In Which Ted Cruz Whiffs One

Note: One comment below indicates that Cruz was responding to Carson as inaccurately represented by a reporter. So keep that in mind as you read.

As I have noted before, I like Ted Cruz. His general outlook is the kind of conservatism that I want to see in the White House, and I wish him well. But he whiffed this one.

As you may have seen, Ben Carson was asked if he could support a Muslim in the presidency. He said, no, absolutely not. Forget about it. He was then asked if he could support a Muslim in Congress. He said that would depend on candidate, positions, etc. Now there are some internal tensions in those answers, but unpacking those is not my purpose today. In the uproar that followed, Ted Cruz observed that the Constitution says that there will be no religious test for holding office, and that he, Ted Cruz, is a constitutionalist. Unlike that Carson guy.

But this is simply to partake in the grand secularist muddle, and to do so magnificently, in high style. It confuses questions that ought to be kept distinct, and it separates things that ought to be kept as parts of an organic whole.

Carson was asked if he could support a Muslim in the presidency. He was not asked if a Muslim should be legally and constitutionally eligible for that office. The questions are entirely distinct. A man could, without contradiction, say no to the first and yes to the second. He could also say no to both, but he would then be applying his anti-Muslim views to two separate questions.

So the question before the house is not whether we should make it constitutionally forbidden for a follower of the prophet Mohamed to become president. The question is whether Ben Carson, given a Muslim running, would support that guy.

I don’t think the Constitution should forbid the presidency to people with a creepy laugh. That is not a role the Constitution should have. But I am not going to vote for someone with a creepy laugh. Call this my personal laugh test. Hillary, for example, whenever she is asked a tough question, laughs like one of those nice ladies on the heath that Shakespeare liked to write about. She laughs like she had thought herself completely out of eye of newt, but who then discovered a whole jar of them in the back of the cupboard. So the fact that the Constitution does not factor something in does not mean that I may not factor it in.

My reasons for not voting for someone are entirely up to me. My reasons for endorsing someone for president are entirely up to me. Would I support a Muslim for president? I am with Carson here — no, absolutely not. I wouldn’t do it even if he were that wise Turk that Luther is supposed to have found and endorsed. No, I wouldn’t. And my reluctance would have absolutely nothing to do with the Constitution, contra Cruz.

Well, actually, come to think of it, it would have something to do with the Constitution, but not in the way people usually think about these things. Currently, Muslims are fully eligible to run for president. To take this obvious fact and turn it into a moral obligation on the part of the voter to not care if a candidate is a Muslim is to impose a religious test . . . on the voter.

It is ironic that Cruz visited Kim Davis in Kentucky, supporting her right to maintain her religious convictions in the face of the homo-onslaught — and good on him for doing so — but he then implicitly gives ammo to those who would want Christians to keep their personal moral and religious convictions out of the voting booth. But why must we do that?

In the voting booth, I must both think and act like a Christian. They have not yet gotten to the point where they forbid Christians from doing that, but they are certainly running a game in which they are trying to shame Christians for doing that. And it is unfortunate that someone as bright as Cruz fell for it, and is trying to help run their shame game.

Obviously, because we still have secret ballots they can’t follow us in there (yet) and tell us we are being unconstitutional. This is why they like to steer rather than dictate. They quietly arrange for the ballot to always contain a stark choice between Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee, and of course whoever we might write in during periodic moments of high exasperation.

To be a voter is in some sense to hold office. And secularism has no right to impose a religious test on those who hold that office. The people have the right to vote against someone because they don’t like the way his eyes move, because they don’t like his position on the Fed, because they knew him in high school and he was a dweeb then also, because he is a Southern Baptist, because he went to Harvard and talks like it, or because he is a Muslim.

A discussion over a religious test for holding office would be an important discussion to have. In the colonial era that phrase referred to denominational differences between Christians. Do we need to adjust it in a day when one “denominational” distinctive involves skyscrapers and airplanes full of terrified passengers? Sure, let’s talk about it. But a far more important discussion involves teaching Christians how to resist the confusions of those who would apply an “unspoken” religious test, one that prevents the Christian from exercising his faith in his political pursuits. And unfortunately, Ted Cruz in this instance helped to perpetuate this confusion.

