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5 faith facts about Ted Cruz: It’s all about God’s work

(RNS) Cruz doesn’t tiptoe around the Almighty in his politics. If America doesn't shape up, it could lose God's favor, he has said.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz hugs running-mate Carly Fiorina just before announcing that he is suspending his campaign for president at a campaign event during Indiana primary night in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., May 3, 2016.      REUTERS/Chris Bergin -

(RNS) Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suspended his presidential campaign after losing the critical Indiana primary Tuesday (May 3).

As he does in every move he makes, every breath he takes, he thanked God. It mirrored his hopeful beginning when his Iowa caucus victory speech on Feb.1 rang out with “To God be the glory.”

Cruz, 45, has been God-first across a lifetime — from his childhood in evangelical private schools, up through his 2012 Senate race aimed squarely at social conservatives, up to his campaign kickoff at Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University.

By the end of Super Tuesday + Super Saturday, he was giving up the glory for a rising number of winning states.

But he stalled as the primaries moved to the East Coast terrain of New York real estate mogul Donald Trump. Shortly after the polls closed in Indiana, Cruz came somberly to the podium and announced it was over.

“From the beginning I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory. Tonight, I’m sorry to say, it appears that path has been foreclosed. The voters chose another path, and so with a heavy heart, but with boundless optimism for the long-term future of our nation, we are suspending our campaign.”

Here are five faith facts that shaped Ted Cruz and the way he conducted his campaign.

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1. He’s a lot like his dad.

Ted liked to quote Rafael Cruz on the campaign trail, urging people to vote by God’s values — in Christian conservative form.

Rafael Cruz was a Catholic Cuban refugee working in the energy industry when Ted was born in 1970 but in 1975 became a born-again Christian. By the time Ted was a teen, Rafael was a traveling preacher. Now, Rafael pastors a church in Dallas and directs the Purifying Fire Ministries, ministering in the U.S., Mexico and Central America, and campaigns for Ted among pastors.

Ted’s home church is Houston’s First Baptist. He likes to tell folks, “I’m Cuban, Irish and Italian, and yet somehow I ended up Southern Baptist,” according to The Dallas Morning News.

2. God has always been a theme in his political roles.

“Believing is not simply sitting aside and doing a polite little golf clap,” Cruz told the congregation at his friend Robert Jeffress’ congregation, First Baptist Dallas. “Believing is putting everything you have, your heart, soul, life, putting everything (into) standing for what’s right.”

His campaign website and his U.S. Senate biography touted among his accomplishments as solicitor general of Texas that he fought for the “constitutionality of the Ten Commandments monument at the Texas State Capitol and the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Cruz has said he is judicious about mentioning religious views. In 2013, he told David Brody, a host at the Christian Broadcasting Network, that politicians have “a special obligation to avoid being a Pharisee, to avoid ostentatiously wrapping yourself in your faith. Because I think in politics, it’s too easy for that to become a crutch, for that to be politically useful.”

Even so, he was back this summer on Brody’s show, where he calculated that if all evangelicals — including more than half who he says sat out the last election — “will simply show up and vote our values, we’ll turn this country around. We can turn our country around, but only if the body of Christ rises up.”

Evangelicals did show up — to vote for Trump.

3. Forget “dog whistle” politics: Cruz has a trumpet.

Cruz did not tiptoe around God in his politics. That was clear from his speech to a cheering crowd at Liberty University (where students are fined if they don’t show up for guest speakers, according to The Washington Post).

“From the dawn of this country, at every stage, America has enjoyed God’s providential blessing. Over and over again, when we face impossible odds, the American people rose to the challenge,” Cruz said.

He offered the standard conservative checklist: repealing Obamacare and Common Core, abolishing the IRS, securing the border, protecting privacy and gun rights, honoring the Constitution and more. But he warned that this all stands on realizing “that our rights don’t come from man. They come from God Almighty.”

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, who witnessed the speech, said, “Senator Cruz seems to understand that the next generation of believers is looking for conviction — not a milquetoast version of the Gospel that requires nothing.”

In 2013, 2014 and 2015, Cruz has won the group’s annual Values Voter Summit presidential straw poll among 2,000 social conservatives. Perkins said Cruz wins because they “are looking for leaders who will take clear, unequivocal stands on the challenges facing our nation, not nuanced politically correct speeches.”

4. Religious liberty is his basic stump speech theme.

“In the past month, we have seen religious liberty under assault at an unprecedented level,” Cruz told the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition outside Des Moines in April.

Like many candidates, Cruz did a video for the Circle of Protection, a group of 100 Christian leaders working against global poverty. He leveraged a call to care into an attack on the federal policies he says interfere with individual and faith-based charities’ religious liberties.

Cruz is an ardent Zionist. But speaking to an Arab Christian audience in Washington in September 2015, he ran straight into a wall of disapproval by people who think Israel has taken Palestinian lands illegally and driven out Christians as well as Muslims. Politico said Cruz was booed off the stage for calling for absolute support for Israel, accusing those who disagreed of being “consumed with hate” and concluding, “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.”

5. On the campaign trail …

For months, Cruz bobbed and weaved around Donald Trump with little criticism of the New York billionaire’s ideas or his personal attacks on women, Muslims and others. But by mid-January, the gloves were off. Cruz tried to score on Trump by saying his rival embodies “New York values.”

That backfired pronto. Trump flattened Cruz by citing how much the world admired the heroism of his city in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And critics hammered him for being provincial — or worse, for sneering at a renown for diversity, and a significant number of Jews.

By early spring, Trump was routinely calling him “Lying Ted.” His alliance with Carly Fiorina as a running mate brought him no new clout with voters. And early in the evening of the Indiana primary, Trump became the prospective nominee of the GOP.

(Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for RNS) 

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