Sunday, October 27, 2013

Just how crazy is Ted Cruz?

Ted Cruz is already campaigning in Iowa, running hard for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination as the darling of the evangelical right.

But just how crazy is he? After all, anything can happen in politics. And I'm seeing some pretty crazy stuff here.

From TPM:
As I mentioned before, back when he showed up at Harvard Law School in 1992, he stunned his fellow classmates by putting up flyers around campus for an 'elite study group' with the instructions 'only magnas from top Ivys need apply.' In other words, at a place where arrogance is like air and self-awareness a precious commodity, Cruz managed to stand out on day one as a triple-ply arrogant ass.

Cruz never seems to have grasped that there are people every bit as sharp as him who didn't go to an Ivy League School (even a 'top Ivy'). My read on Cruz, from talking to people who knew him very well in college and law school, is that he's so confirmed in his belief in his own rectitude and genius that he's likely impervious to what most of us would interpret as rejection or failure. This didn't work? Well, too many stupid people or cowards who didn't flock to my banner. That seemed to be the gist of his speech before the vote. And my guess it wasn't just puffing but represented his genuine belief.

Remember, this is a man who by all accounts is 100% focused on being the 2016 Republican presidential nominee who has quickly racked up a cosmically abysmal level of popularity nationwide. According to the latest NBC/WSJ poll, he has a 14% approval rating nationwide, with 28% disapproving of him. [Note: This leaves 58% with no opinion, so I'm not particularly comforted by these numbers.] Now he's back to saying that he can't rule out shutting down the government again.

Combine that personality with Christian Dominionist theology:
On the eve of our government shutdown, I wanted to do some research into the theological roots of Senator Ted Cruz, the standard-bearer of the Tea Party Republicans behind the shutdown. I'm interested in understanding what account of Christianity creates the "no compromise" crusade that the Tea Party has become known for. It turns out that Ted's father, Rafael Cruz, is a pastor with Texas charismatic ministry Purifying Fire International who has been campaigning against Obamacare the last several months. He has a distinct theological vision for what America is supposed to look like: Christian dominionism. ...

A good example comes from a speech at the Iowa Family Leadership Summit on August 12th where Cruz said that the government's "attack on religion" is part of a longer-term plan to establish socialism:
When you hear this attack on religion, it's not really an attack on religion. The fundamental basis is this. Socialism requires that government becomes your God. That's why they have to destroy your concept of God. They have to destroy all your loyalties except loyalty to the government. That's what's behind homosexual marriage. It's really more about the destruction of the traditional family than about homosexuality, because you need also to destroy loyalty to the family.

This paragraph is a textbook example of postmodern "truthiness," in which any narrative of reality "works" as long as it's structurally logical. Cruz start with asserting the socialist conspiracy as a fundamental given and then show how it works as an explanation for everything else that's going on. It's so fascinating when the same people who declare themselves to be defenders of "absolute truth" are absolutely relativistic about truth in practice.

A more disturbing element of Cruz's speeches were his repeated calls for a "black robe regiment," a concept promoted by Christian revisionist historian David Barton who claims that clergy were the main backbone of the American Revolutionary War. ...

The theological ethos of Rafael Cruz's vision is in Christian dominionism; he talks about preaching a "message of dominion" that all Christians have received an "anointing as kings." I watched a sermon he preached on August 26, 2012 at the New Beginnings megachurch in Irving, Texas, led by Christian Zionist charismatic pastor Larry Huch. Huch incidentally had a very interesting prophecy to share when he introduced Cruz to preach:
We've been doing this series here that God laid on my heart: Getting to the top and staying there. A message for us as individuals, the kingdom of God, but also for America. It's not enough to get there. We need to stay there. It's not a coincidence that in a few weeks, we go into what's called in the Bible Rosh Hashanad [sic]... It will be the beginning of the spiritual year 2012. The number 12 means divine government. That God will begin to rule and reign. Not Wall Street, not Washington, God's people and His kingdom will begin to rule and reign. I know that's why God got Rafael's son elected, Ted Cruz the next senator.

But here's the exciting thing... The rabbinical teaching is... that in a few weeks begins that year 2012 and that this will begin what we call the end-time transfer of wealth. And that when these Gentiles begin to receive this blessing, they will never go back financially through the valley again. They will grow and grow and grow. It's said this way: that God is looking at the church and everyone in it and deciding in the next three and a half years who will be his bankers. And the ones that say here I am Lord, you can trust me, we will become so blessed that we will usher in the coming of the messiah.

So it sounds like we're entering into the age where the Christians (who give faithfully) are going to get all the money through the "end-time transfer of wealth." Isn't the title of that sermon series just awesome? Getting to the Top and Staying There! It was a packed house. I wonder how many other apocalyptic prosperity gospel megachurches are packing their houses by preaching sermon series about getting to the top and staying there. ...