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timothyKelly M. HaggarJane DunsworthashvKrychek_2 Recent comment authors

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jbrigham
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jbrigham

Carson whiffed it again when he responded that he wouldn’t support a Christian candidate who wanted to establish a “theocracy”. Wait a minute … what is it we have, anyway?

Rob Steele
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Rob Steele

Ideocracy? Idolocracy? Bacchanocracy?

jbrigham
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jbrigham

Maybe idiotocracy? God established a theocracy when he created the universe

Nord357
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Nord357

Bacchanocracy Yeah that one!

Matt
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Matt

Not a theocracy.

PerfectHold
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PerfectHold

Whiff maybe implies he’d want a do-over.

jigawatt
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jigawatt

“I’m an atheist, but I don’t let my atheism influence my decisions”, said nobody.

Krychek_2
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Krychek_2

I’m an atheist but there are circumstances under which I would vote for a Christian over an atheist. And it’s hard for me to imagine there are really zero circumstances under which you or Doug wouldn’t vote for an atheist or a Muslim over a Christian — say, for example, there were two candidates: An Episcopalian or Methodist or PCUSA who is pro-gay and pro-abortion running against a Muslim or an atheist who is anti-gay and anti-abortion. And yes, there are atheists who are anti-abortion and anti-gay; not many, but we do have them. It strikes me as fairly mindless… Read more »

jigawatt
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jigawatt

I was thinking more of an atheist politician running for an office, not an atheist voter. Heck, most candidates are professed Christians so atheist voters would usually have to vote no-name candidates or sit elections out if they refused to vote for a “Christian”.

Krychek_2
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Krychek_2

Even in the case of an atheist candidate, though, atheists are all over the political map. We’ve got liberal and conservative atheists, Marxist and libertarian atheists, neo-con atheists who want to bomb the Middle East back into oblivion and anti-military atheists who would like to shutter the Pentagon altogether. We’ve got tax-and-spend atheists and fiscal hawk atheists. We’ve got atheists with traditional social views and others with not so traditional social views. As with Christians, atheists are not a single monolith. The more that I think about it, the less sure I even am what it would mean for my… Read more »

jigawatt
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jigawatt

Christians are all over the political map too, but they are often demanded to keep their worldviews out of everything public, a burden not shared by their friends who have an atheistic outlook.

For any particular atheist, the “outworking” of their belief could mean a lot of things. (Or if you want to go more specific, say “materialist” or “naturalist” instead of atheist). Many pro-abortion folks form their opinion based on a materialistic outlook on life, the universe, and everything.

Krychek_2
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Krychek_2

But there are atheists who are pro-life, and there are theists who are pro-abortion, so that example isn’t a good fit. George Tiller, the Kansas abortion provider who was shot a few years back, once said that he performed abortions because of his Christian faith. But the category error is that atheism isn’t a world view, because it tries to define people by what they don’t believe rather than by what they do believe. There’s a long list of things I don’t believe in: Easter bunnies, Santa Claus, weather predictions by groundhogs, astrology, palm reading, or that black cats are… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Which is probably why jigawatt said:

(Or if you want to go more specific, say “materialist” or “naturalist” instead of atheist).

Atheism would not exist without theism. It is completely dependent on theism in that sense. However, atheists do actually have a worldview, one which they are very often reluctant to defend or answer for (as Krychek_2 demonstrates regularly here on this blog). Materialistic secular humanism represents the majority worldview of atheists in western countries. It’s the religion that the secular State has established in all of its tax-supported schools.

Krychek_2
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Krychek_2

Atheism would not exist without theism in the sense that if nobody claimed the existence of deities, it would never occur to anyone to disbelieve them. Nobody believes in the existence of fumdahs (a word I just made up), so, likewise, nobody would think about or self-identify as a disbeliever in fumdahs.
And if by “materialistic secular humanism” you mean that I want to see some evidence before I believe in something, then guilty as charged.

