Trump, Cruz popularity represents two very different Christian failures

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, on January 18, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, on January 18, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, on January 18, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, on January 18, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The continued popularity of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz among many conservative Christian voters demands an explanation, especially for those who shudder at the very idea that one of these two men might get within sniffing distance of the White House.

I propose that Trump and Cruz represent two very different kinds of failures for conservative Christianity, one old and longstanding, the other new and more disturbing.  

Ted Cruz is the easier case. For the most part, he is following a particularly hardline version of the old Christian Right script, now operative in its tenth presidential election. You know it: Abortion bad, gay marriage really bad, liberals bad, secularism bad, Democrats bad. And: godly America, historic Christian heritage, call America back to God, take America back from the liberals, get the right judges on the Supreme Court, etc. It’s a familiar script, and it has been taught in many of America’s most conservative churches for decades. It is a message certainly not confined to Ted Cruz.

Many of us on the progressive evangelical side have been protesting this version of Christian public witness for a long time. It fails in ways we have specified, including its exceedingly narrow version of Christian moral concern and oversimplified reading of Christian history.

Still, those conservative Christians who support Ted Cruz based on that script are in many cases following the explicit teaching of their churches. They are good disciples in the terms that have been presented to them and that they believe. Their pastors have reason to be pleased with them.

Donald Trump is doing something very different and much more frightening. In his demeanor, he is violating every prior accepted standard of presidential civility. He is lathering up audiences for systematic demeaning of specific targeted groups, notably Muslims and Hispanics, through security appeals over terrorists and undocumented immigrants. He has also dismissed moral concerns about torture, and other rule-of-law considerations in war and foreign policy. He has more than once expressed respect for the leadership and toughness of foreign dictators. In sum, here is a presidential candidate frequently characterized by xenophobia, cruelty, vulgarity, and authoritarianism.

So then the question arises again: how  exactly can self-identified followers of Jesus support this man?

Based on my long and extensive experience with evangelicals, I cannot believe that any sizable number of these Christians have been taught to look for such characteristics in a president. So their supporting Trump does not respond to prior church teaching in the way that supporting Cruz responds to prior teaching. I find it very hard to imagine that too many pastors have offered this delightful Trumpian menu as part of their Christian instruction.

 There are two main ways to interpret what is going on here. One lays most of the blame at the feet of these self-identified Christians. That is, in supporting this kind of person for president they are denying the teaching they have received. They are being disobedient, or at best, nominal Christians.  

The other interpretation, though, is even more disturbing. That would be the idea that in the Christian moral formation of these supposed Christians they have not been offered an adequate inoculation against this kind of politics. What they needed was instruction in a version of Christianity with ironclad commitments to civility, solidarity, justice, mercy, compassion, rule of law, and human rights, commitments so strong and so well-engrained in believers that to support someone like Trump would be unthinkable. But they have not received that inoculation. So it is not there now, when it is needed, when the body politic faces a mesmerizing candidate of this exact type.

So I am saying that many conservative Christians support Ted Cruz because they embrace a flawed but familiar forty-year Christian Right political project, now being advanced by its most aggressive, clever, and well-funded candidate. Or they support Donald Trump because of a failure of their Christian moral formation to inoculate them against aspects of his person and message that should disqualify him. It’s a failure either way. But the latter failure is more radical, and more dangerous.

  • Jack

    Great piece, David. I quibble with your critique of Cruz-voting evangelicals, but respect it as a defensible position and I agree somewhat.

    But you really hit a home run on Trump-voting evangelicals. This bears a disturbing relation to fascism, which should be alien to evangelicals….but unfortunately isn’t. Witness American evangelicals who sympathized with Hitler at the very beginning as a law-and-order guy.

    Most evangelicals are ignorant of the institutions, mechanisms and Judeo-Christian thinking behind American constitutionalism…..and that opens them to Trump and fascism — the idolatry of nationhood and an impatience with the rhythms and processes of constitutionalism, which safeguards freedom by dispersing power. These people want a strong man who can cut through all that, win, and “get things done.”

    Trump evangelicals are spiritually and morally deceived and we can’t pull punches on that. We have to call them out and back.

  • Jack

    Put another way, David, this is not just an intellectual exercise in analyzing a societal phenomenon, but a serious problem that involves people some of us know and care about. We need to muster the courage and the words to confront them, leaving out politics per se and getting to moral and spiritual heart of the matter. Whether we are progressive, moderate, or conservative evangelicals, we need to engage Trump evangelicals, not so we can convince them to vote for our own pet candidates, but so we can get them to think long and hard about who and what they are supporting and why.

    Simple scriptures that reveal God’s heart on good leadership — God brings down the mighty and the haughty and gives grace to the humble, to paraphrase — belong on the table of discussion. What is a good shepherd, and how does a good shepherd differ from a bad one, according to the Bible? These questions need to be discussed openly and candidly.

  • Paul McJones
  • yoh

    The only differences between Cruz and Trump are:
    1. Trump has a much more media friendly persona
    2. Cruz is more measured in the silly things he says in public..
    3. Cruz is actively courting theocrats. Trump could care less

    Their positions are identical on all major issues.

