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Election

Cruz To Huddle With Evangelicals in West Texas

GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz heads to a ranch today in the West Texas town of Cisco to meet with about 300 pastors and faith leaders.

The Tribune’s Patrick Svitek wrote last week that the meeting at the ranch owned by two of Cruz’s most generous political donors underscores how important he seesunifying support of evangelical leaders behind his candidacy:

“The meeting is being organized at least in part by Keep the Promise PAC, one of four main super PACs supporting Cruz. Keep the Promise PAC is headed by David Barton, an influential Christian activist and author who formerly served as the vice chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. … As they have thrown their support behind Cruz, conservative leaders have urged like-minded activists to follow their lead, hoping to avoid previous elections in which their support was diluted among a number of candidates.”

Not everyone attending the Cisco summit is already in the Cruz camp. Svitek wrote thatSamuel Rodriguez, leader of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, heads to the gathering intending to ask how Cruz plans to broaden his appeal among Hispanics and African Americans.

“Engaging white evangelicals is nice and it’s wonderful, but it doesn’t get you across the goal line. It doesn’t,” Rodriguez said. “Ask Mitt Romney and ask John McCain. White evangelical support for the GOP does not equal occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram‘s Bud Kennedy noted that area of West Texas is also listening to the message being sent by GOP candidate Donald Trump:

“The location is also strategic: Cisco and Eastland County are in a maverick-minded part of West Texas traditionally prone to support outsider candidates such as Trump. This time around, Trump has support, but ‘this is pretty much a solid Cruz environment,’ said Cisco Republican Zach Maxwell, a Cruz voter and a political adviser to local candidates. … ‘Trump is saying the things everybody is thinking to a tee. He says what the people want to hear, but the question is whether he’d actually act on it.’”

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Cruz endorsement sparks pushback

WASHINGTON—Major evangelical leaders are disputing an emerging media narrative that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has wrapped up their support for president.

The pushback comes in the wake of a December National Review report that detailed almost two years of secret meetings designed to coalesce conservative leaders around a single Republican candidate. After five ballots, 75 percent of the group voted to endorse Cruz—which they agreed to do one at a time to “help create a perception that the conservative movement was uniting behind a candidate organically.”

While the article described evangelicals as only part of the group—citing Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins—a spate of subsequent news reports, including a widely circulated Washington Post article, used it as evidence that all evangelical leaders were coalescing around Cruz. But several prominent evangelicals said that’s not true.

“It would be presumptuous, inaccurate, and premature to allocate the evangelical vote squarely in the corner of any one candidate, including Sen. Ted Cruz,” said Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), the world’s largest coalition of Hispanic Christians, representing some 40,000 U.S. churches.

National Review reported that Perkins—who declined to comment for this article—led the group in question, but the actual moderator was former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (see WORLD’s profile of Cuccinelli from 2011). Cuccinelli is a Roman Catholic and president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a grassroots organization dedicated to electing conservatives to the U.S. Senate. Cruz is the group’s biggest fund-raiser and helped bring in a record haul in 2013 when he led a government shutdown over Obamacare.

The known members of the Cuccinelli group could be more accurately described as social conservatives sympathetic to the tea party movement, rather than evangelicals. Many fall into the so-called “Teavangelical” category, which Cruz has dominated in gaining support, but others do not align with the far right. “There is no single person or group that speaks for all evangelicals,” pastor and author Rick Warren told me.

Warren is one of the many influential evangelicals who will not endorse a candidate because they do not see it as part of their role as Christian leaders. Still, some have found ways to align with a candidate without endorsing one. Warren, Rodriguez, theologian Wayne Grudem, and Cedarville University President Thomas White are all part of Sen. Marco Rubio’s new religious liberty advisory board—a position that does not require them to endorse the senator from Florida. Although Grudem told WORLD’s Jamie Dean he would endorse Rubio if the campaign asked him.

