Why Ted Cruz is losing my generation of evangelicals

ted-cruz-AP When you grow up evangelical, you view everything about politics through the lens of your religious experience. Other people are shaped most fundamentally by their connection to military culture or their work with the poor or their passion for science or something else. I honestly cannot think about political issues from an objective rational perspective; I’m almost entirely a reactionary. There is one analogy that shapes the political landscape for me: I am rabidly opposed to anyone who reminds me of the fundamentalists who have questioned the validity of my Christian faith throughout my life. The problem for the Republican Party is that Ted Cruz and the “constitutional conservatives” holding them hostage fit this analogy perfectly, and that’s why I suspect they are completely alienating what might be dubbed the Rachel Held Evans bloc of twenty-to-thirty-something moderate evangelicals like me who hate fundamentalism and hate being called “liberal.”

When I try to think about political questions objectively, I’m completely in favor of the concept of subsidiarity that libertarians like Paul Ryan say they’re about. Basically it means that decisions should be made on as local a level as possible. I think the power in our country should be primarily in the city councils, not in a centralized federal government, though I also think that something has to be done to stop the race to the bottom by which corporations get such deep tax breaks that local governments don’t have the revenue to do anything.

I would also say I’m a conservative when it comes to sexuality. It’s true that I think LGBT people should be allowed to pursue sexual holiness within the reality of their biology, but I do believe that the sexual promiscuity of our culture is a tremendous crisis. At least a dozen of my former high school students are stuck in minimum wage jobs because they had babies at a very young age. And no, the pill doesn’t solve everything. The false instant intimacy of “hook-up culture” is a primary engine of the desperate loneliness of our age and a means by which our bodies become consumer products instead of beautiful icons of God.

I’m not going to try to claim that I’m a war-hawk because I’m not, but I’m not a pacifist either, because I respect the legitimacy of the difficult vocation of protecting our country and shooting a gun in order to do so. And the last three years that I’ve spent in a congregation of mostly military families makes it unimaginable for me to caricature the beautiful, compassionate, thoughtful service members I have gotten to know. Military culture creates a level of solidarity between people that should be what the body of Christ looks like. And I’m grateful to know at least two Christians from my church who are now on the ground in Afghanistan whose faith will shape whatever difficult decisions they have to make if, God forbid, they find themselves in live combat.

I guess what I’m saying is I really could be a moderate Republican. And maybe I will be one day. But right now, I see the same kind of ruthless ideological litmus-testing among Republicans that I experienced from fundamentalists growing up. When I was in my second year in college, I was nominated for a leadership position in a campus fellowship group. I was told by another guy in the group who had the same haircut and smirk on his face as Ted Cruz that if I accepted this nomination, he would challenge it because he wasn’t satisfied that I believed the Bible was inerrant. There was a piece of paper I was supposed to sign about Biblical inerrancy, and he said he didn’t think I could sign it.

It didn’t matter that I was handing out Jesus tracts on the sidewalk, participating in multiple small group Bible studies, and attending two or three weekly worship gatherings on top of Sunday morning church. It didn’t matter that I took everything about my Christian walk uber-seriously. Because I was unconvinced that the seven days in Genesis were literal days, I was thus a Christian In Name Only who deserved to be ousted in the primaries by a real Christian, presumably the guy who challenged my nomination. I didn’t stick around to see whether he took the leadership position after having bumped me out of the way. I left, and no one came after me.

So when I look at the way that the Tea Party has cowed moderate Republicans into submission and yanked Republicans further and further to the right, it fills me with rage because I’m reliving all the “more Biblical than thou” competitions that I lost at growing up. When I see the demonization of President Obama, especially when fundamentalists like Franklin Graham say things like, “Well… he says he’s a Christian,” it doesn’t matter what Obama actually stands for politically because in my head I’ve made an analogy between him and the twenty year-old Morgan who tore up the piece of paper about Biblical inerrancy and walked out.

