11 September 2014

Profile in toolishness: Ted Cruz

He was booed off-stage at the In Defence of Christians gala not for being pro-Israel or pro-Jewish, but for demonstrating through his blind and unthinking support for Israel such a thorough lack of understanding of the issues at play in the Middle East, and thus a studied lack of empathy for Christians specifically in the Middle East. Among Palestinians, a sizeable minority are Christian – fairly evenly divided between Orthodox and Roman Catholic, and also a few Anglicans – and Christians and Muslims suffered in equal proportion from Israeli violence in Gaza. Likewise, it’s a matter of fact that Hezbollah and the ‘Islamic’ State are mortal enemies (the same can be said for most Islamic groups and the ‘Islamic’ State, actually), and it is a matter of basic survival for many Christians to ally themselves with armed groups that not only aren’t seeking to kill, rape and torture them, but are actually fairly friendly and supportive to them. For Cruz to stand up and lump Hezbollah and ISIS together, and then to say that ‘Christians have no greater ally than Israel’ at such an event, particularly in the wake of the recent Gaza offensive, is an insult, whether or not he intended it.

As Seraphim Danckaert at Orthodox Christian Network puts it:
Given his comments, and his response to the people who reacted by booing, it appears Cruz has no meaningful exposure to the actual experience of Middle Eastern Christians, nor does it seem he is even aware that there are millions of Middle Eastern Christians (and Jews, for that matter) who are strongly opposed to the official political and military policies of the modern state of Israel.

The phrase that ignited the disagreement is particularly telling: “Christians have no greater ally than Israel.”

What kind of worldview or theological bias would allow for such a statement? Only one that presumes there is a definite conformity between the needs and desires of Christians everywhere and the Middle East policy of the United States of America. It seems to me, in other words, that when Ted Cruz says “Christians have no greater ally than Israel,” he really means that “America has no greater ally than Israel” — and that the subjects of those two sentences are identical in his mind.
It may be uncharitable and cynical of me to say so, but I think one possible explanation for Cruz’s comments is that he simply doesn’t care about the Christians he came to address. He has no reason to care. Cruz may not understand the Middle East, but one can bet good money that he understands very well that these Christians have a decided lack of campaign contribution funds. Unlike Israel. (Or, as Michael Brendan Dougherty caustically put it: ‘I guess someone has to stand up against the menace of Maronite Christians and their powerful American mouthpieces.’) And it should be noticed that Cruz is not alone in his lack of concern for persecuted Christians in the Middle East and North Africa – the Tea Party noise machine (the Washington Free Beacon, Breitbart, the Blaze, Hot Air) have put out the official line hailing Cruz as ‘principled’ and having ‘character’ for standing up for the Israel lobby in telling Middle Eastern Christians what they ought to think, and have all but characterised the entire IDC event as a Hezbollah front.

Let this be an instructive moment for American Christians who take their faith seriously, as it demonstrates clearly that it is a fallacy that Republicans are in any measurable way more friendly to Christian concerns, or in any way more Christian in their approach to politics, than the Democrats are. Neither party is particularly interested in a bloc of people – Middle Eastern Christians – whose very existence appears to be a nuisance as far as American geopolitics is concerned, and who have decidedly shallow pockets. American geopolitics is not Christian, however much Republicans (and, to a lesser but growing extent, Democrats) try to doll it up in Christian drag.

But the Evil One will continue to laugh as long as he is able to convince a majority of American Christians that following their flag or their tribal partizan identity is the same thing as following the Cross. Lord, have mercy upon us all.

EDIT: Rod Dreher has the definitive quote on this sorry affair.
So what? They deserve to be killed by ISIS because they don’t support Israel, or US policy in the Mideast? They deserve to be spited and mocked and used by a US Republican senator from Texas who now has the footage he needs to make a campaign commercial, and to pull in donations from home state megachurches? Meanwhile, the Christians of the Middle East, who have been worshiping there since the days Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth, are slowly being ground down to nothing. But hey, the American right-wing media machine took what it wanted out of the Christian patriarchs’ backsides, so it’s all cool, right?

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