  • Jack

    Yoh, reread the article, or better yet, read it the first time. David Gushee’s point is not about who is better or worse, but about two different kinds of phenomena at work in their respective supporters.

  • Jack

    Gushee’s point, Max, is that both Cruz and Trump are problematic, but for different reasons because different factors are at work in driving their respective supporters. He opposes both candidates equally, but finds a new dynamic at work regarding Trump that is uniquely disturbing and even creepy.

  • Curtis Peterson

    Some of us are already shuddering. We shudder at the thought that someone too similar to the current occupant of the White House will occupy it for the next four years.
    We’ve had many moments during these past seven years where we’ve been asking ourselves your question–How exactly can self-identified followers of Jesus support this man?
    You malign conservative positions on abortion & gay marriage by suggesting that they are products of a flawed but familiar forty-year Christian Right political project, or Christian automatons following well-meaning but misguided pastors.
    Many have arrived at these positions independently through Bible study and prayer, with a humble recognition of their own need of grace.
    I would venture to say most of us have a broader version of moral concerns than the ones you want to ascribe to us.
    I prefer Jack and Cindy’s biblical diagnosis of the Trump/Cruz issues to your more subjective approach that often relies on inaccurate…

  • Curtis Peterson

    Some of us are already shuddering. We shudder at the thought that someone too similar to the current occupant of the White House will occupy it for the next four years. We’ve had many moments during these past seven years where we’ve been asking ourselves your question–How exactly can self-identified followers of Jesus support this man?
    You malign conservative positions on abortion & gay marriage by suggesting that they are products of a flawed but familiar forty-year Christian Right political project, or Christian automatons following well-meaning but misguided pastors. Many have arrived at these positions independently through Bible study and prayer, with a humble recognition of their own need of grace. I would venture to say most of us have a broader version of moral concerns than the ones you want to ascribe to us. I prefer Jack and Cindy’s biblical diagnosis of the Trump/Cruz issues to your more subjective approach that often relies on inaccurate stereotypes.

  • G Key

    Humility, mercy, equality, empathy, respect, self-restraint, diplomacy, dialog, reciprocity, compromise, open-mindedness, curiosity, even-handedness, inclusiveness, collaboration, synergy, sharing, maturity.

    Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Carson, Kasich.


  • Gushee wrings his hands over the lack of checks and balances in religion – yet entirely fails to realize Jesus offers only extremist positions.

    The moderate Christians comfort themselves that the extremists are “doing Christianity wrong” – hoping the untrue Christians will wake up like Scrooge on Christmas morning and discover their evil misunderstanding – but it never happens.

    There is no wrong or right way to be a Christian. Just as there is no right or wrong way to own a hammer. How you use the tool has nothing to do with the tool – but has everything to do with the luck of being born with a good temperament.

  • A former SBCer

    One should keep in mind that the beginnings of the takeover of the SBC was partially funded by the senior Coors. (Buses, “expense” money) Yep, the Colorado beer magnate. The goal was to turn the SBC into an asset for the R party.

  • Jeff

    Is the possibility of a President Trump the end of civility and dignity in the office of the POTUS? During the previous eight years, we have had a president who mocks his opponents, blames his problems on his predecessor instead of owning his problem, has had numerous scandals on his watch, abuse his power of executive orders in unprecedented ways, and flat out lied to the public in order to gain support for a new law (“if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”).
    A previous president used the Oval Office as his personal playboy mansion. That’s putting it mildly.
    These unbecoming actions didn’t seem to bother what you refer to as “progressive Christians.” So why is everyone getting their undies in a wad over Trump and all of his faults and shortcomings?

  • Pingback: Trump, Cruz popularity represents two very different Christian failures – Universal One Church, Carrabelle, FL. USA – Universal One Church – Universal Church()

  • Stefan Stackhouse

    Part of the problem may be that there are too many clergy and evangelists within the Evangelical movement who are so focused on preaching the gospel message of salvation that they never get their people past square one. They never hear anything about discipleship and about actually living a Christian life. There are millions of “evangelicals” who have been led to believe that if they responded to an altar call and prayed a “sinners prayer”, then they have done everything they need to do and are now set for all eternity. Is it any wonder, then, that they think as they please and live as they please – and vote as they please – with no reference at all to what thinking and living and voting as a real Christian actually means?

  • MusicMan

    But between now and that millennial rule you speak of, we have to continue to live here on earth. That’s what we are discussing – not the eschaton.

  • lee Fernburg

    I really don’t know what Curtis means by: “We shudder at the thought……..”. For the past 15 years; beginning with 9/11, we Americans have had to face the fact that we are part of a very complex World. On 9/10, we walked out our front doors feeling the freshness of the day. Fall was short upon us. Trees were in full bloom, and the fruits of Spring and Summer were very apparent. Birds had hatched their young and their fledglings had joined their parents in flight. Vacation time was over and our children had returned to class. Stores were preparing for the upcoming Holiday Seasons by offering preliminary “Sales”.— The next day dawned the same, but suddenly the airwaves were filled with the unmentionable facts of 9/11. 8 years later; we were still involved in “War” and the Market Crashed. Our newly elected President inherited all this!! Our past President has remained pretty much silent since then. Allowing our President to take the brunt of our Anger and Fear. Need I say more?