The one thing that would utterly surprise me and the other evangelicals like me who seem to share my experience would be if moderate Republicans were actually allowed to exist and vote their consciences. If John Boehner broke the Hastert rule and allowed a straight-up vote on reopening the government in which moderate Republicans were allowed to vote with Democrats, it would completely change the dynamics of our government. Then individual congresspeople would actually be able to negotiate with each other not between two monolithic, absolutely irreconcilable positions but within a spectrum of views. That kind of reality would shatter the analogy I’ve been making in my mind, and evangelicals like me, however many of us there are, would actually start thinking about politics objectively.

Evangelicals are the backbone of the Republican Party. Republicans will keep the baby boomer evangelicals until they’re dead, no matter what they do, because baby boomer evangelicals are as permanently defined by their rage against “the Sixties” as I am by my rage against fundamentalism. That’s why they will never stop throwing themselves into the culture wars. But the more that politicians who behave like fundamentalists are allowed to hold Republicans hostage, the more that they will permanently alienate evangelicals in my generation, at least the majority of us who didn’t get first place in all the “more Biblical than thou” competitions growing up.

59 thoughts on “Why Ted Cruz is losing my generation of evangelicals

  1. I guess I am setting my self for trouble, but I disagree with you on this. To blame Ted Cruz or say he brings out the negative in us just does not seem right. Cruz is the first politician in years that has motivated me to get involved. Finally, a person that has read and argued the Constitution at the highest levels. The moderates of the Republican party seem more like Democrats when things get tough. They can not be trusted to do what they said they would do when elected. I am not sure if I am Evangelical, but I do feel that as a society we are slowly turning our back on the Christian Faith and Biblical teachings. Finding people that want to hold their ground on these items does not make us evil or stupid or wrong or trouble makers. I can respect other opinions and maintain my own. To be clear I no longer see myself as a Republican because I don’t know what they stand for anymore. The way that the Republican’s attacked Cruz and called him names was sickening. He has been above board and not fallen into the name calling trap.

    I want more Ted Cruz’s and fewer John McCain ‘s and Nancy Pelosi’s.

    • Thanks for providing a different perspective. There’s certainly a lot of demonization that goes on. Maybe I’m not hearing the real Ted Cruz through all the noise. I think that’s kind of the point I’m trying to make. To people who grew up evangelical, any kind of ideological puritanism is going to stir up painful memories for us of getting told that we aren’t really Christians if we don’t believe X or Y. So we get distracted by the rhetoric and aren’t able to hear the values being represented.

    • You are one of the biggest idiots who has ever posted on the internet and that is quite an accomplishment! Ted Cruz is the Anti-Christ in my book. He has said publicly that Jesus wouldn’t have helped the poor and was only saving himself on the cross. Have you ever studied the history of world religions? There are many that are much older than Judaism. Does that mean they are Satanic in your limited mind? Probably. Does it give you a sense of superiority over people who may have a more primitive, yet much older, culture than you? Probably, since that has always been the attitude of pushy Christians who think they have to spread the “Good News” of Christianity. Tea Partiers are ruining this country and it is people like you who are helping them do it. Grow a brain and look past your own little existence at the much bigger picture of the world. It may surprise you.

      • Ruth, I don’t feel like the tone that Michael wrote with merited this kind of response. I am trying to learn how to engage people more gently and respectfully when they are humble in how they present themselves no matter what their views are. It sounds like you might be bringing other wounds from other places into this conversation.

      • Ruth, the article you cite about Ted Cruz saying that Jesus was only saving himself on the cross was satire, not fact. I don’t like him either, but it’s important to not pass on satire as truth. Check your sources first!

  2. Reblogged this on CurrentsofJoy and commented:
    I’ve been scanning the internet for pundits and bloggers who express a Moderate point of view in these polarizing time and here is a young(er) person, Morgan Guyton, who does it very well. I’m thrilled to present his article (and blog) to you!

  3. Thank you for your article Morgan. As someone who is probably extremely progressive (or liberal if you insist!) I would find myself disagreeing with you on almost every public policy position. However, your thoughtful message here, and your obviously respectful attitude towards others means that people like you and I could still compromise and learn to live with each other in the same society.
    This is something which seems to have disappeared from our democracy in the past two decades or so. And I suspect that when we get used to NOT demonizing each other we could mabye even find that we have a lot more in common than we thought. And I really feal that that would make for a more peaceful and loving society.