Two weeks after the National Review report, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, co-authored with Rubio a Christmas Eve op-ed in The Washington Post on persecuted Christians. That’s as close to an endorsement as any candidate is going to get from Moore, who was not invited to join the Cuccinelli group, even though he represents the country’s 15.8 million Southern Baptists. Moore confirmed to me that he will not endorse a candidate in either the primaries or the general election.

Rodriguez, who also was not part of the Cuccinelli group, said some NHCLC pastors support Cruz but more favor former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Rubio. Rodriguez said he will not personally endorse a candidate until summer.

Jim Daly, the current president of Focus on the Family, promoted the same wait-and-see approach in a blog post shortly after Dobson’s endorsement. Daly didn’t mention Dobson by name, but he left no doubt about his disagreement: “It’s premature to coalesce behind a single candidate (as some evangelical leaders have recently done). … Negotiating for a consensus candidate behind closed doors, given the depth of the current field, does a disservice to the broader faith community.”

California pastor Jim Garlow, one of the country’s most politically outspoken megachurch pastors, told me he supports the Cuccinelli group’s goals but thinks it picked the wrong candidate. On Dec. 28 Garlow went public with his support for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whom he chose over Cruz and Rubio because Huckabee is the only candidate who has vowed to “defy” the U.S. Supreme Court’s “anti-constitutional opinions.”

For other evangelical leaders, Cruz’s stance on immigration explains some of their coolness toward him. Last month Cruz vowed never to support legalization of any kind for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants—a position that endears him to some Donald Trump supporters while alienating some evangelicals.

Daly, Moore, and Rodriguez are all part of the Evangelical Immigration Table, a large coalition of evangelical leaders that has lobbied Congress hard for comprehensive immigration reform. One of the group’s six core principles is a path to legal status and/or citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Rodriguez said he doesn’t support amnesty and wants Cruz to “continue to push for border security and stopping illegal immigration,” but added he wants “the Sen. Ted Cruz of a few years ago that supported a pathway to legalization.”

Last year LifeWay Research found 68 percent of born-again evangelicals support immigration reform that includes both border security and a pathway to citizenship—only 16 percent were opposed. Fifty percent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who backs both policies.

WORLD’s monthly evangelical insiders survey, which includes traditional leaders and others who wield influence, has found Rubio the favorite for six straight months. Cruz is a strong second and has gained ground the last two months.

One of the problems in accurate reporting is defining “evangelical.” Some surveys suggest that 40 percent of Americans are in that category, but those that dig deeper into beliefs and church attendance say 6 percent is a more realistic figure.

Original article can be read here: http://www.worldmag.com/2016/01/cruz_endorsement_sparks_pushback/page1

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Marco Rubio Announces Religious Liberty Advisory Board

This morning, the Marco Rubio for President campaign is excited to announce the formation of Marco Rubio’s Religious Liberty Advisory Board. Marco is a leader of faith who understands that our country was rooted in the principle of religious liberty. As he strives to uphold this founding principle, he seeks guidance from faith leaders across the country who are dedicated to defending it.

“Religious liberty is the cornerstone of the American experiment. From the beginning, our commitment to the principle that no one should ever be prevented from living according to their religious beliefs or coerced into doing something they don’t believe in has been tested,” said Eric Teetsel, Marco Rubio for President’s Director of Faith Outreach. “In the last few years we have seen a debate over the place of religion and faithful people in the public square arise yet again. The next president must stand up and defend the religious liberty of all citizens. Marco and our team are honored to have at our disposal the collective wisdom of America’s foremost defenders of religious liberty. This diverse group represents men and women of many faiths and perspectives, including academics, pastors, and advocates. We intend to take full advantage of their input and wisdom as Senator Rubio fights to protect American’s religious liberty in the 21st Century.”

