Why I Cannot Support Ted Cruz (and You Should Think Twice About it Too)

One of the strangest things about this bewildering election cycle has been the sudden and seemingly unthinking lurch these past couple weeks to embrace and anoint Ted Cruz as the only savior of the Republican Party. There is good probability, in fact, that within 24 hours of the time I write and post this, this anointment will be something of a fait accompli, with the election results today almost certain to disqualify Marco Rubio as a viable alternative to Trump, and with John Kasich’s candidacy having been, it would seem, condemned to futility from the outset, no matter what he does, in one long long, sustained, self-destructive exercise in self-fulfilling prophecy. If that is what the future holds, I feel compelled, like Hooker, “lest things should pass away as in a dream,” to register and articulate my dissent, in some small hope of changing some minds in the short term, but more importantly, to provide a reference point in the longer term.

I should note that there are many conservative voters out there who, for ideological reasons, do in fact positively support Ted Cruz and what he stands for. I do not expect to convince folks of this sort in the course of this brief post; to do so, after all, would require mounting a persuasive argument against Cruz’s ideological commitments on issues such as immigration, the environment, tax policy, foreign policy, and healthcare. In the interest of full disclosure, I think his views on all of these fronts to range from dangerously naïve to morally noxious, and obviously this plays a significant role in my refusal to support him. That said, I do not think these ideological differences are the decisive issue. I have very profound differences on policy issues with candidates I am willing to support. As I shall go on to argue, the real danger of Ted Cruz lies elsewhere.

In recent weeks, though, I have encountered many other conservative voters and leaders, who, while sharing many of my concerns about Ted Cruz’s policy commitments on various issues, have nonetheless rapidly pivoted to his side on much more utilitarian grounds—namely, that “He has the best chance of beating Trump.” I am far from contesting the legitimacy (as long as one is clear about what one is doing) of such strategic lesser-evil voting. But one has to first be sure that it is in fact strategic and that the candidate in question is in fact the lesser evil. I am not convinced of either in this case.

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Dismissing Jesus: A Study Guide, Pts. 2-3

(See the Intro and Pt. 1 here.)

Pt. II: Special Blinders to the Way of the Cross

Ch. 9: Superficial Providence

How would you summarize Jones’s main object of criticism in this chapter?

To what extent do his critiques reflect your own experiences in Reformed or evangelical churches?

How have you used the doctrine of providence in your own life?  Has it been a comfort in true adversity, or a way of complacently avoiding self-examination?

How have Christians misused the doctrine of providence in interpreting American history?  Has it blinded us against a truthful examination of our nation’s history?


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Dismissing Jesus: A Critical Assessment, Pt. 2—Overview of the Way of the Cross



I am spiritually blind.  Conservative Christian and blind. I am one of the many who followed the broad path and said to Jesus “I will follow you” but did “not sit down first and count the cost” (Luke 14:28). . . . I am the rich young ruler Jesus addressed.  I have a car, several computers, lawn sprinklers, a tiled shower, a full pantry, air conditioning, a nice outdoor deck, plenty of books, and I’ve spent years sincerely trying to figure out theological questions—“Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18) (3).

So Doug Jones opens chapter 1 of Dismissing Jesus, “Overview of the Way of the Cross” (see Pt. 1 of my review here).  It is a jarring opening, but an effective one.  It shows us at that whatever this book is going to be, it is not going to be an arrogant diatribe, but a personal confession.  If we feel our consciences pricked along the way, then, we can infer, the author speaks from a pricked conscience as well, and we are anything but alone.

This is a good thing, since the language of “blindness,” which dominates in this first section of the book, would otherwise (and no doubt, still will) raise a lot of hackles. Now, while I have concerns about this language, it is clearly Scriptural.  As Jones points out, “But when Scripture addresses God’s people, it portrays spiritual blindness as rather normal.  It’s regular, common, cutting across Old and New Testaments. . . . [A series of passages are cited.] Blindness everywhere. God’s people have a high probability of blindness” (4).  Moreover, as Jones goes on to show
throughout, the very things that we American Christians have in abundance—wealth, power, security—are those things that most conspire to produce spiritual blindness.  And sometimes, the more convinced we are that we are not blind, the more likely we are to be. At the very least, the accusation of blindness shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, but should prompt us to sit up and listen, and take a good look at Scripture and our own lifestyles and attitudes.  Few of us should come away from the exercise without discovering massive blind spots, if not outright blindness. Read More

Dismissing Jesus: A Critical Assessment, Pt. 1—Introduction


PrintAbout three months ago, Cascade Books published a book with the provocative title, Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade the Way of the Cross. I had the opportunity to read a pre-publication PDF of the book, and had determined to write a careful review and critique as soon as it came out, but what with the whirlwind of completing a PhD thesis and moving internationally, I am only now sitting down to undertake this task—a Herculean labor, in twelve parts, as I envision it.

