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August 12, 2013 5:26 PM The Jeremiah of Ames

By Ed Kilgore

Aficionados will tell you that the podium at Christian Right confabs are often crowded with politicians blowing dog whistles and dancing on the precipice of theocratic extremism. But because participants at such events tire of fiddling with their decoder rings and resent the temerity of pols who won’t call their political enemies Spawns of Satan who must be destroyed by any means available, there’s usually at least one speaker willing to come right out and speak the truth even if it would sound crazy or fascistic to the uninitiated.

When I attended the Family Leader Summit in Iowa last year, I paid close attention to the designated Truth-Teller:

[T]he most interesting speaker I heard today was another Texan, Laurence White, pastor of the Lutheran (Missouri Synod) Church of Our Savior in Houston, who lashed not only the evil liberal secularists but faithless Republican pols and at audience itself for tolerating “the perverted standards of the ungodly who live around us.”
Best known for his relentless comparisons of conservative evangelical culture warriors with the Confessing Church under Nazi Germany, White came to demand that his listeners make the immediate and total revocation of legalized abortion, same-sex marriage and other forms of “indecency” an unconditional demand.
“On abortion, there is just one Christian position. For a Christian not to vote is a sin. For a Christian voting in any election for any candidate who is not absolutely, unequivocally and authentically opposed to abortion is a sin.”
You can only imagine what this man—and the audience who said “amen” to his thunderings and laughed at his jokes—thinks of Christians who aren’t so sure God wants them to abolish reproductive rights or deny marriage equality, much less of anyone else who do not approach politics with White’s maxim of “Jesus is Lord of all or Lord of nothing.” They—we—are all either Nazis or the Germans who did Hitler’s will.

Well, there was a similar figure at this year’s Family Leader Summit, who, according to veteran conservative radio host Steve Deace, received “the biggest ovation I heard throughout the day.” Like White last year, he was a minister who again and again blasted his fellow clergy for failing to be as fully engaged as possible in right-wing politics. He dated the slide towards national degeneracy to the 1963 Supreme Court decision banning school prayer, the “massacre of 55 million babies” to Roe v. Wade, and the introduction of full-on socialism in America to the administration of Jimmy Carter (!), held in abeyance solely by the mobilization of Christians on behalf of Ronald Reagan. As for contemporary issues, he had these thoughts to offer (per TPM’s Tom Kludt):

“Socialism requires that government becomes your god,” he said, as quoted by The Des Moines Register. “That’s why they have to destroy the concept of God. They have to destroy all loyalties except loyalty to government. That’s what’s behind homosexual marriage.”
[He] said “our lives are under attack” due to the Affordable Care Act, the federal health care law widely known as “Obamacare.”
“Obamacare is going to destroy the elderly by denying care, by even perhaps denying treatment to people who are in catastrophic circumstances.”

What really distinguished this year’s Jeremiah from last year’s, and also guaranteed him a lot more media attention than Laurence White received, was his name: Pastor Rafael Cruz, father of Ted, who (again according to Deace) aroused the second-largest ovation of the day at the Family Leader Summit.

If Cruz really does run for president in 2016, it will be interesting to see if his father accompanies him on the campaign trail, or if he’s consigned to events like the one in Ames this weekend. Hearing them back to back—particularly after Cruz the Elder emphasizes again and again his role in instructing Ted from early childhood in the political ways of righteousness—may not go over as well in some precincts of the GOP, much less the general electorate, as it does among people longing to hear a hybrid of Jesse Helms and Jerry Falwell.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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