Religious Liberty Advisory Board Members*

Dr. Carlos Campo, President, Ashland University

Vincent Bacote, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology and Director of Center for Applied Christian Ethics, Wheaton College

Kyle Duncan, former general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead counsel for the Green family in the Hobby Lobby case

Tom Farr, Ph.D., Director, Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Associate Professor of the Practice of Religion and World Affairs, Georgetown University

Kellie Fiedorek, Legal Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom

Wayne Grudem, Ph.D., Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary

The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, Chancellor, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary

Dr. Thomas Kidd, Distinguished Professor of History and Associate Director, Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University

Dr. Daniel Mark, Villanova University; Commissioner, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Michael McConnell, Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center, Stanford University Law School

Doug Napier, Senior Counsel and Executive Vice President, Alliance Defending Freedom

Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, Rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel; Director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, Yeshiva University

Rick Warren, Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church

Thomas White, Ph.D., President and Professor of Theology, Cedarville University

*Institutional affiliations for identification purposes only

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Marco Rubio Forms Religious Freedom Advisory Board With Rick Warren, Samuel Rodriguez

Republican presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio formed a religious freedom advisory board including several prominent Evangelical leaders and academic experts.

Board members have not necessarily endorsed Rubio’s bid to become the Republican presidential nominee, but serve in and advisory capacity and are free to advise other candidates.

According to WORLD News Group, the board includes Saddleback Church leader Rick Warren, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President Samuel Rodriguez, theologian Wayne Grudem, and Baylor University History Professor Thomas S. Kidd.

In an interview with The Christian Post, the Rev. Rodriguez explained that he agreed to be part of the advisory board because he had “great affinity, respect, and admiration for Senator Rubio.”

“We have yet to meet, but we are looking forward to meeting and discussing the critical issue of religious liberty,” said Rodriguez.

“Everyone on the advisory board comes in agreement that religious liberty must emerge as a primary issue in the 2016 election.”

The NHCLC leader also told CP that while he had much respect for Rubio and was going to be part of the board, this did not mean he endorsed the candidacy of Rubio.

“My participation as an advisor on religious liberty issues to Senator Marco Rubio does not in any way, form, or shape indicate a de facto endorsement of his candidacy,” said Rodriguez.

“The NHCLC will never endorse any political candidate for any political party. Samuel Rodriguez the citizen, not as president of the NHCLC, but Samuel Rodriguez American citizen will be endorsing a candidate for the general election but not during the primaries.”

A Miami, Florida native who has a personal history with Catholicism, Mormonism, and Protestantism, Rubio declared his bid for the presidency last April.

Since entering the race, he has worked to appeal to social conservatives, a crucial component of the Republican primary base.

One example is Rubio’s support for the First Amendment Defense Act, which prohibits the federal government from discriminating against critics of same-sex marriage.

In addition to being a cosponsor of the FADA bill last year, Rubio has pledged to sign the it into law if elected president within the first one hundred days of his administration.

Professor Kidd explained to CP that he agreed to serve on Rubio’s advisory board “because the issue of religious freedom is of preeminent importance.”

“It is heartening that a major candidate would want to consult a range of experts to understand religious liberty’s legal and historical roots,” said Kidd.

“I was delighted to find that I, as a history professor, might be able to serve Sen. Rubio and his team by addressing the reasons why America’s founders considered religious liberty to be the ‘first freedom.'”

Kidd also told CP that while he has “not endorsed Senator Rubio formally” nor did “the campaign ask me to do so”, he does “support Sen. Rubio’s candidacy.”

News of Rubio’s advisory board comes as Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah announced his support for Rubio.

“Marco Rubio — he is the real thing. He is a great conservative. He has a great record and I think he would be just an amazing president,” stated Rep. Chaffetz, as reported by ksl.com.

“[Voters have] got to take a good hard look at all the candidates. I am not going to tell them who to vote for, but I’ve looked at them all and I think Marco Rubio is the right person.”