Matt
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Matt

I’m sure Cornelius Van Til was a nice guy, but I wonder if he had any idea how many boring comment thread diversions he would spawn.

jigawatt
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jigawatt

Yes, use naturalism or materialism if you prefer. You are a materialist and that belief influences how you view the world. I am a Christian and that belief influences how I view the world. But… Christians of all types (and again, they are all over the map) are told that *their* beliefs have no place in the public square. They are supposed to act like materialists as soon as they step off the church property. Now I agree that there is no single issue on which all atheists agree. But that’s true of professing Christians, too. That fact does not… Read more »

Krychek_2
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Krychek_2

I’m fine with Christians doing as much talking in the public square as they like. If we go on to the next step of actually enacting those views into law, I want to know if there’s a better basis for those views than just that they’re in the Bible.

jigawatt
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jigawatt

What would be a better basis? And by what standard do you judge your basis to be better?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge anybody the ability to act upon his beliefs. But I ask that the same benefit be given to Christians as well.

Krychek_2
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Krychek_2

By the results that we get. I’m a utilitarian, for me the question is whether a certain policy gives good results. And Christians have the same right to try to persuade that everyone else has.
You’re not having trouble getting your views enacted into law because you’re not getting a hearing; you’re having trouble getting your views enacted because you’re making arguments fewer and fewer people are finding persuasive.

jigawatt
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jigawatt

So a “better” basis is one that gives “good” results? You are indeed a JD, Krychek_2. I could just as easily say that the Bible is a better basis because it gives good results.

Krychek_2
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Krychek_2

Except that a lot of the time it doesn’t. For example, a lot of children died because of Christian opposition to vaccines when they were first developed, based on this being an interference with God’s sovereignty over who gets sick.

jigawatt
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jigawatt

I don’t condone the misuse of the Bible, just like you don’t condone atrocities done in the name of science.

Krychek_2
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Krychek_2

We’re in different paradigms since I don’t accept the authority of the Bible, but even if I did, that would still leave the question of whose interpretation of the Bible. You may not find the anti-vaccine argument persuasive, but a lot of people did. You may not find the argument that the Bible condones slavery and Jim Crow persuasive, but a lot of people did.
Under my system, the only relevant question is whether a particular policy leaves us better off than we were before, and that’s usually not a hard question to answer.

jigawatt
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jigawatt

But I still don’t know how you judge one outcome to be better than another. You say it’s bad that children died from lack of vaccinations. But you also say it’s better that some children die if their mom just wants to kill them than if mom didn’t have that right.

A much better world would be where unborn babies would have the right to life. I say this because I have a firm foundation for my use of the word “better”. I’m asking what your foundation is.

Krychek_2
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Krychek_2

They’re not children; they’re fetuses. That aside, to answer your larger question, a better outcome is one that leads to human happiness and prosperity. Not happiness in the hedonistic sense of achieving momentary gratification, but happiness that leads to long-term security, satisfaction and leaving the world a better place for one’s posterity than what one found.

timothy
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timothy

You epitomize the banality of evil.

Krychek_2
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Krychek_2

As well, no doubt, as the evil of banality.

jigawatt
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jigawatt

See reply on top-level. (Disqus makes it difficult to find thredded comments)

Krychek_2
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Krychek_2

Oh, and if your next question is going to be why security, satisfaction and prosperity are the “better” outcome, my response will be that if you really don’t know the answer to that question, you are welcome to live a life of insecurity, dissatisfaction and poverty and then report back on how that’s going for you.

jigawatt
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jigawatt

(see reply on top level)

Kelly M. Haggar
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Kelly M. Haggar

jiga –

K2 is on to something here:

“You’re not having trouble getting your views enacted into law because you’re not getting a hearing; you’re having trouble getting your views enacted because you’re making arguments fewer and fewer people are finding persuasive.”

The tide seems to slightly turning our way on abortion due to the PP/CPM videos but not on SSM.

ashv
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ashv

That’s not important; the important question is “Who *owns* the public square and sets its rules”? We say “Jesus Christ”, you say somebody else.

Krychek_2
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Krychek_2

Well, like I tell my old friend Katecho, if believing that makes you happy, knock yourself out.

ashv
Guest
ashv

Good. Then you have no objection to laws prohibiting blasphemy and requiring government officials to be Christian.

Krychek_2
Guest
Krychek_2

No, I said go ahead and believe that. I didn’t say enact it into law.

ashv
Guest
ashv

Explain the difference.