  4. It is refreshing to read differing opinions and beliefs that are well thought out and presented respectfully. My impressions of Senator Cruz have been formed by his words and actions. My gut reaction is that this man is not someone I trust and I find him to be mean spirited and petty. He seems to be all about Ted and no one else. I appreciate that their are viewpoints different than mine, and can respect people without agreeing.

    • The difference between someone like Ted Cruz and a conservative of the past like Ronald Reagan is that while they may have shared political philosophies, Reagan appealed to the good in people while Cruz appeals to our vices.

  5. For what it’s worth, I *did* win first place in the more-Biblical-than-thou wars… but I’m much closer to where you are now than where I was then. (I’m more liberal than you are, but we agree on much).

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  8. Morgan – in ’93, God struck the idol that was my “f”aith at its feet of clay and it collapsed and was blown away. Three weeks later, Jesus spoke His name in my heart and I received a real, living, dynamic “F”aith that changed my life forever. I learned from that the power of His unconditional Love and the imperative to extend “Charity” to all people. Before my conversion I had been a somewhat black and white thinking Catholic. Though I am not registered with any Political Party my Faith does shape the way I view the world and my opinions and attitudes about politics. Jesus, IMHO, is still the champion of sinners and the poor and marginalized. I no longer ask “WWJD” as us more speculation, rather I now ask myself “What Did Jesus Do?”

  9. Morgan, like man other respondents, I can “relate” to this post. Just one question came to mind, which is a bit tangential: You write:

    “Republicans will keep the baby boomer evangelicals until they’re dead, no matter what they do, because baby boomer evangelicals are as permanently defined by their rage against “the Sixties” as I am by my rage against fundamentalism. That’s why they will never stop throwing themselves into the culture wars.…”

    I’m not sure baby boomer evangelicals (of which I am one) are “permanently defined by their rage against the Sixties.” Sure, I’ve heard many pulpit-pounders (a cheat-shot label, I know) claim that “nothing good came out of the Sixties”—but I challenge that claim. Such critics tend to cite only “free love” and marijuana as the deplorable subcultural demons. But the Sixties also gave us some good acoustic folk music, the “ecology movement”, and raised the country’s awareness about senseless warfare (e.g., Vietnam) and crass materialism, so that we as a nation were forced to re-examine our basic values. And those developments alone were worth the decade.

    • Yeah it’s definitely a caricature of a caricature. I think “the sixties” refers to a symbolic reality that isn’t the literal era.

    • That sentence was the one that actually put a LOT of things into context for me, things I hadn’t thought or understood in quite that way before. It helped me see the people in my life who have harangued against “the Sixties” (aka, drug and free love culture) and longed for the halcyon days of “the Fifties” (aka, Leave it to Beaver in real life) in context, and specifically in a context that related to me as what I call an exangelical.

      It’s too new an idea for me to articulate it completely, but it makes me feel more forgiving toward the older brand of fundamentalism, that I can relate it to my personal former brand. (And I WAS one of the evangelicals who could be “more Biblical than thou.”) Comparing this asserted failing of many boomers to my own failings as a judgmental fundamentalist makes me feel more compassionate toward that position.

      But your response is also obviously very helpful and hopeful, as I think here you’re not only claiming, but demonstrating that individuals can think complex things about complex issues. 🙂 This article clearly isn’t about you, and the sentence about boomer hate of the Sixties clearly isn’t, either — and it makes me very happy as a younger person to have proof that not all boomers insist on throwing babies out with all that bathwater. Thanks.

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  11. My disagreement with Fundamentalism is more basic. The term “fundamentalism” was coined in 1915 as a Backlash against “modernism”. Considering that I respect science as a means of investigating the workings of God’s Creation and see the marvels of Creation as a stepping stone to cultivating a proper awe Of Our Creator, I would definitely count as one of those “modernists” that fundamentalists seek to defend against.

