When Ted Cruz launched his presidential campaign at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University reaction on the left was predictable. Some suggested that Liberty students were only in their seats because attendance at chapel is mandatory at Liberty. Liberals don’t like Ted and the feeling is mutual.
Libertarian response was mixed. Ted’s political career is funded by billionaire libertarians Charles and David Koch, he despises Obamacare, and he wants to abolish the IRS.
Libertarians haven’t forgotten that Cruz’s famous filibuster speech against Obamacare was studded with Ayn Rand quotations.
Who could ask for anything more?
But hard core, “objectivist” libertarians are baffled by Ted’s fervent embrace of the religious right, in general, and his staunch opposition to abortion, in particular. Why, for instance, did a lifelong admirer of Ayn Rand announce his candidacy at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University?
Ayn Rand hated philosophical compromise as much as she hated Jesus; and she hated Jesus very, very much. Consider this oft-quoted line from her novel, The Fountainhead:
The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves . . . this is the essence of altruism.
Jesus and Ayn share one quality: consistency.
Rand asserted that nothing beyond the demands of the detached and independent ego really matters. Altruism, living in response to the needs of others, was thus the worst kind of heresy. When we live in service to others, she taught, we become slaves.
Randian objectivists wish Ted would lose his religion so they wouldn’t have to qualify for their support. But everyone, even libertarians, appreciate that Ted’s career arc would plummet to earth if he trampled on the cross. In America, we are free to disagree with Jesus on every important point, so long as we’re singing “Oh How I Love Jesus”.
A cynic would assert that Ted Cruz embraces both Christ and anti-Christ because he is a pragmatic politician. But you can’t understand the Junior Senator from Texas apart from the culture that shaped him. Religious superstars from Dwight L. Moody to Billy Graham embraced Wall Street for the same reason Ted Cruz courts the Koch brothers–publicity is expensive.
The best way to impress the wealthy is to tell them how wonderful they are, and Ayn Rand made a comfortable living singing paeans to the powerful. They were the only people that mattered to her; everybody else she called ‘looters’, ‘moochers,’ and (when she was feeling kind) ‘parasites’.
Not all wealthy people enjoy praise and adulation, of course, but most of them do. Charles and David Koch love Ayn Rand and Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter because they speak rapturously of the wealthy and contemptuously of everyone else. No surprises there.
Ted Cruz grew up in a religious subculture in which Christianity and laissez-faire capitalism dovetailed neatly. Mainstream evangelical Christianity soft-pedals Jesus’ teaching on money, greed and solidarity with the poor because, while no one was watching, we became a wholly-owned subsidiary of corporate America. If you think this is overly-harsh, check out the Sermon on the Mount and you will see the problem.
But this marriage of Christ and anti-Christ goes deeper than political pragmatism and the lure of mammon. Ted Cruz isn’t just a conservative Southern Baptist who occasionally shows up at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas; he is also an enthusiastic Dominionist.
Dominionism is rooted in the “presuppositional” theology of Cornelius Van Til and the political-religious musings of Rousas John Rushdoony. (If you are unfamiliar with Cornelius and Rousas, this primer will come in handy.)
Think of it as the Reformed doctrine of election on steroids. Rushdoony put it like this:
“The purpose of Christ’s coming was in terms of the creation mandate… The redeemed are called to the original purpose of man, to exercise dominion under God, to be covenant-keepers, and to fulfill “the righteousness of the law” (Rom. 8:4) . . . Man is summoned to create the society God requires.”
The theological category of “election” makes the marriage of Christ and anti-Christ possible.
Both Randian objectivists and Christian dominionists contrast the glories of “us” with the depravity of “them”.
It’s an anti-Christian species of Calvinism. The wealthy and the powerful have the right to dictate to the poor and the powerless because, well, they’re so super. Dominionists associate this authority with God (from whom all blessings flow). For Randian objectivists it’s the law of the jungle: If the makers don’t rule the takers, the takers will rule the makers, and we can’t have that. Both conservative Christians and anti-Christ objectivists dream of that great day when the elect will triumph and the unworthy will get a richly-deserved comeuppance.
I am not suggesting that everyone associated with the religious right thinks this way. They don’t. But culture war logic ensures that conservative critics of this marriage of Christ and anti-Christ will be consigned to the outer darkness.
Liberals, for their part, don’t know enough about Ayn Rand or Christian Reconstructionism to discern the elephant in the room. Besides, it’s too easy to lampoon politicians like Ted Cruz if you’re working with a liberal audience. You can make jokes about Liberty University students compulsory attendance at the Cruz announcement speech in twenty quick seconds flat. Liberty students wearing Rand Paul T-shifts is a great five-second sight gag. So why do the hard work of answering hard questions that no one is asking?
Mainstream analysis, desperate to sustain the illusion of objectivity, eschews in-depth analysis of anything. Cruz kicked off his campaign at Liberty University in an attempt to court religious conservatives. End of story. The marriage of Christ and anti-Christ rarely gets a mention on CNN or CBS. It sounds mean-spirited and it smacks of liberal bias. We don’t want to lose more conservative viewers to FOX.
But our silence comes with a price. Ted Cruz holds this marriage of convenience together by pretending that neither Jesus nor Ayn Rand were serious.
They were; and they are.