Other board members include Carlos Campo, president of Ashland University, Thomas Farr, president of Georgetown’s Religious Freedom Project, and Michael McConnell, Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford University Law School.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/marco-rubio-religious-freedom-advisory-board-rick-warren-samuel-rodriguez-154381/#KMUM1Stj12EJG1bA.99

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Marco Rubio’s ‘Religious Liberty Advisory Board’ Includes Immigration Reform Advocate

As the presidential candidates prepare for February’s Iowa caucus, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., named his “Religious Liberty Advisory Board.”

Iowa, typically regarded as an evangelical state, will have its caucus on Feb. 1, but on Jan. 6, Rubio’s presidential campaign revealed its “Religious Liberty Advisory Board.” Of the listed 15 individuals, two are Latinos: Dr. Carlos Campo, who serves as president at Ashford University, and Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, who serves as the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC).

 Rev. Samuel Rodriguez & Immigration Reform Support

Rodriguez, a conservative, has been a strong supporter for congressional immigration reform, which Rubio previously co-sponsored in 2013 with the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” (S. 744), a bipartisan legislation that included pathway to citizenship for immigrants, reforms to the immigrant visa process, 700 miles of pedestrian fencing on the southern U.S. border and more than 38,000 trained full-time active duty Border Patrol agents on the southern border.

Rodriguez has been impressed with Rubio’s leadership, however, he has been vocal about Rubio’s latest immigration stance. According to the Boston Globe last June, Rodriguez said Rubio “was Joshua leading the people into the Promised Land of immigration. Then, right when we were on the Jordan River, he pivoted. He looked back to the desert. All of the sudden he pivoted; he took his foot out of the water.”

 He later said, “The decibel level is lower. That passion is no longer there. … When you hear him speak now you see his eyes move down a bit, his voice fluctuates a tad. It’s not the same convicted Marco Rubio that led the charge back in 2013.”

Despite the immigration stance, Rodriguez still believed the Florida senator did not alter convictions, but that Rubio changed his “political calculations” to win the Republican nomination.

 No Endorsement

As president of the NHCLC, Rodriguez previously hosted fellow Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush last April. He once called Bush a “blessing.” Last October, Bush also announced his “Religious Liberty Advisory Committee.” In an NHCLC statement on Jan. 7, Rodriguez acknowledged that some NHCLC pastors support fellow Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, but “more favor” Bush and Rubio. The same statement clarified that Rodriguez’s involvement in Rubio’s board is not a form of endorsement. He said he will endorse a candidate later this summer.

 “Religious liberty is the cornerstone of the American experiment. From the beginning, our commitment to the principle that no one should ever be prevented from living according to their religious beliefs or coerced into doing something they don’t believe in has been tested,” said Marco Rubio for President’s Director of Faith Outreach Eric Teetsel, in a statement announcing the advisory board.

“In the last few years we have seen a debate over the place of religion and faithful people in the public square arise yet again. The next president must stand up and defend the religious liberty of all citizens. Marco and our team are honored to have at our disposal the collective wisdom of America’s foremost defenders of religious liberty. This diverse group represents men and women of many faiths and perspectives, including academics, pastors, and advocates. We intend to take full advantage of their input and wisdom as Senator Rubio fights to protect American’s religious liberty in the 21st Century,” Teetsel added.

Also accompanying Campo and Rodriguez in Rubio’s “Religious Liberty Advisory Board” are:

  • Vincent Bacote, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology and Director of Center for Applied Christian Ethics, Wheaton College
  • Kyle Duncan, former general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead counsel for the Green family in the Hobby Lobby case
  • Tom Farr, Ph.D., Director, Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Associate Professor of the Practice of Religion and World Affairs, Georgetown University
  • Kellie Fiedorek, Legal Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom
  • Wayne Grudem, Ph.D., Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary
  • The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, Chancellor, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary
  • Dr. Thomas Kidd, Distinguished Professor of History and Associate Director, Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University
  • Dr. Daniel Mark, Villanova University; Commissioner, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
  • Michael McConnell, Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center, Stanford University Law School
  • Doug Napier, Senior Counsel and Executive Vice President, Alliance Defending Freedom
  • Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, Rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel; Director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, Yeshiva University
  • Rick Warren, Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church
  • Thomas White, Ph.D., President and Professor of Theology, Cedarville University

Got Faith?