    Politically the problem is more that some people have so stubbornly Misused certain words that even in religious discussions the Real meanings of certain terms is almost lost. The most egregious would have to be the words “liberal” and “conservative”. Used Correctly each is a modifier indicating the degree of value you accord Tradition and as such there Should be recognized separate “versions” pertaining to everything (and every denomination) that has any sort of history and traditions. The Wrong version of monolithic Liberal and Conservative “movements” is a political construct driven by a Us-vs.-Them mentality. I most definitely don’t see myself as a Social conservative but I Do see myself as more of a Theological conservative in that I identify with a lot of positions I read about from the Past rather than the more new-fangled ones associated with the “culture warriors” of the present. My support of the First Amendment is colored by my identifying with the Danbury Baptists who went to seek the aid of Thomas Jefferson in order to protect Religion from the corruption of Government

    The example you gave is another. There is a difference between saying a text is “inerrant” (never wrong) and saying it is “literal” (including no metaphors, similes, or allegories). There is also a difference between respecting the holiness of Scripture as “God’s Word” and according the same reverence for someone’s preferred Interpretation of the text.

    Those most active in politics don’t seek ideas from which to have a rational discussion with varied points of view but a Seat of Authority by which people gain holiness from their Obedience (i.e. people are considered right because of their Positions) and secular power in turn based on their Holiness (i.e. openly-professed support from politically-active pastors)

  12. If the moderate Republicans could just get organized enough to jump ship and distinguish themselves from the slide toward oblivion… they could form another party.
    But who will lead the way? And would I vote for them, anyway?

    • Right. As you know, several independent parties (Green, Libertarian, Peace & Freedom, etc.) have tried to do just that (jump from the 2-party ship), but have garnered few votes. Lately, even Ron Paul (who calls himself NOT a libertarian, but a “strict Constitutionalist”) has mounted a similar following. But the more I read, the more I become aware that the real culprit in American politics is not one party or the other, but what some are calling the “Corporatocracy”—i.e., Wall Street running the government. Economic globalization and “free trade” agreements are another manifestation of that.

      • Paul, you might enjoy reading David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. In it there is a chapter called An Orison of Sonmi ~ 451. It’s eerily prophetic of the end game of the globalization, corpocracy, and unanimity you describe. What makes it so chilling is that in addition to the Orwellian brutality, there is also an element of Huxley’s Brave New World in which the rulers keep the populace pacified with carrots too.

  13. I have a couple of questions to ask. Are you referring to the actual Ted Cruz, or the media presented version? There is a lot of groupthink going on in our country today, and unfortunately, most get their information from the group, instead of the facts. You join the rhetoric when you open your post with an unflattering photo, and use “hostage taking” in your first paragraph. Looks like throwing some “first stones” to me. (OK, second, third, fourth or whatever stones, but still throwing them.

    My second question is why doesn’t anyone ask why the Democrats, voting always as a united block, are not held to the same “set my votes and conscience free” mentality. Implicit in your post is the absolute wrongness of the libertarian stance on fiscal policy.

    I was asked about who to vote for this week, and my answer was simple. Vote for the economic policy that you support, and throw away the balance of the rhetoric. My ethics are based on Jesus Christ, and not laws or documents of any government. Populist morality is shifting sand, and if you are wIting for our culture to adopt a Christian worldview, it isn’t going to happen. My apologies to the dominion it’s.

    We need to be about our Father’s business, and not the world’s. Sorry, got a little preachy there.

    • Admittedly I don’t know much about Ted Cruz as a person. I know he’s a Southern Baptist from Texas like me. I know his dad preaches dominionism. And as I said, his behavior in politics reminds me of the way fundamentalists treated me. This is not a piece about rational political decision making. That’s what I’ve been distracted from being able to engage in by the tactics and the rhetoric. It’s a piece about perceptions and analogies that evangelicals my age are making and why this is very bad news for the Republicans’ future.

      • Morgan, if you want the straight skinny on Ted Cruz and his close involvement with the leading lights of the Dominionist theocracy movement, go to the website “talk2action”. “Right Wing Watch” is also very informative.

