Editor’s Note: ”Boromir” has been involved with Mere Orthodoxy to varying degrees over the years and anonymously submitted this response to Matthew Lee Anderson’s piece on The Undead Religious Right. We have published it here for the sake of hearing out another side in this controversy.
As a longtime reader, commenter, and writer at Mere Orthodoxy, I was disappointed to see Matthew Lee Anderson’s return to the blog with a flaccid jeremiad against Ted Cruz. While Matt is certainly free to share his opinions, it struck me (and many other commenters) that Matt misunderstands quite a few things about the way that the world works. For the sake of those other commenters and Mere-O readers, let’s set the record straight.
First of all, we must recognize the historical situation that we find ourselves in. The 2016 election is quite possibly the most crucial of our generation; at no other time does the nomination of new justices to the Supreme Court hang in the balance like it does now. I want to get to this point first because it is probably the most important and, practically speaking, it can never be properly refuted because there is always a greater likelihood that a Republican will (accidentally or intentionally) nominate a Supreme Court Justice that will deliver verdicts favorable to the interests of the evangelical voting bloc on crucial issues of public policy. Since the decisions of the Supreme Court generally reflect the scoreboard of our culture war even as they occasionally nudge the score in one direction or the other, it is beyond dispute that any possible gains or losses in regards to the makeup of the Supreme Court nullify any other objections one might have in regards to a Presidential candidate.
So, our historical situation: It’s easy to forget about it momentarily, as I just did. The United States of America continues to tumble headlong into international impotence and domestic decadence, exacerbating a slide that has been going on since the 1960s, briefly interrupted by Ronald Reagan’s economic and military show of strength in the 1980s. The loss of Christian cultural power, combined with a greater awareness that perpetually growing economic and military power is quite expensive to maintain, has resulted in a general malaise among people who would like to think that they have earned their wealth by virtue of their hard work and their security by virtue of paying taxes to the most powerful nation in the world. Clear public celebrations of immorality and ambiguous threats to our national security alike have created conditions such that many conservative Christians live in fear of other people using power to possibly disrupt our existence. As one of the few populations in the history of the world not accustomed to such disruptions, you can imagine how important it is that these threats get properly addressed.
Sadly, the last few decades have seen Christians fail to fight back hard enough against the people who would trample our rights and freedoms for the sake of their own agenda. History is clear: At one point, America was great because America was good. America has since capitulated to badness and thus has lost her greatness. (It is not clear whether slavery and Jim Crow were minor blips on the scale of National Goodness that worked themselves out when people started judging others by the content of their character or real issues that were rectified when Abraham Lincoln sanctified all future Republicans by virtue of the Emancipation Proclamation, but either way those things are distant history and almost certainly not grounds for divine judgment due to a hardening of heart.) While conservative Christians generally agree that this is a battle won by prayer and spiritual renewal, the necessary result of prayer and spiritual renewal will be governmental policies that reflect Christian values.
Our liberal foes did not actually fight fairly. No, they surreptitiously infiltrated various cultural organs of power, including the government. There, they began pulling levers to brainwash anyone who didn’t spend at least half an hour in their Quiet Time every morning into agreeing with their agenda while forcing anyone else who did to comply or be punished. While Christian attempts to mimic the cultural products that have poisoned the minds of so many Americans have been admirable, there is really no substitute for naked political power in actually getting things done. If they have expanded the powers of the federal government to force good Christians to violate their consciences, then we should only return the favor. If they are going to put one of our policies in the hospital, we should put one of theirs in the morgue.
What are these Christian values, one might ask? Aside from banning abortion and gay marriage, it might appear to the casual observer that the values Ted Cruz seeks to advance reflect the self-interest of a group of people with lots of wealth and privilege scared of losing both rather than a nation of priests living in self-sacrificial obedience to their crucified Messiah. Indeed, one could argue that what Matt calls the “anti-politics” of fear and ressentiment are somehow corrosive to our ability to imagine or discuss a vision for the common good, much less actually work out and propose policies that would advance this common good. This is, from my perspective, a feature and not a bug: It is far easier to point out holes in someone else’s policy than to come up with your own and try to defend it.
The specifics of what the government should do, if we have to go through the otherwise self-evident exercise of naming them, can be limited to arresting any suspicious people walking around your neighborhood, keeping out anyone who won’t benefit the native population, and blowing up anyone who might possibly pose a threat to our national security. However, this must be balanced against the all-important foreign policy of supporting Israel. After all, Jesus’ plans for returning require that the modern nation-state of Israel has the support of the U.S.A. I have no doubt Jesus doesn’t mind having a few more of His Arab saints in heaven with him early because of the proxy wars we’ve entangled ourselves in based on our support of Israel.
There is also the matter of banning abortion and gay marriage, both of which should be taken as self-evident goods which do not require any other policies to support or promote families. They will self-reify when and only when they are enshrined in law.
All of these premises have long been promoted by various Christian leaders in support of various politicians, which makes it all the more curious that Matt would object to a politician embodying them when pastors and speakers have been laying the groundwork for a several decades. Ted Cruz’s rise to national tumescence is wholly dependent on the vascular channels formed by a particular political theology. Such political theology sees the machinations of Washington as a weapon which only the bold can use for the sake of advancing the Kingdom.
While Matt sees Senator Cruz’s boldness in this regard as a weakness, those of us who know how things work in the live-by-the-sword-die-by-the-sword world of politics recognize that you must fight fire with fire and that we should imagine the possibilities of Christians rising up in faith to reclaim the nation from those dastardly forces of liberalism. His calls for the faithful to assert themselves and take hold of the reins of power forces us to recognize that power for what it is and necessarily diminishes our appreciation for any other forms of power the more that we gaze on it. The greater the power, the higher the stakes– and thus, the more we ought to be willing to compromise to attain this power.
Ted Cruz fits perfectly into a paradigm that uses God’s people to accomplish what needs to be accomplished in the world in order to save America from the destruction it is rushing into. If Matthew Lee Anderson wants to bloviate about how prayer and worship have their own ends that somehow subordinate politics to theology rather than the other way around, I suppose he also entertains the laughable notion that the benefits of a Church faithful to its calling and mission could somehow outweigh the horrors of a Clinton presidency. He should know that, like all politicians, if we will not stand with Ted Cruz, he will not stand with us.
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org