On Thursday, Rubio released his latest campaign ad titled “Faith.” Rubio uses the 30-second spot to talk about his Christian faith and the role of Jesus Christ in his life.

“The purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan. To those who much have been given, much is expected. And we will be asked to account for that. Were your treasures stored up on earth or in heaven? And to me, I try to allow that to influence me in everything that I do,” said Rubio.

Original article can be read here: http://www.latinpost.com/articles/107161/20160107/marco-rubios-religious-liberty-advisory-board-includes-immigration-reform-advocate.htm

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Pastor Rick Warren joins board advising Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign

Rick Warren, the nationally prominent Orange County pastor who founded Saddleback Church, has agreed to serve on a board that is advising the presidential campaign of GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Warren will advise Rubio and his campaign on domestic and international religious liberty as a member of the board, which includes people from a variety of professional backgrounds with diverse theological traditions, said Eric Teetsel, director of faith outreach for the Rubio campaign.

Teetsel told the Register on Monday that Warren was selected because he is “one of the nation’s foremost advocates of religious liberty.”

Warren, whose Lake Forest-based megachurch has spread to 12 Southern California campuses and four international campuses, said participation on the board does not amount to an endorsement of Rubio. The pastor said it is public knowledge he has never endorsed a political candidate and doesn’t intend to.

“It is not my job as a pastor to endorse candidates,” Warren said. “But I do offer private counsel and perspective to any candidate who asks for it. I have done this with many candidates in the past. In this election cycle, I know most of the candidates on both sides who are running for president, and many have been friends for years, but they all know that I never endorse.”

The advisory board was created to ensure that Rubio and his team are being advised by America’s top experts on religious liberty, Teetsel said.

Although he hasn’t endorsed candidates, Warren is no stranger to national politics. In January 2009, he gave the invocation for President-elect Barack Obama.

Over the years, he also has interviewed several notable national and international speakers as part of his Civil Forums at Saddleback Church.

In 2008, Warren hosted his first presidential campaign forum, between Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

In August 2012, Warren canceled a Civil Forum planned with Obama and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Saddleback Church because of what Warren saw as uncivil discourse between the two campaigns. Instead, he planned a forum on the importance of religious freedom that year.

In an interview with the Register at the time, Warren spoke about the importance of religious freedom.

“This issue is more significant and has far greater implications for America’s future,” he said. “People have forgotten that America was founded by people who came here to escape religious persecution. Freedom of religion is the first freedom mentioned in the Bill of Rights – before freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble and every other freedom.”

Original post can be read here: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/warren-699485-religious-rubio.html

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Evangelical Theologian Wayne Grudem Endorses Marco Rubio

Evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem endorsed Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio.

Grudem, professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary, directed The Christian Post to a statement he issued last week in support of Fla. Sen. Rubio, calling him “a reliable, thoughtful, articulate conservative who seems to me more knowledgeable than any other candidate on the important issues facing the nation.”

“Rubio is a winsome, likable candidate who has the best chance of soundly defeating Hillary Clinton. He is equally fluent in Spanish and English, which will be a huge asset with Hispanic voters in the general election,” stated Grudem.
“He does not come across as harsh but as reasonable and thoughtful in his defense of conservative positions. And his own words about his personal faith seem to me, as an Evangelical, to indicate a genuine belief in Christ as his own Savior and Lord.”

Grudem’s endorsement comes as he was tapped by the Rubio campaign to be part of an advisory board on religious liberty issues.

Joining Grudem on the advisory board are Rick Warren, pastor at Saddleback Church; Thomas S. Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University; and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

In an earlier interview with CP, Rev. Rodriguez explained that his involvement did not necessarily mean that he will endorse Rubio for president.