Krychek_2
Guest
Krychek_2

Because I support your right to advocate for something does not mean I think you should actually be successful in getting what you’re advocating. I support the free speech rights of pedophiles to ask that age of consent laws should be repealed; that does not mean I would actually vote to repeal them if I were in the legislature.

ashv
Guest
ashv

But you support my “right” to try to permanently eject you and people like you from political power and public discourse? I wish all our opponents were so obliging. :)

Krychek_2
Guest
Krychek_2

I support your right to try, yes. It’s called free speech. Doesn’t mean I think you should actually be successful. And I will note that means I’m probably far more supportive of your free speech rights than you would be of mine.

ashv
Guest
ashv

Correct. I don’t believe in “free speech”.

Krychek_2
Guest
Krychek_2

So you think a secular society would be within its rights to censor you?

ashv
Guest
ashv

I don’t think the concept of “rights” is a particularly useful way to analyse the relationship of government and society. It’s sufficient to say there has never been a society that did not punish blasphemy in some form.

Krychek_2
Guest
Krychek_2

Depends on how broadly you define “punish” and “blasphemy”. Even if you’re right, the fact that something has always been done in a certain way is not a sufficient basis to continue to do it that way. As a legal philosopher once wrote, “It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is more revolting still if the reason for the rule has long since passed into history and the rule persists out of mere slavish devotion to the past.”

Matt
Guest
Matt

The government?

Kelly M. Haggar
Guest
Kelly M. Haggar

I’m a Christian (even though I fail several of DW’s tests to be a believer) but I don’t think Jesus *owns* the public square.

ashv
Guest
ashv

Who, then? What do you base your belief in the non-lordship of Jesus on?

Kelly M. Haggar
Guest
Kelly M. Haggar

We aren’t using the same definition of “*own*.” You’re thinking of Ps2 terms; in which there is no secular authority outside not only of Christianity, but further not outside your particular vision of Christianity. K2 is thinking there is no Lord at all, be it Jesus or any other, while I’m thinking in terms of “My kingdom is not of this world.” K2 and I agree to the extent that each faction has an equal opportunity to speak and argue for its point of view. No one faction owns the public square. Each is free to believe as it chooses,… Read more »

ashv
Guest
ashv

Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, which is why all the kingdoms of the world owe Him obedience. “No one faction owns the public square”? Power doesn’t just lie around unused, someone always shows up to claim it. Control of the bounds of acceptable public speech and behaviour is a powerful lever and *someone* will always have more control of it than others in any given society.

Kelly M. Haggar
Guest
Kelly M. Haggar

“Control of the bounds of acceptable public speech and behavior . . . .” Now I think ALL of us, even K2, are in agreement. (That’s my bed time/lights out prediction anyway.) Your above description is not one of law. Rather it is custom, or perhaps tradition. We aren’t in the region of courts or jail now, we’re into Political Correctness, shaming, and “thought” police. And of course the correct response, faith-based or not, when some quasi-Stalinist tells us to “check our privilege” or stop “micro-aggression” is – – in the nice phrase of Pastor Doug – – to “micro-care.”

ashv
Guest
ashv

Ask Brendan Eich, Jason Richwine, James Watson, or Charles Murray how well that worked. It’s true that the US government proper doesn’t have to enforce much of that because of the volunteer thought police, but it’s clear who does and doesn’t receive legal protection in cases like these. Anyway, I wasn’t talking about law, I was talking about actual power, which doesn’t always line up with formal power. As you say, there’s quasi-Stalinism, and then there’s actual Stalinism — but the difference is one of degree, not kind. So the question “Who owns the public square?” is a question of… Read more »

Kelly M. Haggar
Guest
Kelly M. Haggar

Murray regularly publishes. The Southern Poverty Law Center putting him on its “hate list” just makes them (really one lawyer) look ridiculous. The Gaystopo failed to get A&E to pull that duck show. They lost on Memories Pizza, and big time. No, must disagree, I believe there’s a HUGE difference between quasi- and actual Stalinism. Even if the Kleins (OR bakery) lose in court, they will be fined, not shot. (inside law joke: “what’s the difference between law and custom? ans: takes a lot more nerve to break a custom.”) One reason I expect we Methodists will reject SSM in… Read more »

