I have a good friend who is a Reagan Republican who finds himself struggling with the direction of the Republican party and as an evangelical Christian he also finds himself struggling with the direction of the evangelical political voice. He shared an article today, “Trump, Cruz popularity represents two very different Christian failures“, that has many good points. I really appreciate the article and find myself agreeing with a good deal of it. But, I also found myself thinking more about my disagreement than my agreement.
I believe that the support of both Cruz and Trump by evangelicals represents the same failing. The article rightly points out that Cruz is playing on a brand of conservatism that emerged in the 70’s and has been very strong for the last 40 years. But, what is that brand? I think the author describes it correctly but is missing the real issue. The Christian political conservatism of the last 40 years is a graceless, loveless ideology that focuses on what we are against…even what we hate.
That ideology has been tempered by a culture with a face of politeness. Even Bush Jr. ran on the idea of compassionate conservatism in part because critics rightly pointed out that the new conservatism was without compassion. Cruz has taken this form of conservatism completely to heart. His brand of conservatism is without grace, without love, without compassion. For that reason Christians should oppose it- even if your pastor or favorite radio host supports it. It is a conservatism of hate not love.
But, Ted Cruz is still steeped in Church and Southern culture. He shows gracelessness with a smile on his face (even if the smile is kind of creepy). He hates while pretending it is love. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is from NYC and not particularly churched. So, he shows this conservatism to be what it is. I think that is part of why some political Christians are so bothered by him. He shows that their political emperor has no love. In many ways, the conservatism of Trump and Cruz are the same. One has just spent enough time in church to know he has to seem loving on Sunday morning no matter where his heart really is.
Christians must understand that one can affirm beliefs with grace and love. This is important personally but it is also important in the public sphere. But, this is not what Cruz does. When I was younger I was taught that one becomes what they think about most of the time. For many evangelicals, I would argue they have become “how” they think most of the time. Since they focus on what they hate they have become hate. Scripture encourages “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Instead we fume about what we hate and soon enough we are known by our hate not our love.