In one of his strangest comments to date, Donald Trump raised questions about Ted Cruz’s evangelical roots, saying at a rally in Iowa, “I do like Ted Cruz, but not a lot of evangelicals come out of Cuba.”
While Trump was obviously speaking of the country of origin of Cruz’s father Rafael, it’s hard to understand exactly what he meant by this gibe. Was he implying that there are no evangelicals in Cuba? Or was he suggesting that a son must follow the faith of his father’s homeland?
Whatever his intent, Trump’s statement is easily refuted.
But before I address his statement directly, it’s important that I explain why I’m writing this article.
It is true that I have personally endorsed Senator Cruz as the best Republican candidate (although my ministry organization makes no endorsements).
And it is true that I have been concerned about Donald Trump as the potential Republican candidate due to what appears to be the real lack of a solid, conservative moral foundation in his life (do we really want a president who makes money off a casino with a strip club?) and an extreme recklessness in speech that could be very harmful as president. For a recent case in point, note the mild skirmish between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, caused in part by Trump’s reactionary and reckless words. World leaders need to be more circumspect in speech.
Because of this, I have been called a shill for Cruz (and on his payroll too!), a supporter of Hillary Clinton, a weak beta-male, and much more.
The fact is that I’d have no problem differing with Senator Cruz on a given topic, just as I’d have no problem agreeing with Mr. Trump on an issue. What motivates me most is a passion for what is true and right.
In this case, Trump’s Cuba comments are not true, not right and certainly not relevant.
First, Cruz’s father, Rafael, left Cuba for America at the age of 18 in 1957. He was a non-practicing Roman Catholic, and he became a born-again evangelical Christian in 1975. So, the fact that Ted Cruz’s father hails from Cuba says absolutely nothing about his father’s faith or his own faith.
Second, born-again Christians, as the name implies, believe in a “born-again” experience, which means that a person may be born into an evangelical Christian home but the individual must become “born again” through personal faith in Jesus.
And so, in contrast with other religions, where one is born Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist, and in distinction from some other Christian expressions, where one is born, say Catholic formalized by infant baptism, a born-again evangelical is not one from infancy. This means that the country of one’s origin is immaterial.
This is how it can be the case that the world’s fastest growing evangelical congregation is now in India, a country hardly known for Christianity, while the largest evangelical congregations in the world are in South Korea, a country with relatively few Christians before the Korean War.
I am a Jewish follower of Jesus (and an evangelical), but I was raised in a Conservative Jewish home. Similarly, millions of evangelicals were raised in different faith or non-faith homes before becoming evangelical believers in Jesus later in life.
Third, the evangelical church in Cuba is currently growing by leaps and bounds, despite government persecution and opposition.
As reported in September on CBN News, “In a typical Sunday morning in Cuba, you can find churches across the island overflowing with worshippers. Many meet in homes and others meet in churches that look more North American but operate in a political climate that is very different.”
For several years now, pastors and leaders visiting Cuba from America have come back to share glowing reports with me, amazed to see what God is doing in that (still Communist) country.
So, not only was Trump’s quote irrelevant, it was inaccurate as well.