“My participation as an advisor on religious liberty issues to Senator Marco Rubio does not in any way, form, or shape indicate a de facto endorsement of his candidacy,” said Rodriguez.

“The NHCLC will never endorse any political candidate for any political party. Samuel Rodriguez the citizen, not as president of the NHCLC, but Samuel Rodriguez American citizen will be endorsing a candidate for the general election but not during the primaries.”

Regarding his involvement with the advisory board, Grudem told CP that he decided to become involved because of his belief that religious liberty is an important current issue.

“I think the issue of protecting religious liberty is crucial in our nation at this time,” explained Grudem to CP.

“Sen. Rubio understands and shares the concerns of evangelical Christians on this matter, and I appreciate the opportunity to give some input to his campaign on this issue.”

Grudem’s comments come as Republican and Democrat candidates ready for the Iowa causes, which will take place Feb. 1 in a heavily Evangelical state.

According to a Real Clear Politics average of polls, among GOP hopefuls Rubio is in third place, trailing behind Senator Ted Cruz and billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/evangelical-theologian-wayne-grudem-endorses-marco-rubio-154737/#Obestuhix261H9DS.99

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Ted Cruz: Evangelical darling or ‘pagan brutalist’? Why he exposes a Christian divide.

Signs suggest that a plurality of Iowa GOP voters have thrown their support behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. But this week,  New York Times columnist David Brooks penned a blistering attack on Cruz as a hypocritical Christian who really preaches “pagan brutalism.” To Brooks, Cruz is a harsh, Pharisaical opportunist – Donald Trump with a more pious veneer.

Who’s right? Is Cruz an authentic man of faith or a wolf in sheep’s clothing? It is hard to discern the true state of any politician’s beliefs, especially when he or she is angling for the votes of the faithful. But Cruz’s candidacy has undoubtedly exposed deep fractures in the GOP, not only in the party’s base but between different kinds of “evangelicals.”

With the help of his father, the itinerant evangelist Rafael Cruz, Cruz largely appeals to what we might call the evangelical “old guard” of the GOP. He has won endorsements from figures such as former Focus on the Family head James Dobson.

The most illustrative figure supporting Cruz, however, is Christian history writer and Texas GOP activist David Barton, who is the head of Cruz’s Super PAC. Barton has kept a low profile in the campaign, but he has vast numbers of longstanding contacts among the evangelical base.

Cruz may not want Barton to become a focus of public attention because of the 2012 firestorm over Barton’s book “The Jefferson Lies.” This book came under ferocious criticism, even from conservative Christian scholars, for seeking to portray Jefferson as a traditional Christian for most of  his life. In the end, Thomas Nelson Publishers pulled the book from circulation because it had “lost confidence” in its contents. (“The Jefferson Lies” has just appeared in an updated edition from WorldNet Daily Books.)

The evangelical old guard often portrays the election of faith-friendly GOP candidates as evidence of an “awakening” and spiritual renewal in the country. This rhetoric hearkens back to the First and Second Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries. Those awakenings undoubtedly had political ramifications. Historians widely see the Second Great Awakening as contributing to the emergence of the abolitionist movement, for example.
But for today’s evangelical old guard, politics itself – and electoral success for their candidates – has become a catalyst of awakening. Cruz has repeatedly told supporters, “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 is blurrily equating his election with the nation turning back to God.

Some evangelicals have expressed reservations about linking electoral outcomes to the flourishing of God’s Kingdom.

Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has endorsed no candidate, but he said recently that Cruz, Trump and Marco Rubio appeal to three different camps of evangelicals.

Cruz represents the “Jerry Falwell” wing (referencing the late head of the Moral Majority), Trump the “Jimmy Swaggart” wing (referencing the once-popular “health and wealth” televangelist), and Rubio the “Billy Graham” wing. Moore’s comment came in response to Rubio’s announcement of a religious liberty advisory board, which includes Saddleback Community Church pastor Rick Warren and National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president Samuel Rodriguez. (I am also a member of this board.)