  • lee Fernburg

    The problem that I have with a “Cruz Presidency”, is the fact that he is a “Newcomer” American. He has no past generational history here in the U.S.. Yet he claims to be an expert regarding our “Constitution.” He was raised by “Gypsies.” Drifters, who traveled back and forth from Canada. His own father remained a Cuban (still is?) and Canadian Citizen until 2005. So much for Patriotism! I know what you’re about to say. “What has that got to do with his son?” Personally; I am a product of my parents! Had working people! Ted did not have that luxury! I’m not a Psychologist, but it doesn’t take one to see that Ted Cruz has some serious emotional problems. He may never outlive his past. Right now; we need stability in our Country. Ted Cruz does not offer that. I accept his claim that he is a Christian. It’s just that he is not the type of “Believer” that I choose to follow!

  • Carlton Shardley

    I have never voted GOP for any office in the last 30 years, but if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, I am voting against her for whomever the GOP puts forward. Even loathsome Trump is preferable to me.

  • Anita H

    I agree with you Stefan and the older I get, the more I reject the notion that God is suddenly going to rescue humankind from its folly with the “rapture.” Christians are bad about actually following the dictates and example of Jesus, the very person they are supposed to emulate and I too put the onus of those preachers who browbeat their flocks with the salvation message and the fear of going to hell.

    Jesus commanded his disciples to spread the Good News in a positive manner, not by browbeating others and telling them they will go to hell. Too bad most of his so-called followers haven’t understood his message and mission.

  • I’m not a big fan of blanket indictments,Anita H.,so unless you know far more Christians than you are letting on here,I don’t think that your armchair analysis of the Christian Faith and how it’s propagated is particularly accurate.No one doubts that in some instances what you claim is true,but that doesn’t warrant throwing all of us under your biased bus.PEACE.

  • Voting a “real Christian” (or our version of it) into office will always be problematic and most often disappointing. This has led me to adopt the personal policy of striving to elect the best possible human being (or my version of it) into office. One could say that this procedure is the extreme of not mixing politics and religion, but I find it is difficult enough locating the ideal human being, let alone trying to find one who also possesses the “correct” or reasonable interpretation of God or Jesus. This election cycle’s dilemma is not as much finding the ideal human being as it is determining the lesser of evils.

  • Mary

    Gushee must be a post-Christian protestant, since he keeps using the political term “conservative” as a qualifier for Christianity. There is no such need, since there is nothing legitimate to distinguish it from.

  • DRW

    Excellent. I give thanks for you, DG. Oversimplification, I’m sure, but wondering how the proliferation of American flags on church grounds begun a few decades ago play into this awfulness, at least symbolically. Identifying Christianity with a particular nation state and then being more concerned with that nation’s “success” than faithfulness to a gospel that must always be counter to nation has been a terrible course to follow.

  • ben in oakland

    Jack, I’d have to agree with Yoh.

    I don’t think they are different at all, but very much the same, differing only in the degree to which they are willing to lather up their followers, and the language they use to do it.

  • edward

    There are going to be a lot of people who find that they can in good conscience vote for neither of the major party candidates this coming November.

  • ben in oakland

    “You malign conservative positions on abortion & gay marriage by suggesting that they are products of a flawed but familiar forty-year Christian Right political project ”

    I’d say closer to 1900 years.

    “Many have arrived at these positions independently through Bible study and prayer, with a humble recognition of their own need of grace.”

    I sincerely doubt that. but then, as a gay man, I’ve been on the receiving end of Christians’ “humble recognition of their own need of grace.”

    “I would venture to say most of us have a broader version of moral concerns than the ones you want to ascribe to us.”

    I have yet to hear anti-gay Christians express the slightest remorse or moral concern about 1900 years of jails, murders, suicides, broken families, institutionalized bigotry, legal discrimination, and vilification…

    All visited on innocent people for the “sin” of being different.

  • ben in oakland

    You’re talking about George bush, right?

  • edward

    Yes, Music Man. In the mean time all of us who are Christians have to show love, peace and righteousness. Then the kingdom will come.

  • edward

    Sorry, I scrolled down before I hit “Post Comment”.
    My comment to the former SBCer is that this is very interesting. Where can we learn more? If this is true, it explains a lot.

  • Christine

    I’m curious then – what Christian failures (or successes for that matter) are represented by the support of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders?

  • While I think I see your point, there would be a lot of time wasted re-defining Christian belief patterns (conservative, moderate, liberal, progressive, fundamentalist, ecumenical, etc.) when the definition of the subject matter was not the point of the article. These “qualifiers” were present and used as far back as the 1950s when I was considerably younger (was that also a time of post-Christian protestant?). The same designations are often used within singular denominations to identify specific belief patterns in the broad category of Christianity.

  • Christine

    Humility, mercy, equality, empathy, respect, self-restraint, diplomacy, dialog, reciprocity, compromise, open-mindedness, curiosity, even-handedness, inclusiveness, collaboration, synergy, sharing, maturity.

    Clinton, Sanders.


  • Tom Downs

    Jeff, what planet do you come from? Any grade school teacher would give you an F on your history paper.