    • As a person who identifies himself primarily as a Democrat (which means my stances on political issues lines up with the Democratic Party more times than not), this is a conversation that is happening. There are some in the Democratic Party who are ultra on the liberal end of the spectrum, and want their fellow Democrats to follow them in their thinking without dissent. And there are many who are responding by encouraging a “set my votes and conscience free” mentality. If you are not part of the Democratic party, you may not be aware of this ongoing, internal conversation, but it is there.

      • What you say is very true. However, there is a huge difference between the extremists on the left and the extremists on the right. A significant proportion of right-wing true believers are avid supporters of the Christian Dominionist/Nationalist movement which seeks to overthrow our constitutionally-based secular democratic republic and to establish a theocracy governed by Mosaic Law. I’ll take the pro-socialist types any day.

    • I’m assuming he’s talking about the Ted Cruz that I saw in a Senate hearing, recently, who was completely ridiculous. I got my information based on a first-hand experience. It could have been an “off” day for Mr. Cruz but it was consistent with portrayals — so, I need to see Ted Cruz in another Senate hearing behaving in a reasonable way? Doubtful.

  14. Hey Morgan,Just an FYI: Paul Ryan is not a libertarian in any sense of the word. He’s classic neo-con. Maybe you mean Ron Paul?

    • Yeah I’m pretty ignorant. I think I meant federalist (?). Bottom line is I can understand the concept of subsidiarity. Now I’m not sure it fully accounts for the problems of power that local governments face dealing w multinational corporations.

    • Indeed Paul! He would have no qualms whatsoever about cutting grandpa & grandma’s social security checks so that 12 billion instead of 6 billion per month could be poured down the Afghan rat hole.

  15. The problem with this water down version of Christianity is it ignores the Christian god nuking a city of gays becausehe hates them. Genesis isn’t literal? Then Jesus died for a metaphor.

    It’s time for this relic to be thrown on the scrap heap with every other god.

    • The Bible is very explicit as to what they chief sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was: Pride. The idea of associating these cities with homosexuality is based exclusively on interpretation of a single event whose meaning Isn’t spelled out.

      I personally think understanding the meaning of the scene where the crowd demands to “get to know” the angels staying as guests is analogous to providing a bed to freedom riders and having the head of the local Klavern show up at midnight insisting that and his dozen white-robed buddies “just want to talk”.

    • No, Jesus died for our sins. According to Ezekiel 16:49-50: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.” God states clearly that he destroyed Sodom’s sins because of their pride, their excess of food while the poor and needy suffered; sexual activity is not even mentioned. Isaiah 1; The entire first chapter is an utter condemnation of Judah. They are repeatedly compared with Sodom and Gomorrah in their evildoing and depravity. Throughout the chapter, the Prophet lists many sins of the people: rebelling against God, lacking in knowledge, deserting the Lord, idolatry, engaging in meaningless religious ritual, being unjust and oppressive to others, being insensitive to the needs of widows and orphans, committing murder, accepting bribes, etc. There is no reference to homosexuality or to any other sexual activities at all. Also see Matthew 10:14-15: Jesus implied that the sin of the people of Sodom was to be inhospitable to strangers. (Luke 10:7-16 is the parallel passage.) In 2 Peter 6-8: Peter mentions that God destroyed the adults and children of Sodom because the former were ungodly, unprincipled and lawless. (Sexual activity is not mentioned.) Jude, Verse 7: Jude disagreed with Jesus and Ezekeiel; he wrote that Sodom’s sins were sexual in nature. Various biblical translations of this passage in Jude describe the sin as: fornication, going after strange flesh, sexual immorality, perverted sensuality, homosexuality, lust of every kind, immoral acts and unnatural lust. It looks as if the translators were unclear of the meaning of the verse in its original Greek, and simply selected their favorite sin to attack. The original Greek is transliterated as: “sarkos heteras.” This can be translated as “other flesh”. Ironically, our English word “heterosexual” comes from “heteras.” A likely interpretation is that the author of Jude 4 criticized the men of Sodom for wanting to engage in sexual activities with angels. Angels are described in the Bible as a species of created beings who were different from humans. In that case, the sin of the people of Sodom would be that of bestiality. There is much more that can be said about the Bible’s interpretation of the sin of Sodom, but that’s not the topic in the blog post. The blogger makes some great points, and while I don’t agree 100%, I applaud the general message. I am a baby boomer who grew up in the Bible belt with fundamentalists all around me, but my childhood (and also my current church) is mainstream protestant. I also don’t like the labels “liberal” and “conservative.” I voted democrat for the first time in 2008 because the republicans have become so extreme, and because the current democratic platform is compatible with my Christian theology.