Figures like Moore and Warren are hardly liberals, but they represent an evangelical faction (the “Graham” wing) that is more circumspect about expecting politicians and government to foment spiritual awakening. Although Billy Graham had longstanding and controversial relationships with American presidents, his revival meetings were marked by the simple message of the Christian gospel: accept Christ’s free offer of salvation and be born again.

Leaders of the Graham wing are not likely to join David Brooks in his denunciation of Cruz as a peddler of pagan brutalism. I have seen no reason to question the fundamental sincerity of Cruz’s Christian commitment. (Unlike Donald Trump, the fact that Cruz is Cuban and an evangelical does not strike me as fishy.)
But the Graham wing might suggest that, in a GOP primary that has become a contest to see who could be the most anti-immigrant, a little compassion for the stranger is in order. And they might remind Cruz that the most important purposes of God’s Kingdom – the glory of God and the salvation of sinners – will never happen through electoral victories or earthly governments.

Orignal article can be read here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/01/13/ted-cruz-evangelical-darling-or-pagan-brutalist-why-he-exposes-a-christian-divide/?postshare=5691452787877554&tid=ss_mail

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Latino leader: Immigration reform cannot trump the sanctity of life

Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference, says Christians should not vote for pro-choice candidates out of political expediency because they support immigration reform.

By Bob Allen

The head of one of the nation’s largest Hispanic Christian organizations said Jan. 21 that Latino voters should not put the desire for immigration reform ahead of concern for the unborn.

“I have a problem when we advocate life on Sunday, yet our voting pattern runs counter to what we preach about on Sunday,” Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference, said in an address at the Jan. 21-22 Evangelicals for Life conference in Washington. The event is co-sponsored by Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
“We can’t be pro-life on Sunday and vote pro-abortion on Tuesday,” Rodriguez said, warning Hispanic evangelicals “to not sacrifice children on the altar of political expediency” in the name of immigration reform. “If we preach pro-life on Sunday, we cannot support a candidate that advocates abortion on Tuesday.”

Addressing Latinos, Rodriguez said: “We’re marching for immigration reform. Wonderful. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”

“But if that’s our priority, we’re never going to see it, because our priority must be we must be the most pro-life community in the United States of America,” he said.

While immigration is a legitimate concern while entering the voting booth, Rodriguez said “whatever we’re advocating for, it shouldn’t trump life.”

“We must begin with life,” he admonished. “So don’t tell me you support a political candidate because that candidate is pro-immigration but they are anti-life.”

“How can you be supporting a candidate who is in favor of immigration but likewise they’re in favor of seeing the destruction of our little daughters and sons in the womb?” he inquired. “That’s just intellectually incoherent. We must be above all things, pro-life, and everything else will follow. We must vote a biblical worldview.”

The conference, the first-ever event for evangelicals connected to the annual March for Life demonstration held each January to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, wraps up Friday morning.

Tonight’s speakers include Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission head Russell Moore, and David Platt, president of the SBC International Board. The gathering is being live-streamed at http://live.evangelicals.life/.

See more at: https://baptistnews.com/culture/politics/item/30857-latino-leader-immigration-reform-cannot-trump-the-sanctity-of-life#sthash.m7NsmVSw.dpuf

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Why Trump Is Winning Over Christian Conservatives

Donald Trump sprinkles his stump speeches with profanity. He used to support abortion, and says he’s never sought forgiveness from God for his sins. He memorably referred to communion, the Christian sacrament commemorating Jesus’ last supper, as drinking “the little wine” and eating “the little cracker.” The thrice-married mogul calls the Bible his favorite book, but when pressed he couldn’t name his best-loved verse. He says he likes the Old and New Testaments about the same.

This is not the profile of an especially devout man, let alone a presidential candidate cut out to court Christian conservatives.