  • Robert knecht

    The only question I have of you is will this theocracy be that of the Bible or that of the Quran? They are almost identical. There are three theocracies that I know of. Iran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the so called ISIS. I would not want to live in any of them.

  • edward

    HILI, Anita is speaking about repentance and faith. A sinners prayer is not repentance if one does not repent. What Anita and Stefan are saying is the gospel. It is the only thing that can save us from hell.

  • edward

    Thee sounds mighty defensive, Laurence. Perhaps thee needs to repent?

  • Robert knecht

    Unempolyemt downfrom 9 to4 percent. gasoline half price since when he took office. I would be more inclinded to vote for a so called “christian” candiadte if they would keep thier noses out of other peoples business.

  • I have donated to Religion News Service over the years
    because until now it has not been EXCLUSIVELY A WING OF THE CHRISTIAN POINT OF VIEW ONLY.

    Adapting as I do to this site’s demand for brevity, I’m repeatedly disappointed that my carefully articulated, diplomatic yet terse replies are deleted while leaving so many other comments which dare not go where I do.

    And you dare to call the Atheists closed minded? Religion is the enemy of freedom of every kind – especially speech.
    And you wonder why Christian Politics is a disaster?

    I’m avoiding RNS more and more.
    You are becoming an extension of the Pat Robertson News Service.

  • Kathryn Johnson

    Mr. Gushee posits that Cruz and Trump represent two very different kinds of failures for conservative Christianity. It occurs to me that they are much more alike than they are different. I believe that the old Christian Right script of being against abortion, gay marriage and the ideals of the Democratic Party is precisely the philosophy/theology that lays the groundwork for a Donald Trump who objectifies women, declares who is worthy of love and care and who isn’t and who moves in the direction of fascism.

    The fact that Donald Trump violates the standards of civility is jarring, but it is the way in which he takes the script of the old Christian right to its logical conclusion that I find far more frightening.

  • Lynn

    At least those with pro-life views are welcome in the Republican party. What failures are represented by a Democratic party where even Catholics must conform to pro-abortion dogma to even run?

  • Junebug

    I do not vote for “Minister in Chief”. I vote for one whose education is congruent with the job. One who has experience in dealing with bi-partisanship in Congress and who has been involved in foreign affairs & worked with foreign leaders. One who has a proven record of supporting freedom for ALL Americans. One who will stay out of our bedrooms and not ban personal choices. As Goldwater famously said: “You can’t legislate morality”. That is, in IMHO, a job for churches and we’ve done a poor job. As a Christian, (80 yrs., Seminary educated, Social Gospel of Jesus follower) it looks like Methodist Hillary will be my only choice.

  • Lynn

    Protecting the life of choldren on the womb is not a bedroom issue. It’s protecting human rights.

  • Anita H

    What bias would that be Laurence? I think you are assuming things about me that may not be true, but I will grant you the courtesy of asking before I comment.

  • Anita H

    There is no “pro-abortion” dogma. It is pro-choice, something that right-wingers seem to be increasingly intolerant of no matter what the issue happens to be.

  • Lynn

    It’s not a left or right issue. Either the child in the womb is human or it’s not. If the former, then this is a human rights issue.

    In the early days, the pro-life cause was championed by liberal-leaning churches. Notably, Catholics promote social justice, including for the unborn and their mothers.

  • When you Holy Rollers outlaw Abortion again, how long will the jail sentence be for 19 year old girls who get dangerous back alley abortions and survive?

    The tiny cluster of cells in most abortions are fewer than the number of cells you wash off in a shower! Each of those cells is a ‘potential child’ too, you know.

    Yet you invoke ‘human rights’ in this charade? Religion is not an answer to practical problems!

  • Lynn

    So at what point is the “cluster of cells” worthy of protection?

    “For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace (to her man) for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
    A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.”
    (1 Corinthians 11:2-10)

    This does not lead to human rights! Let alone women’s rights.

  • What makes the clusters of cells on your skin so expendable? You throw away billions of living cells every time you take a shower!
    Each one could be nurtured into a baby under the right circumstances.

    Christians are being completely unscientific, unrealistic and intrusive.
    ABORTIONS are a sad fact of life. But there would be far fewer abortions if Christians would get out of politics.

    Right Wing Christians reject everything which would reduce Abortion:

    1. reject contraception.
    2. reject proper sex education.
    3. advocate for sexual repression including masturbation.
    4. reject homosexuality.
    5. force marriage vows on sexually active youth.
    6. Repress natural sexuality instead of celebrating it.
    7. Outlaw reasonable access to birth control in many states.

    No philosophies have added more to sexual dysfunction and misery than religion.

  • Lynn,

    The answer to your question is in the hands of the woman. The vast majority of abortions happen long before the zygote becomes a fetus.

    And no woman ‘wants’ an abortion.
    99% of the time an unwanted pregnancy is caused by lack of education or access to effective birth control – exactly the problem religion creates.

  • Junebug

    Lynn,I think your concern re abortion was not heard. I’m sure your belief is sincere, I respect that, and it is certainly your right to abide by it.

    From a religious perspective, I agree with many Christians & Jews whch is based on Genesis 2:7. “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Thus, abortion is not murder since the fetus is not a breathing, living human being.