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas

This appears to start off on the fairly weak position of “I prefer not to have a Muslim and in a free country I can vote my preferences.” You get closer to the larger issue near the end. Recently people seem to really enjoy adhering to principled positions that amount to suicide pacts. We have the Quran. We know that to the extent a Muslim would be an adherent of the Quran he would be a nightmare as a ruler of non-Muslims or of Muslims of the wrong sect. If someone accuses you of having a double standard for Christians… Read more »

Job
Guest
Job

We should also remind people that if moderate nationalists like Le Pen and Firage are dismissed by the EU, then the extreme nationalists will likely cause a lot of problems in the future.

mrjcone
Guest
mrjcone

The problem here is that Ted Cruz was not asked to respond to what Ben Carson said. Ted Cruz was asked a different question, one that actually mischaracterized what Carson said, and it is the mischaracterization to which Cruz responded. The precise question that Cruz was asked is this [ available here: https://youtu.be/NAOfQMN8Tsc?t=12m32s ]: “Voters are energized by Dr. Ben Carson’s campaign in this race. He has said that a Muslim would not be qualified to be president. Do you agree?” Of course, this is not what Dr. Carson said, but it is what Cruz was told that he said.… Read more »

ashv
Guest
ashv

Pastor Wilson, I appreciate your godly wisdom and your principled understanding of most of what’s going on here, but I’m getting subtle hints that you might actually take the Presidential election seriously.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Cruz was probably riffing on the fact that religious tolerance is a fundamental American principle, both legally and socially. There is no corresponding tradition with creepy laughs. Now I have to go take a shower, having just defended Ted Cruz.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

Sure, I’d vote for a competent nominal Muslim over an incompetent nominal Christian. Or were we talking about the real thing?

Nathan Smith
Member

I wouldnt be too hard on Cruz for his response. This question is completely bogus. Its just meant to get someone to say something that the media can use to beat them up. Carson’s response gave them just such an opportunity. It was an honest straightforward response to a gotcha question. Cruz, on the other hand, though he didnt take the bait, didnt give them the red meat that wanted. He didnt actually answer the question, but then the question was never really a question anyway. It was just a rhetorical curve ball used to hopefully later beat a candidate… Read more »

hillbillygeek
Guest

Hear, hear. Well put sir! Especially those nice ladies.

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

This is in reply to Krychek_2’s comment here: https://dougwils.com/s7-engaging-the-culture/in-which-ted-cruz-whiffs-one.html#comment-2271248693 They’re not children; they’re fetuses. That’s as silly as someone telling me, “You’re not a father; you’re an adult.” Interestingly, both Webster and the free dictionary agree with me. “child” M-W: 1 a :an unborn or recently born person legal-dictionary.freedictionary.com: 1) a person’s natural offspring a better outcome is one that leads to human happiness and prosperity Thanks for laying your cards on the table. Human happiness is your standard of right and wrong. Since you can’t tell me why, *from your materialistic worldview*, I should care a lick about society… Read more »

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

Another reply to Krychek_2. https://dougwils.com/s7-engaging-the-culture/in-which-ted-cruz-whiffs-one.html#comment-2271263042 I think this can apply also to your reply to BJ. If I ask you why security, satisfaction, and prosperity are “better”, I’m asking you to provide an answer that accords with your worldview. I’m not saying that those are bad things. They are indeed good things. They are good because e.g. Jesus said to love your neighbor, and the apostle Paul said to try to live peaceably with all. But I wonder why *you* Krychek_2 believe they are good. If we are, as Sam Harris says, just “moist robots”, why is altruism a valid… Read more »

timothy
Guest
timothy

jigawatt, First Things are feel-bads for EricTheRed; he prefers the comforting illusions of his ignorance.

Kelly M. Haggar
Guest
Kelly M. Haggar

ADDED: Here’s McCarthy’s latest column: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/424671/islam-ben-carson-krauthammer Does the genuine essence of Islam affect the question “May a Christian vote for a Muslim for President?” At its simplest, we have two main “Big Picture” views of Islam. Long term scholars, most notably Bernard Lewis, say folks like Usama bi-Laden are heretics. That they (Wahhabism, ISIS, etc) are to classical Islam as the KKK is to Christianity. The opposite view is probably Andrew McCarthy, the prosecutor of the Blind Sheik for the first World Trade Center bombing. Part of his trial strategy was comparing the Sheik’s writings to the Koran. He was… Read more »