So to pull all this logic together, God anoints priests to work in the church directly and kings to go out into the marketplace to conquer, plunder, and bring back the spoils to the church. The reason governmental regulation has to disappear from the marketplace is to make it completely available to the plunder of Christian "kings" who will accomplish the "end time transfer of wealth." Then "God's bankers" will usher in the "coming of the messiah." The government is being shut down so that God's bankers can bring Jesus back.

Great, isn't it? All you have to do is give money to these people, and vote the way they want, and you'll get this "end time transfer of wealth" from "God's bankers." What could be more reasonable than that?

Note that this isn't an atheist who wrote that article, but a Christian pastor. Even he thinks it's batshit crazy. But if you're faith-based, I could see the appeal (though I have to wonder what all that wealth will do for you when you think Jesus is coming back to 'rapture' you up into Heaven - can you actually take it with you?).

If these were Muslims, America would be scared to death. But these are Christians - their own religion - even if a batshit crazy offshoot which seeks to turn our democracy into a theocracy.

I always thought that 'prosperity gospel' stuff was about as crazy as you could get, but this takes it one step further. In this idea, Ted Cruz is one of those "kings" who's going to accomplish that "end time transfer of wealth."

Indeed, maybe he's already started:
One can interpret the "great transfer of wealth" -- predicted by Ted Cruz' father Rafael Cruz, and by Pastor Larry Huch, who threw his Texas megachurch's considerable heft behind the 2012 Cruz for Senate campaign -- in magical terms, sure.

But Ted Cruz' apparently notable role in getting George W. Bush into the presidency led in turn to Bush's "Faith Based Initiative" - that continues to this day under two successive Obama administrations and which, during the Bush years, funneled billions of dollars to churches and institutions associated with the religious right.

In other words, the "great transfer of wealth" is about more than wishful thinking. It's about an ongoing effort, by leaders and institutions of the evangelical right, to gradually gobble up the secular sphere of government.

Thus, for example, fast growing Christian schools such as the late Moral Majority co-founder Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, which now vacuums up hundreds of millions of dollars in federal student aid money each year. Or the hundreds of millions of diverted tax dollars now flowing, in a least 12 U.S. states, under so-called "neo-voucher" schemes, to private schools - many of which, as explored in a new Rolling Stone story, have virulently anti-LGBT policies. Under Bush, too, several billion dollars per year in USAID funding were shifted from secular aid nonprofits to religious ones, some them holding anti-gay and reactionary, even theocratic, underlying ideology.

There's a weird combination of magical thinking and naked greed underlying this, don't you think? Admittedly, it fits in well with the 'benefit the wealthy' ideology of Republican leaders, nearly all of whom are Christian, too.

Frankly, it would be easier to laugh at this stuff if the crazies didn't seem to be in firm control of the entire Republican Party.

And Christian Dominionists do seek to control all of America, yet they're staying under the radar for most Americans. As that Talk to Action article continued:
In September 2008, with the election looming and John McCain and Barack Obama readying their final battle plans, a strange video surfaced, from an August 2005 ceremony held at the most significant Alaska church of 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

In the video, which became briefly notorious and unsettled many uncommitted moderate voters, Sarah Palin, who would soon run for and win the Alaska governor's seat, was shown being blessed and anointed by a Kenyan pastor with a croaking, raspy voice who called upon God to bless candidate Palin and protect her against witchcraft.

While that part of the video received considerable mockery from mainstream media, few seemed to notice a short speech by Muthee, which preceded the blessing and anointing of Palin. In the nakedly dominionist speech, Thomas Muthee - a close colleague of New Apostolic Reformation kingpin C. Peter Wagner - called upon believers to "invade" and "infiltrate" seven leading sectors of society:
"In a moment, I'll be asking you that we pray for Sarah, and I'll tell you the reason why. When we talk about transformation of a community, we are talking about God invading seven areas in our society. Let me repeat that one more time. When we talk about transformation of a society, a community, it's where we see God's Kingdom infiltrate, influence seven areas in our society. Number one is the spiritual aspect of our society...

...the second area whereby God wants to penetrate in our society is in the economic area. The Bible says the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous. It is high time that we have top Christian businessmen, businesswomen, bankers, you know, who are men and women of integrity, running the economics of our nations. That's what we are waiting for. That's part and parcel of transformation. If you look at the Israelites, you know, that's how they won. And that's how they are, even today....

