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October 31, 2013 3:09 PM Sins of the Father

By Ed Kilgore

Back in August, I paid some attention to a fiery speech delivered by the Rev. Rafael Cruz, warming up the crowd at an important Iowa Christian Right confab before the pithy remarks of his son, the junior Senator from Texas.
I wondered then if Ted Cruz could get away perpetually with using the old man as a not-very-subtle dog whistle to the fringier elements of the GOP:

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.

Well, thanks to Mojo’s David Corn, a lotta folks today are becoming acquainted with Rev. Cruz’s religio-political point of view:

In April, Rafael Cruz, the father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), spoke to the tea party of Hood County, which is southwest of Fort Worth, and made a bold declaration: The United States is a “Christian nation.” The septuagenarian businessman turned evangelical pastor did not choose to use the more inclusive formulation “Judeo-Christian nation.” Insisting that the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution “were signed on the knees of the framers” and were a “divine revelation from God,” he went on to say, “yet our president has the gall to tell us that this is not a Christian nation…The United States of America was formed to honor the word of God.” Seven months earlier, Rafael Cruz, speaking to the North Texas Tea Party on behalf of his son, who was then running for Senate, called President Barack Obama an “outright Marxist” who “seeks to destroy all concept of God,” and he urged the crowd to send Obama “back to Kenya….”
A sermon Rafael Cruz delivered in August 2012 at an Irving, Texas, mega-church has also come under scrutiny. At that event, he asserted that Christian true believers are “anointed” by God to “take dominion” of the world in “every area: society, education, government, and economics.” He was preaching a particular form of evangelical Christianity known as Dominionism (a.k.a. Christian Reconstructionism) that holds that these “anointed” Christians are destined to take over the government and create in practice, if not in official terms, a theocracy. Rafael Cruz also endorsed the evangelical belief known as the “end-time transfer of wealth”—that is, as a prelude to the second coming of Christ, God will seize the wealth of the wicked and redistribute it to believers. But, Cruz told the flock, don’t expect to benefit from this unless you tithe mightily. Introducing Cruz at this service, Christian Zionist pastor Larry Huch offered this bottom line: In the coming year, he predicted, “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.” (In July, several prominent Dominionist pastors at a ceremony in Iowa blessed and anointed Ted Cruz, rendering him, in their view, a “king” who would help usher in the kingdom of Christ.)

Corn makes a particular point of noting, as I did, that this isn’t a matter of unfairly associating Cruz the Elder with Cruz the Younger:

Comments uttered by a politician’s parent may have little relevance in assessing an elected official. But it’s appropriate to take Rafael Cruz into account when evaluating his son the senator. Ted Cruz, the tea party champion who almost single-handedly spurred the recent government shutdown, has often deployed his father as a political asset. He routinely cites his Cuban-born father, who emigrated from the island nation in 1957, when he discusses immigration and justifies his opposition to the bipartisan reform bill that passed in the Senate. (Ted Cruz hails his father as a symbol of the “American dream” who came to the United States legally—though Rafael Cruz began his career in the oil industry in Canada, where Ted was born.) Moreover, Ted Cruz campaigns with his father; he had him in tow on a recent trip to Iowa (where the evangelical vote is crucial in GOP presidential primaries). Rafael Cruz regularly speaks to tea party and Republican groups in Texas as a surrogate for his son; during Ted Cruz’s 2012 Senate campaign, his father was dispatched to events and rallies across the state to whip up support. And thanks to Ted Cruz’s political rise, Rafael has become a conservative star in his own right. He has been prominently featured—and praised—at events held by prominent right-wing outfits, such as FreedomWorks and Heritage Action. What Rafael Cruz says—especially when he is speaking for his son—matters.

Now it make strike many as bizarre that Ted Cruz feels the need to hint that he’s actually even more of an extremist than we already think he is. But that’s how it goes on the Christian Right/Tea Party circuit, where the veil falls from banal-sounding terms like “constitutional conservative” and a radical movement to redeem America from pretty much everything that’s happened since World War II (or even before that) becomes manifest to the cheers of the initiated.

After serving up a rich harvest feast of Rafael Cruz jeremiads on topics ranging from uppity women to evil RINOs to timid preachers who eschew politics, Corn asked Ted Cruz’s office for a reaction. Somehow or other, they don’t seem to have been prepared for the inevitable questions:

Cruz’s office requested citations for these quotes. After receiving the citations, Sean Rushton, a spokesperson for Cruz, replied, “These selective quotes, taken out of context, mischaracterize the substance of Pastor Cruz’s message. Like many Americans, he feels America is on the wrong track.” Rushton added, “Pastor Cruz does not speak for the senator.”

What makes this reaction hilarious is that the quotes actually supply the context for many of the bromides of constitutional conservatives. Indeed, what makes Rafael Cruz interesting is that he has zero inhibitions about letting us into his (and quite possibly his son’s) total world-view.

But the “doesn’t speak for the senator” bit indicates that Ted Cruz may soon find Rafael Cruz just too hot to handle. You can only imagine a conversation in which the senator has to explain to his father and mentor that his services as a purveyor of red meat are no longer necessary. But if all else fails, I suppose Rafael Cruz could get a new gig warming up crowds for the Texan who may soon seek to join his son in the Senate, David Barton.

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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