And yet national polls suggest that Donald J. Trump has forged a real connection with this voting bloc. In a recent New York Times/CBS News survey, the Republican frontrunner earned the support of 42% of evangelicals, far outpacing the rest of the GOP field, including his top rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who garnered 25%. A January NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll also showed Trump with the deepest support among white evangelicals, at 33%.

Of all the head-scratching elements of Trump’s rise in the GOP nominating contest, his success with the religious right may be the most confounding. In a field that features a Baptist preacher (Mike Huckabee), a candidate with a tithe-based tax plan (Ben Carson) and staunch social conservatives such as Cruz and Rick Santorum, a mainline Presbyterian has managed to grab the largest share of the party’s famously demanding values voters.

And nobody is more baffled by this campaign twist than social conservative leaders. “Frankly, I cannot figure out the alleged white-evangelical attraction to Trump,” says Rev. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. “To my ear, he simply is not one of them. He is obviously unfamiliar with the Bible and does not speak in the vocabulary of most evangelicals I know.”

Whatever Trump is preaching, the faithful seem receptive. On Jan. 18, he received a glowing welcome from Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr., during a visit to Liberty University in Virginia, the world’s largest Christian college. “In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment,” Falwell said, shortly before Trump mispronounced the name of one of the Bible’s prominent books.

Blessings like these that have helped Trump make inroads with a voting bloc his rivals are counting on, especially in places like Iowa, where 57% of GOP caucus-goers identified as evangelical in 2012. If Trump can maintain his share of support among values voters, the Republican frontrunner will be tough to beat.

Some rivals have sought to undermine Trump’s courtship of Christian conservatives. As the Iowa draw closer, Cruz has been assailing his “New York values,” tying Trump to the “socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay-marriage” views of the Big Apple.

But interviews with prominent evangelicals suggest this line of attack may be missing the meaning of Trump’s connection with social conservatives. “Donald Trump basically gave voice to the idea that Washington is broken and needs to be fixed,” says Bob Vander Plaats, an Iowa evangelical leader supporting Cruz. “People right away resonate with that.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, believes many evangelicals feel “beaten down” by political correctness, especially on issues such as gay marriage. “Now they see Donald Trump, who is taking on that same elitist politically correct mindset and not backing down,” Perkins says. “They find common cause in this guy, even though he comes from a completely different world.”

In an election driven more by foreign policy than social issues, “fear is dominating more than faith,” Perkins continues. “Fear of what has happened to our nation, and fear of what may happen.” It is an odd twist, especially since the Bible cautions against an attitude of fear. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind,” the apostle Paul wrote in a New Testament letter to his disciple Timothy.

Randall Balmer, a religious historian at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, says Trump’s support illustrates that self-identified values voters still assess candidates through a pragmatic lens. In the holy trinity of politics, power and faith, “religion is at the bottom,” Balmer says. “It’s about politics, and it’s about power.”
That conclusion is supported by Trump’s poll numbers. He does far worse among Latino evangelicals than he does among whites, which might be explained by his hardline stance against illegal immigration. “There are a lot of inconsistencies here,” says Rev. Sam Rodriguez Jr., president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and an advisor to the campaigns of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. “On so many of the social issues that evangelicals coalesce around and gather around, Donald Trump would be on the opposite end.”
Which leaves faith leaders wondering whether pragmatic support for Trump undermines evangelicals’ hard-fought position as a pillar in the Republican firmament.

“It’s almost impressive, his disregard—he doesn’t even pretend to have a sophisticated position on questions of faith,” says Stephen White, fellow in the Catholic Studies program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “If Trump wins the nomination, he will have demonstrated that social conservatism is an unnecessary part of the Republican coalition, he will pull the rug out from social conservatism as it relates to the Republican Party.”

“This is an election cycle unlike any other,” says Perkins. “People are scratching their heads trying to figure it out.”

Original article can be read here: http://time.com/4189587/donald-trump-christian-conservatives/

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