Joseph Cotto, 1/5/2016 [Archive]

Cruz and the Decline of Christian Conservatism

By Joseph Cotto

Have you heard about Ted Cruz's new fundraising appeal?

If the question confuses you, that's understandable. Texas's firebrand — if not fire starter — junior U.S. senator has gained a prolific reputation for email requests to many folks, no small number of which have zero intention of supporting his presidential bid.

The Cruz campaign has amassed scores of digital information about Republican and GOP-leaning voters. It uses this data to conduct cash requests at a fever pitch. If you think door-to-door vacuum salespeople or Jehovah's Witness evangelists are annoying, imagine both relentlessly pursuing you via Gmail. Hotmail, or whatever. Rather than offer a great deal or eternal salvation, however, they cough up political slogans peppered with passionate rhetoric.

Over the phone, Cruz hardly improves. Days ago, in a conference call with backers, he outlined his strategy for victory: "If we awaken and energize the Body of Christ, if Christians and people of faith come out and vote our values, we will win and we will turn the country around."

Cruz has made Christian conservatism the bulwark of his Oval Office bid since it began last spring at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. While fundamentalist Christian beliefs were at the core of Cruz's appeal for some time, he ratcheted up religious rhetoric after Donald Trump cemented his status as frontrunner-by-far.

That may prove respectable for Cruz in some parts of the Midwest and South, but overall, it seems unlikely to make headway against the Donald, let alone whoever the Democrats nominate. The reason for this is simple: as America has secularized over the last ten years, Christian conservatism has found an ever-dwindling audience.

In 2000, if Cruz enjoyed the backing he now secures, the man would be a serious contender. As it is, he stands akin to the bestselling 8-track album circa 1979.

The decline of Christian conservatism provides not only the opportunity for a secular center-right, but an analysis of whether Christianity is compatible with right-leaning politics of any kind.

In my opinion, the answer is no.

The Christian value system, if taken in earnest, leads to emotionalist leftism. This, in turn, brings about militant leftism, which fosters a totalitarian state pushing political correctness or else. Of course, there are millions of Christians who twist New Testament doctrine to meet their secular right-leaning interests.

Even they become brazenly emotional about issues like abortion and biological heredity; issues which it is in their material best interest to take a different view on. This self-defeatism speaks to the intense passion of Christianity in general.

Said passion is derived from Christianity's appeal to emotion at the direct expense of reason. A good Christian's life will be devoted entirely to Jesus Christ, who is said to grant this person eternal life after his or her earthly demise. In a de facto sense, that means an individual forsakes living life to its fullest in order to find happiness after death.

Considering such a thing, it should come as no surprise that Christianity appealed to poor and socially marginalized populations until the Roman Empire, in search of societal cohesion, abandoned its traditional polytheism for what became Catholicism.

More existential religions, such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, the Baha'i Faith, Zoroastrianism, and, of course, Judaism balk at this sort of thing.

While members of these religions are probably more leftish than the typical American Christian — owing to the experiences of immigration and minority status more than anything else — each creed bodes better for coherent conservatism. Why? Christianity forsakes this world for the next, while the other religions focus on this world above all else.

How can you really focus on conserving anything if, according to your life philosophy, none of it matters when all is said and done?

Beyond any other concern, this point should provide food for thought about the decline of Christian conservatism, also known as the Religious Right. Cruz's legion of political adversaries might wish to place the blame on him, but this is nonsense.

With America continuing its journey toward a less devout future, lefties, righties, and centrists alike should strive to understand how and why Christian conservatism collapsed in such a short period.

The reason might inform us about events to come.

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Copyright 2015 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at joseph.f.cotto@gmail.com.

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