    Roe does not advocate FOR abortions and it leaves freedom of conscience intact. I trust you will respect my view as I do yours.

  • Curtis Peterson


  • Lynn

    Max, you seem to think you know who I am and how I feel on every issue. I realize abortion is a complicated, difficult issue.

    I was in high school when Roe was decided. I had teenage friends and family members who had illegal abortions. I also had a friend tell me, “My mother said I would have been an abortion if she could have gotten one.”

    I’ve had a crisis pregnancy of my own and decided against abortion. I’ve adopted two older children. My career has been spent helping children and families in poverty. I’m not sure what more I can do to prove I have a right to an opinion on the subject.

    One question for you: As an atheist, you believe one life is all there is, then why would you support taking it away in the womb?

  • Jack

    Ben, that’s a nice way of saying you don’t understand the unique threat that Trump poses to our nation, unlike that of any other politician in either party. You’re not alone, and that’s what worries me. On the hand, I’m not alone, either. I only hope that for the good of the country and its basic freedoms we all take for granted, there are enough “alarmists” like myself on both sides of the aisle to ensure that he is never elected president.

  • @Lynn,

    I’m against abortion! But my opinion is irrelevant.

    The woman who carries the zygote is the one who decides. Your argument would hand the decision to a foolish methodology which could only lead to endangering women.

    Roe vs. Wade was an economic decision – the court understood wealthy people had de-facto had access to safe abortions (which they always will have!) yet the same access was denied by law to poorer women.

    The emancipation of women is the most urgent need in the world today and religion – especially religion dictating policies – is THE ENEMY of that progress.

    There are far fewer abortions in Atheist countries! Take the memo, PLEASE.

  • A Central Texan

    Jack, I agree with you about Trump being a very large and terrible threat to our democratic republic. But Cruz may be a greater threat. He is a Christian Dominionist, one who believes that only Christians (of a certain stripe–like him) should govern and that this country was intended and created by God to be a Christian Nation with laws like those in the OT.

  • Jack

    Jeff, you need to lay politics aside and take a good hard look at Trump, not as your avenger against the left, but as someone who has the textbook personality and character flaws and traits of a tyrant along with a successful tyrant’s ability to manage and manipulate the media and public opinion and bully, torment, and isolate foes. If you help get him elected, everything that comes next will be on your head and on those who have done likewise, because you voted with your emotions instead of your intellect and conscience. You need to read all sides on this. It is not just people on the left who are deeply worried about Trump, but conservatives and center-right people like myself who feel likewise.

    Donald Trump is the kind of man who kept the Founders and Framers tossing and turning at night, worried about how the rise of such a man could spell the end of the Republic and the start of a new nightmare age of despotism.

  • Jack

    Lee Fernburg, with all due respect, you are in space. There is not a word in your post that tells us anything relevant about why we should like or dislike Cruz. It’s meaningless gobbledygook.

    I suspect you are for Trump, especially given your obvious xenophobic tendencies.

  • Sabelotodo2

    David Gushee’s dissertation here inadvertently and brilliantly illuminates two other major errors in how the political class is trying to co-opt the Kingdom of God into their realm. “Progressives” in the church-realm like Gushee, have an abiding faith in a liberal, socialistic and PC governement as the fullest expression of God’s Kingdom among us. And the large support of Trump among evangelicals, underlies their belief in a “strong man” to set aright all the problems they perceive in a large, diverse and pluralistic country. Both of these are branches of the same root.

    Gee–that “faith in the unseen” thing is soooo difficult . . .

  • Jack

    I’m almost on the opposite end from you, Carlton. I am tempted to write in any being with a pulse over Trump should he get the GOP nomination. Right now I’m leaning toward my neighbor’s Labrador named Charlie.

  • Jack

    I’ve heard people say that Cruz is a dominionist, a word which, like you, I define very strictly to mean someone who wants to replace the Constitution with the Old Testament body of law.

    Given that definition, Cruz, whoever or whatever he is, can’t be a dominionist, for the simple reason that his bias is in the opposite direction…..he not only favors the Constitution, but he insists that the Constitution be interpreted not based on what we would like it to say today, but what the drafters intended it to say yesterday, with the only exception to that rule being the updates to our Constitution achieved through amendments, starting with the Bill of Rights in the 1790ps and going all the way to the 20th century which such things as women’s suffrage and population election of senators.

    So whatever Cruz’s flaws may be, it appears that a dominionist replacement of the Constitution with biblical law isn’t one of them.

    As for Trump, my point stands.

  • Jack

    Max, you’re not the only one who has seen posts deleted or never posted. It’s happened to me as well. I have accused RNS of bias in a different direction, and I probably will do so again, but maybe we’re both wrong and RNS is an equal-opportunity offender when it comes to post deletions.

  • Debbo

    ” . . . a flawed but familiar forty-year Christian Right political project . . . ” Dr. Gushee.

    This aptly named political project has had disastrous effects on both the politics of the nation, especially Republican, and the entire conservative swath of American Christianity. Only now is the process of righting that, painful as it is, beginning.

