I heard his speech at Liberty College (I think…) where he used the delivery and cadence of a pulpiteer and sounded too sanctimonious for my liking. And that OTHER guy, whose name I will not voice, is equally distasteful so I am left hoping for the second tier. And on the other side of the aisle, we have one person who cannot consistently tell the truth, even when repeating the same events multiple times while the other person is just batsh__ crazy.

    Last night Nikki Haley struck the right chords and that is what I am missing in this electoral season.


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