  16. Morgan, an absolutely brilliant blog post and one I can relate to. As a recovering Baptist turned Methodist, so many of the things you talked about were part of my experience. Maybe that is why Cruz and co. hook me so badly.

  17. I totally get where you are coming from. I sure find it far easier to view the commands, moral requirements and prohibitions in scripture more like guidelines as opposed to standards God actually wants us to take seriously (think Pirates of the Caribbean and the Pirate code that falls by the wayside in favor of it being viewed “more like guidelines” in order to justify compromise). But then when I chose to follow Christ, I understood it was a very narrow and hard way that would illicit mocking from all quarters if I actually followed scripture. So if there is some huge negative connotation to being “more biblical than thou” I guess you can mock me and count me as one of those who at the end of each and every day wants to be able to say that to the best of my ability I actually followed Christ and all that presumes to include in the area of obedience.

    • I don’t have any interest in mocking you. I don’t think you get where I’m coming from if that’s what you’re hearing. You have always spoken with a lot of grace and dignity even though we don’t agree on everything. That’s why I would never call you a fundamentalist. I take the Bible very seriously and try to live my life according to its teachings. To be “more Biblical than thou” is not about taking the Bible seriously but about looking for ways that you can one-up other Christians in public exhibitions of piety and question the legitimacy of their faith if they aren’t as radical as you are.

      • I don’t feel mocked by you, but I do find my way of thinking referred to as radical or extreme or (God forbid) fundamental. I find this confusing as there was a day when sticking to fundamental principles or going back to the fundamentals was considered a wise thing to do and yet now that term has gained a negative connotation with groups who have moved away from some of the more “radical” fundamental principals in scripture that have begun to be set aside (totally a modern phenomenon) in order to maintain some perceived status of “staying on the cutting edge”, “keeping relevant” or for some other “PC” reason not necessarily related to Christ and scripture.

        • I don’t have any interest in being relevant or cutting edge. I’m one against getting fundamentals right either. I’m against the political power games that use the word “Biblical” as cover for attitudes that are quite plainly fruits of the flesh per Galatians 5:19-21.

        • I think it’s important to understand exactly where the term “fundamentalist” comes from. I live in Ontario Canada and there is a little town here called “Niagrara-on-the-Lake”. It has an old hotel there with a government erected historical plaque that identifies this place as the exact spot where the term “fundamentalism” was coined. Basically, the movement was created as a reaction to and rejection of the mainstream denominations who were integrating three streams of modern ideas into their church programs: the Marxist analysis of what causes poverty, the scientific understanding of evolution and the enormous age and size of the universe, and, the scholarly study of the Bible that resulted in an understanding that it was the creation of all-too-human writers and editors.

          The problem with the Ted Cruz’s of the world has been around a long, long time.

      • I don’t want to put words in your mouth, Morgan, but I think what you’re trying to say is that you have a problem with people who mistake self-aggrandizing religiosity for practicing their religion.

    • I think that Morgan may be talking about using bits and pieces of the Bible to try to judge other’s actions instead of using the Bible as a guide to finding out how to follow Christ in all aspects of our own lives. I think if you are trying to follow Jesus as closely as possible no one is condemning you for that.

  18. Oh Morgan! I so relate to this post!!! Thank you. I feel exactly the same way except I don’t think I could ever, ever, ever, ever be a Republican again in the same way I don’t think I could ever be a Southern Baptist again. They have both left me with such pain and heartache that I don’t think I could ever, ever, ever subject myself to it again.

  19. Serve your party or serve your god. You can not serve two masters. Especially when your party is the antithesis (that means opposite) of Jesus.

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