  • Jack

    Kathryn, that’s because you are making the mistake of viewing the Trump phenomenon through the lens of issues alone. That’s a colossal error. Trump is not about issues. He is about someone with the unmistakable personality and character traits of an authoritarian dictator. If you lay aside issues and just watch what he says and how he operates, that becomes clear.

    Americans are not used to confronting the threat of someone who has the means and motive to pose a clear and present danger to the survivability of our democracy and the basic human rights we take for granted.

    On the Republican side, voters have about two or three weeks to wake the hell up and stop this horror in its tracks.

    And the Democrats need to wake up from their stupid little fantasy that Trump is the easiest Republican to beat.

  • Jack

    DRW, I could not agree with you more. While I think the Christian Left has its own share of unique idiocies, your diagnosis of what’s wrong with the Right is spot on. I strongly believe in American exceptionalism, but I fear Trumpianism as an evil distortion in which patriotism morphs into idolatry of nation and hatred of the “other.” Taken to its logical conclusion, we are talking about fascism.

  • Jack

    If I’m Donald Trump and I’m thinking long-term, ie what I will do if I become president and how I can get as close to 100% popularity as possible and use that popularity to erase core freedoms so I can muzzle my political foes, here’s my takeaway from the posts on these boards:

    I can crush any traditional human right I wish, from freedoms of speech, press, and religion to freedom of assembly and all the rest, and today’s left will merely shrug its shoulders and look the other way, so long as I support abortion rights and gay marriage.

    If I notice that, I can guarantee you that Trump noticed it long ago.

    It’s time for the left to wake up and realize that the rights that all of us share as human beings are what matter most, because we are human beings first, before we are anything else — male or female, straight or gay, black or white, theist or atheist. That is to say, if we lose those rights we all share as human beings, we lose everything.

  • samuel johnston

    It all depends on where the Christian grabs the elephant. Cruze is just a mean spirited, controller personality. Many Christians are. Trump is just an old fashioned tent revival charlatan, preaching the fear of the devil, hellfire, and strangers.
    To be fair, Sanders is a Utopian who ignores the massive failures of last Century’s economic and social experiments with socialism. Clinton ……………the woman has neither shame nor conscience.
    The only solution I see is for there to be more citizens who care about the competent and fair administration of the government, than those who are drawn to appeals that pander to their prejudices.
    For those who want a more moral society, try leading by example, instead of force.
    There was this guy Jesus……….

  • Jeannette

    Frankly, both Cruz and Trump scare me. I don’t want someone who claims to be Christian but who clearly has never read the Gospels, which advocate feeding the hungry, turning the other cheek, returning good for evil, loving one’s neighbor as oneself, clothing the naked… I’m sorry, but what I’m seeing on the political stage couldn’t be further from the life Jesus calls us to.

  • edward

    Jack, thee is underestimating Cruz. He is evil. I don’t think he cares anything about the Constitution or Christianity.

  • Human Rights only exist OUTSIDE of the authority of gods.
    Because making room for gods always destroys human rights everywhere it has ever been tried!

    The worst thing to do is to keep promoting religion and infusing it into politics. Incendiary and nonsensical.

    “I have come to burn up the world” – JESUS
    Too bad this arsonist can’t find a different one to annoy.

  • Jack

    No, Edward, I assume all politicians lie and have clay feet, that all politicians are….well…..politicians.

    I don’t worship any of them. I am naturally suspicious of any human being with power, because, as Lord Acton said, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    And so I like our system of government — the intricate series of constitutional and institutional roadblocks that prevent any of them from successfully assuming permanent dictatorial powers.

    I worry about Trump because he has all the tell-tale traits of a wannabe dictator, along with the same creepy abilities at mass manipulation and media management. This is not something you are born with….you study and learn it. It requires someone who craves power over others and knows how to get it by exploiting every human frailty and harnessing it fully.

    Trump is the greatest threat to our Republic of any presidential candidate, living or dead.

  • Jane Thomas

    Bravo Curtis. I would add that our positions are not a “forty-year Christian Right political project”. We conservatives follow a 2,000 year moral doctrine. Gushee might want to read his Bible.

  • edward

    Trump is the greatest threat to our Republic of any presidential candidate, living or dead.
    I wish it were that simple, Jack. Cruz is pretty skilled at manipulating people too. And I know we are going to disagree on this, but Ronald Reagan was a manipulator who did considerable harm to our country.
    On the lighter side, I had to laugh when, after the Iowa caucus, Donald Drumpf (aka Trump) said “Ted Cruz is a lying lawyer, and a lying lawyer is the only thing worse than a New York real estate developer.”

  • Ed Mix

    I think he is talking about Reagan, what a disgrace that man was. He was the source of America’s decline. W just exacerbated it. Thank God for President Obama for doing his best to fix the mess despite every effort by the Republicans to thwart him at every turn.

  • Ed Mix

    You have been brainwashed.

  • Scott Shaver


    Gushee’s article, like most he writes, delineates why he’s the only Christian in the world who “believers properly”. Same old song and dance.

  • Scott Shaver


    You were there with the “framers and founders”?

    All I can say is if you and other “center-right” concerned Christians and leftists can’t convince a majority of other “less-than-Christian evangelicals” of the substance of your fears, Trump will soon be “President Tyrant” to you.