Never have I begun a book review with such mixed feelings. It is hard to imagine being more personally entangled with a book than I am with this one. Its author, Douglas Jones, was my teacher and mentor during two of the most crucial and theologically formative years of my life, and I have been blessed to count him as a friend since. Its foreword comes from the pen of Peter Leithart, my pastor, teacher, and closest mentor for many years. Some of my closest friends helped see this book to publication, and there is scarcely a name that appears in the Acknowledgments that I do not know personally, if not intimately. Worse, this book grows out of a series of debates and controversies a few years ago, in which I was personally involved. Though not always agreeing with Jones, I was one of his most forceful advocates during those controversies, and during the years since, in which he has written little (before this book), I have publicly carried forward many of the lines of critique and provocation that he begun.

With this book, Jones seeks to do on a larger scale what he did with many of us students a few years ago—to shake conservative evangelicals out of their dogmatic slumber, to reveal the extent to which we seek to defang and domesticate Jesus, blithely blunting the sharp edges of His very uncomfortable summons to discipleship. At the same time, he aims to unmask the idols of the Christian Right (this book, it should be said up front, may be confusing to Christians outside America, since it is tailored to address our peculiarly American vices), the comforting ideological fictions we tell ourselves in order to quietly set aside the ethical demands of our Scriptures and many of our Christian forebears. Finally, he seeks to stimulate our imaginations with ideas for how we might, as Christian individuals and communities, seek to live out the way of the cross more intentionally, missionally, and radically (to use three over-used buzzwords). These three aims correspond to the three main parts of the book: (1) What is the Way of the Cross?, (2) Special Blinders to the Way of the Cross, and (3) Constructing the Way of the Cross.

All that being the case, I would like nothing more than to be able to welcome this book with trumpets and fanfare onto the evangelical theological scene, to sing its praises, argue its cause, and bask in its reflected glory. Instead, however, I find myself dismayed by it as often as I am encouraged, confused as often as inspired. Have my own views changed that much, or do the differences just loom larger now that the positive effects of Jones’s teaching have sunk in to my thinking? Certainly, although I learned a very great deal from Doug Jones, his contribution was primarily deconstructive: he unmasked idols, shook me out of dogmatic slumbers, and raised a myriad of questions. In the intervening years, I have set to work answering these questions, attempting to discern the shape of Christian discipleship, and see now that I would like to put things quite differently at many points. I write this review in part to clarify such things for myself, and, to the extent that Jones’s views more closely match things I used to say, to offer something of a retraction to anyone who has been reading me for years. Read More

A Dialogue on Gun Control, America, and Ordered Liberty, Pt. 3

Here, Kent and I continue the conversation on gun control and American conservatism (see Part One and Part Two). In this exchange, we go deeper into the question of to what extent policies like gun control may sap the civic fiber of a nation, and whether this loss of active citizenship is worth the increase in safety.  (This may, or may not, be the last publicly-posted installment.)

Hi Brad,

Well, it seems we’re close to an impasse of agreeability.  I’m with you on the lesser magistrate deal. By taking up arms in the last resort I was thinking more of the outright murder-by-government that the twentieth century saw so much of. Such cases would seem to me to fall under the individual right not to get slaughtered if he can help it.

If the purpose of civil government is basically to promote the peace and liberty of the commonwealth, then we have to rule out standing armies and omnipresent police forces as instruments of the magistrate (there is a pretty respectable body of thought that regards them as ready-made tools of war and slavery, respectively). Without those instruments, a society must instead rely on a spirited and independent body of citizens, who collectively respond to the call of the magistrate to defend the commonwealth, and individually interpose between the innocent and their would-be predators. Hence, in England and America, the concept of citizens as comprising the militia of the commonwealth, as well as individual defense doctrines such as the Castle Doctrine. I don’t see any way to uphold such civic and communal responsibilities except through the general duty that able citizens have to own death-dealing weapons. Is the responsibility great? Yes, but civic responsibility is the bedrock of free societies. Read More