So we go to the third area, it's in the area of politics... There are people who are wired to politics because God wants to take the political, you know, dimension of our societies. And those people should be prayed for. That's why I was, you know, I was so glad to see Sarah here. We should pray for her, we should back her up. And, you know, come the day of voting, we should be there, not just praying, we should be there. And I'm saying this because that's what I'm telling our church. I'm telling them that we need this in Parliament. In here is what you call Congressmen, you know, you know, the, the Governors, we need the brethren right inside there. Is anybody hearing me?

You know, because who will change the laws of the lands? The problem is do we just pray, but we do nothing about it. If the believers had not done something in this country, your president would not be in office today. Yes or no? Am I right?

Number three, or number four, it's the area of education. We need believers who are educationists. If we had them, today we would not be talking about the Ten Commandments being kicked out of the church, I mean out of our schools. They would still be there. One of the things that you, you know, I would love you to know, I'm a child of revival of the Seventies, and that revival swept through the schools. They are open to preaching, you know, open. Open. Wide open. You go to any school, there is what we call Christian Union. Christian Union is nothing more but a bunch of kids that are born again, spirit-filled, tongue-talking, devil-casting. Is anybody hearing me? All over the country! Is anybody hearing me?

We need God taking over our education system! Otherwise, we, if we have God in our schools, we will not have kids being taught, you know, how to worship Buddha, how to worship Mohammed, we will not have in the curriculum witchcraft and sorcery. Is anybody hearing me?

The other area is in the area of media. We need believers in the media. We need God taking over the media in our lands. Otherwise we will not have all the junk coming out of, you know, coming out of the media... Why can't we have our living church in Hollywood? Guess what will happen. If we have a living church right in Hollywood, we would not have all the kind of pornography that we are having. Is anybody hearing me?

And the last area is in the area of government. Hello? We need believers there. We need men and women of integrity. You know, as the Secretaries of State. We need them right there. People that are born again, spirit filled, people who know God, and people who are serious with God.

So in a moment if you do not mind, I'll ask, you know, even before I go to do this thing, you know, I'll ask Sarah, would you mind to come please? Would you mind? Come, please. Let's all stand up, and let's hold hands all over this house. Come, Pastor, come.

[Sarah Palin joins Muthee and two Alaska pastors onstage]

Thank you, Jesus. Let's all pray. Let's pray for Sarah. Hallelujah! Come on, hold your hands up and raise them. Hold them and raise them up here! Come on, talk to God about this woman! Come on, talk to God about this woman we declare favor from today. We say favor, favor, favor!  ...  We come in the hindrance of the enemy, standing in her way to there. In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus! Every form of witchcraft, it will be rebuked in the name of Jesus. Father, make her way now. In Jesus' name, Amen.

"The Bible says the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous." Nice, huh? All of our wealth, everything we "wicked" people own, that's supposed to be theirs, according to God. And these are the people who scream about 'wealth redistribution'?

(Also, note that this is why religious nuts have been running for school boards nationwide, too. "We need God taking over our education system!"  Many of these people home-school their own kids, but they're determined to control the public schools.)

Sarah Palin might have been too crazy for the American people, or just too dumb. Or maybe it was just that the memory of George W. Bush was too fresh in our minds. After all, this guy was right about one thing: "If the believers had not done something in this country, your president would not be in office today."

Of course, that was George W. Bush he was talking about, the darling of the evangelical right. You don't hear much about him these days, because he's still unpopular. But he was their candidate, right from the start.

From what I hear, Ted Cruz isn't dumb. He's crazy, yes. And his approval rating is in the toilet right now. But not with the evangelical right. Not with the Tea Party. Not with the far-right lunatics who actually vote in Republican primaries.

It's still a long time - in political terms - until 2016, and Cruz knows how short our memories are, here in America. So he doesn't care about the average American voter, not right now. Instead, he's wooing the crazies who control the GOP, just working on winning the Republican primary. (I suspect that he plans to play up his Cuban roots after that, expecting to woo Hispanics in the general election. But who knows?)

I think he's crazy. But anything can happen in politics. And Republicans seem determined to damage, if not destroy, our economy, which won't help the incumbent Democrats if they're not too clumsy about it (which is exactly why they're doing it). They took a big hit with this shutdown stuff, but it's a long time until 2016. And the GOP will have lots and lots of anonymous campaign donations to spend...

I don't think that Ted Cruz is going to be our next president. I think he's too crazy for America, but too egotistical to realize that.

But he's going to work hard at it, and he's going to have a lot of true-believers - and a lot of money - backing him. Given the makeup of today's Republican Party base, he probably has a good chance of winning the GOP nomination.

And anything can happen in the general election. Anything. I'm not overly worried about Ted Cruz,... but this is my country we're talking about. And if George W. Bush can get elected president, anyone can.

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