    Would add that its “on your head” as well as the rest of us for the lying politically pandering “religious leadership” to which you now appeal as a basis for “rational Christian” behavior.

    Sounding brass…..tinkling cymbals.

  • Jack

    Scott, that’s the old “50-million-Elvis-fans-can’t-be-wrong” logical fallacy.

    It falls apart because objective reality and truth are not dependent on whether they are popular or unpopular. The fact that masses of people are buying into something doesn’t make that something automatically real or true or right. On the contrary, history bears witness to how many times Christians and other people of conscience have been compelled to stand nearly alone as a witnessy against a majority culture that had gone off the rails, often through the leading of a demagogue, and was losing both its mind and its heart.

    It may be that for Christians in America today, Trumpism is the start of that time. I suggest you read a good biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer if you care.

  • MarkE

    Hold on.When you say “abiding faith in a liberal, socialistic and PC government,” are you speaking of government (which is of the people, by the people and for the people) as one that tries to ensure a livable subsistance, including access to health care? A government that honors all expression of speech (arts, politics) and Religion (including all non-Christian faiths)? A government that gives equal rights and dignities to those who are “different” from the majority populace? If that’s what you mean, then hell yes, I have a deep and abiding faith in the expression of God’s kingdom among us.

  • MarkE

    “…Christians who support Ted Cruz based on that script are in many cases following the explicit teaching of their churches. They are good disciples in the terms that have been presented to them and that they believe. Their pastors have reason to be pleased with them.”

    But are they disciples of Christ? I propose that they are, in fact, disciples (or minions) of their controlling pastors. These clergy, like the Prosperity Gospel slimeballs, are false Christs leading their flocks away from the Christ of the cross.

  • Roger A. Meyer

    Jeff, what you have written is a summation of Fox News, conservative commentators and many preachers ideas, but it is not based in any factual reality. Obama has been put down and degraded by people who started when he first ran, because he was a black man and belonged to a black church that was not aligned with any white denomination. He has been honest in blaming George W. Bush, who left office with our country in the worst economic mess since the Great Depression (an idea that was put for in 2008, before Obama was elected. I don’t know of the scandals you refer to, because they have not really happened. They were probably some of the things put forward by right wing media without any real world support. Obama was stating what he thought would happen with the ACA, but some insurance companies did not act in a way consistent with the intent of the law.
    You appear to be the type of person that David Gushee was reffering to when he said that some people do not know what the gospels…

  • Jeff

    Go back and read my comment. Did I say I was voting for Trump?
    I’m actually not.
    I was stating that in my observation, the fears I’m hearing stated over a possible Trump presidency are the same flaws that I’ve observed out of Obama’s administration. Putting politics and policies aside, he has appeared rather childish to me and not ready to take on the job.
    I just don’t know how a Trump presidency would be any different than what we already have.
    But apparently, I’m not welcome to express my observations and opinions here. My education, intelligence, and Christianity have been called into question by people who don’t know me. I thought that liberalism or progressives were supposed to be about acceptance and civil dialogue despite differences. Instead, I’ve been judged and put into a category. And FYI, I don’t watch Fox News. Thank you.

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  • Roger A. Meyer

    As an old man who has tried to live a life for God for over six decades (I’m 73, but didn’t know as a child what the New Testament called me to do) I can remember the time before Rowe Vs Wade very clearly. I worked in a hospital in conservative Tennessee where the posts on the surgery board had more “D & C”s than most other procedures. D & C stands for Dilation and Curettage, the scraping of the uterus to remove tissue. It was frequently done to women early in their pregnancy to abort the embrio or fetus–it was never called a baby at that point. It was assumed that the tissue was part of the mother and not a separate being as so many insist today. Later in the pregnancy, after the fetus can be felt moving, it was considered a child by many, but medically it was seen as a separate being from the mother only when it could live on its own.

  • John

    This is poorly written and shows the complete lack of understanding of scripture from the so called progressive evangilicals. Who are more people who want to claim to be Christian but live as an atheist case in point how fast you imply that being protected abortion “the murder of the most innocent of God’s creation” is not wrong
    You lost any relative ability speak as anything other then a false prophet from there forward. There are big difference between Cruse and Trump, Trump is a hue threat and Cruze has the potential to bring this country back to greatness.

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  • Emc

    I would suggest that Trump’s vulgarity is the mirror of the modern mega church and of prosperity theology. People have been primed to accept trump because he’s what many churches hold out as a sign of divine approval.

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  • jh

    What massive failures? A good number of western countries engage in socialism as well as capitalism. What are you talking about? Do you want to get rid of roads (socialism), police (socialism), firemen (socialism), Social Security, Medicare (socialism), the army (socialism) and so on?

    Socialism is merely concerned with pooling the resources of many to enact a common good. Your hospitals, your police, your roads, your basic civil society depends on socialism.

    A world without socialism is a world where thugs rule. I would not want to live in that world. There would be much human suffering and pain. There would be rampant exploitation and theft where might = right. I do not think you have thought out the implications nor have you educated yourself in any great detail about socialism.

