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Where is the Outrage Worthy of a Nazarene?

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By Josh Inocéncio

On Monday, February 1, an LGBT nightmare inched closer to reality as Ted Cruz decisively won the Iowa caucuses, defeating real-estate mogul Donald Trump and establishment darling Marco Rubio. While no Republican candidate this year has pledged to fight for LGBT equality, Cruz has crafted the most antigay position by manufacturing imaginary threats to “religious liberty” and surrounding himself with a cohort that endorses violence against LGBT people.

Yet after reviewing Cruz’ platform, I’m not too concerned with his theatrical opposition to marriage equality. According to Politico, he’s privately admitted to donors that combating same-sex marriage isn’t a top priority as president. Not to mention, to appoint justices who promise to overturn the Obergefell ruling, Cruz would have to acquire confirmations in a Senate with a huge Democratic minority (and possible majority by November).

However, what prompts me to turn over tables in righteous outrage is Cruz’ violent rhetoric against LGBT people, evidencing his willingness to do (or not do) anything to get elected. Far more dangerous than the bellicose Donald Trump, Cruz is a well-calculated politician and nothing short of a modern-day Pharisee.

Voters can arrange a civil debate about the government’s role in protecting LGBT rights; however, when Cruz silently witnesses an evangelical pastor endorse the extermination of LGBT people based on outdated Levitical laws, I have a problem that stretches beyond civic disagreements.

In November 2015, Cruz, along with former governors Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, spoke at the National Religious Liberties conference in Iowa where the leader, Pastor Kevin Swanson, and others discussed how gay people deserve death, even passing out pamphlets that depicted the best methods of execution. Shortly before Cruz walked onstage, Swanson preached that gays are “people with open, puss-y sores” who, according to the Bible, deserve “the death penalty.” Swanson’s not ashamed of “the gospel of Jesus Christ” (which, by the way, never mentions homosexuality) and he’s “willing to go to jail for standing on the truth of the Word of God.”

Swanson stopped short of imploring government officials to order executions, but as The Huffington Post points out, if any presidential candidate had “attended an event at which the host hinted at mass murder of Jews, African-Americans, or any other group it would be a massive media story,” while this one languishes in obscurity with little effect on Republican voters. CNN reporter Jake Tapper confronted Cruz about his association with Swanson, but Cruz deflected the question with a politician’s flourish, claiming he wasn’t aware of all the pastor’s statements on the matter.

In addition to evangelical pastors gnashing their teeth on LGBT rights, Cruz invited reality TV star Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty to speak at his own event on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. Robertson, who is no stranger to homophobia, called for voters to “rid the Earth” of marriage equality supporters in Washington DC.

To stand quietly amid hysterical suggestions for human rights abuses is not the record of a “courageous conservative,” but a consummate coward.

But for a man who has declared himself a “Christian first, American second,” Cruz and his cohort seem confused on the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice. As the Nazarene preaches in the Book of Matthew, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” The core of the four New Testament gospels is Jesus coming to Earth in human form and fulfilling the laws of Leviticus with his ritual sacrifice on a crucifix. In the final chapters of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus dies and “the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to the bottom.” This passage is remarkably simple in demonstrating the force of the crucifixion, heralding a new age and rendering the old laws archaic. To cite Leviticus with the passion of Pastor Swanson is to misinterpret the Christian scriptures. Cruz’ right-wing crusade, then, is grounded in the bloodbath of Old Testament wars and a direct repudiation of the radical love embedded in Jesus of Nazareth’s sacrifice.

So I’ll ask his evangelical supporters: while you may disagree with the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, are you not disturbed by a man who stands by while a pastor advocates the death of your fellow Americans? If so, I advise you to unearth your dusty Gospels and revisit the “Sermon on the Mount,” for tacit acceptance of Cruz’ behavior is nothing recognizably Christian.

Then again, these are the same supporters who rallied around Cruz’ cry for carpet-bombing in Syria, which would inevitably murder innocent civilians (as former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates noted) and fill the road to Damascus with a new kind of fire.

On another note, are the Iowa evangelicals who are hotly preoccupied with Cruz’ socially conservative agenda not enraged that he’s taking money from Ian Reisner, the openly gay New York hotelier?

The Ted Cruz we’ve seen in the primaries cannot win a general election against Hillary Clinton; he’s too conservative. However, for a man who’s proven he’ll deploy dirty tricks to divert voters from competition (e.g., telling Iowans that Dr. Ben Carson dropped out of the race when he hadn’t) and for a man who’s told blatant lies about why he’s on Obamacare (President Obama’s healthcare bill has blessed the meek more than any poison Cruz has peddled), I know he’d stage moderate shifts in his platform, as was apparent on Late Night with Seth Meyers, in order to bamboozle the electorate.

Far from an anti-establishment candidate, the diabolical Cruz epitomizes the Washington deceit he condemns. After all, the “Green Eggs and Ham” rioter abandoned Texas and instead chose to announce his presidential candidacy on the Liberty University stage in Virginia with an audience of students forced to attend by their administrators. In addition to realizing he creates atmospheres for pure show, any self-respecting voter from the proud Lone Star state should consider this move a brazen insult.

Cruz will go forth with his extremist agenda and histrionic campaign. However, I wish he’d leave Jesus out of it. I doubt the Jewish prophet who instructed a man to desert his material belongings is invested in Cruz’ cold grasp for power.

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Josh Inocéncio

Josh Inocéncio is a frequent contributor to OutSmart Magazine, a playwright, and a freelance writer. A Houston-area native, he earned a master’s degree in theatre studies at Florida State University and produced his first play, Purple Eyes, before returning to Texas last May.
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