  • jh

    I think you are incorrect. The protestants were neutral about abortion until the moral majority was founded. In a corrupt and venal move, they shifted their position (roughly late 70’s and 80’s) to align with the catholic position.

    And frankly – after careful study of the Bible, I have come to the opposite conclusion. God kills newborns (numerous times). There are verses that exhort smashing infant’s heads. There is not one verse that is pro-fetus. (the knit me in my mother’s womb is referencing a specific person, not all people). Basically – the anti-abortion christian position is just a continuation of biblical slavery where only certain people have rights to their bodies and everybody else is just a sex slave/broodmare.

  • jh

    And are those people illiterate? Do they never read the Bible? Are they so stupid that they can’t read some Jesus said such as “it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than a rich man to heaven” or “let he who is without sin throw the first stone” or “your kingdom is not of this world” and so on? Where are the peacemakers, the humble servants, the kind people who don’t judge or increase human suffering? Where are the people who realize that not everyone must follow their personal beliefs?

    Christianity has morphed into the tool of the conquering savage. When you don’t comply, they shoot you or arrest you. It protects rapists and condemns women who seek to control their own bodies.

  • jh

    But this is the point. Protestants decided to gain political power so they joined forces with catholics and adopted a highly dubious, anti-woman position of anti-abortion. They’re beliefs are similar to the belief a child has of the moon being made of cheese. There is no substance to back up their claims. They refuse to listen to pro-choice people who have very valid reasons for supporting a woman’s right to choose.

    As for me – Savita Halapannavar is my line. That Hindu woman was murdered by sincerely religious christians/catholics for the crime of being pregnant and having a medical emergency. For me – I see the christian view against anti-abortion as very biblical. It’s just another attempt to control women because the religion is anti-human and anti-woman. (That’s also why religious sex offenders can rape so many people and still be protected from civil justice.) Christianity is an offense against humanity because of all the innocents who have suffered from it.

  • Janice Taylor

    Pure bull. Anti-Christian bigotry at its most tired. Many of those who support Trump don’t attend church, don’t read the Bible and know nothing of Christian doctrine. They simply say they believe in God. But if they want to support Trump it is their right as voters. They are not as ignorant as many of the black Christians on the left who vote against their faith and live in rebellion of it. Yet they call themselves Christian. These folks(Trump voters)are voting their perceived interests as native born Americans. They are not voting with regard to religious values because they don’t have any. Add to this many secular people support Trump’s candidacy. The church in Nazi Germany had been silenced since Hitler began expelling and killing pastors. Get it right or don’t bother.

  • Janice Taylor

    Cruz is a man of brilliant intelligence who governs with a principled stance representing the voters who elected him. He is a lone voice of honest dissent in a den of corruption for which he is hated. Especially, for his Christian beliefs. There is nothing at all disreputable about Ted Cruz not to real Christians. God hating, bigoted Anti-Christian types despise him as well as corrupt politicians who lie to voters and sell them out lining their pockets with the money from special interests. Ted Cruz is an honest, principle politician in a sea of corruption. Of course the bad guys hate the anti-corruption crusader who actually fights to rid corruption. Criminals don’t sing the praises of get tough sheriffs. Ted Cruz unlike, H. Clinton did not use his senate seat to line his pocket. That would be easy for a brilliant guy like him.

  • Janice Taylor

    Get over the American culture is coarser than a quilt made from glass shards and burlap coated with cement. The general culture is vulgar made that way by the left the media, courts & universities trumpeting freedom to degrade, insult & demean. Guess what, I’m not a Trump supporter. But 8 years of Obama and a useless, traitorous republican senate and congress created the rise of Donald Trump along with the media. If Trump wins the republican primary he will go on to win the white house. Trump can’t be worse than 4 to 8 more years of the radical left. At least he knows globalism is bad for America. What country is helping to pay off Americas debt? To his credit Trump is a businessman who knows now the the U.S is running black hole of a deficit thing have to drastically change. America can no longer play the role of world policeman & protector. The infrastructure is falling apart as well. A Constitutional duty the govt. has neglected which could force it into 3rd world…

  • Janice Taylor

    Wrong. Trump has nothing to do with the mega church where there’s still civility–even if feigned. Trump voters are not voting with religious values because they rightly believe such a candidate would be rejected by the left. Ted Cruz is proof of this. Trump voters are voting using secular logic voting their interests. They know America is BROKE globalism is destroying their way of life. Foreigners are abusing the American social safety net which was never created to take care of the world but generations of Americans. People are sick of globalism and its carnage. They want the American govt. to put Americans and their interests first. The free gravy train for immigrants has to end. The fighting to protect the interest of other nations must end. America can’t afford that foolishness in foreign policy anymore.

  • Janice Taylor

    Trump is a businessman knows how to create profit centers and can pay down the debt, balance a budget or cut waste when needed. He is right about govt. hacks negotiating bad deals. Its time to charge those countries who enjoy NATO protection, same goes for the Pacific rim nations and NORAD installations. Time to call in those loans. Guarantee Trump won’t give away American oil and gas reserves to foreigners. The left has given away the future of our grandchildren and the great grand children who will be left to live in a 3rd world U.S.A with rotting power grids, roads, dams & bridges.

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