A Denver, Colorado rabbi has written a forceful, open letter to Sen. Ted Cruz, ending with these strong words: “Senator Cruz, if you want to promote your agenda and claim it is a reflection of your religious values, go right ahead — but don’t exploit my religion and my people to do it.”
In short, he states, “Don’t use ‘Judeo-Christian’ to try to appropriate my religion and my people’s history to advance your agenda.”
The rabbi in question is Salomon Gruenwald, and his letter stands in almost diametrical opposition to what has sometimes been known as “Jews for Cruz.”
Late last year, Cruz received the endorsement of a wide-ranging national coalition of rabbis, while the Cruz campaign announced on February 28 that, “Presidential candidate Ted Cruz today announced the formation of a Jewish leadership coalition featuring a diverse group of rabbis, business, and community leaders from around the country.”
Why, then, is Rabbi Gruenwald so strongly opposed to Ted Cruz, in particular, to Cruz’s frequent reference to “Judeo-Christian values”?
From my reading of the rabbi’s letter, it appears to be: 1) more of a conflict between Cruz’s conservatism and the Gruenwald’s liberalism; and 2) a misunderstanding of some of Cruz’s beliefs, based on sensationalistic and/or shoddy reporting that the rabbi relies on.
Rabbi Gruenwald wrote, “You and I read the same Bible very differently and draw sometimes contradictory conclusions from it. … But your particular brand of Christianity bears little resemblance to the Judaism I practice, and when you use the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ to really mean ‘Christian,’ you erase the distinctions between our faiths — and you essentially erase Jews.”
This is both unnecessary and inflammatory.
First, the term “Judeo-Christian values” is frequently used to describe our common moral heritage (I write this as a Jewish follower of Jesus myself), recognizing that, even from a strictly Christian viewpoint, the ethics of Christianity are built on the ethics of Judaism, with the Ten Commandments forming the moral core for both. While Rabbi Gruenwald is correct to point out the term’s relatively recent coinage, the concept is neither new nor novel.
There’s also a unique aspect to the theology of early Pilgrims, of who Bible historian Gabriel Sivan noted, “No Christian community in history identified more with the People of the Book than did the early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who believed their own lives to be a literal reenactment of the biblical drama of the Hebrew nation.”
Second, in light of the horrors of Jewish history, to suggest that Cruz wants to “erase Jews” is to engage in irresponsible speech, all the more so when Cruz has been a passionate defender of Israel.
As Rabbi Zev Reichman remarked, “The Iranian regime threatens to do in six minutes what Hitler did in six years. They openly declare their hope to wipe Israel off the map. … On September 9, 2015, hundreds of Rabbis returned to Washington to plead with elected officials to step in and reject the Iranian nuclear deal. Ted Cruz stood with us and led at that moment. President Cruz will tear up the Iran deal on his first day in office.”
Rabbi Gruenwald next claims that, “It is well documented that you subscribe to a theology known as Dominionism,” also alleging that, “You have asserted in the past that the founders of our country were actually a secret society of evangelicals. You’ve suggested that you were sent on a mission by God to run for president.”
Since rabbis are trained to go to the original sources and read with a critical eye, statements like this are surprising. Cruz does not believe that fundamentalist believers are supposed to take over America and impose some kind of Christian theocracy on the nation.
What he does believe, as do countless historians, theologians and political leaders, is that (in the words of our second president, John Adams), “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
In other words, America was founded on Christian (or, Judeo-Christian!) principles, and to the extent we choose freely to live by those principles, our nation will prosper.
As for feeling he’s on a mission from God, I would hope that any God-fearing person would not run for the office of the presidency without feeling some kind of divine mission. Why work towards something of such massive importance without that sense of calling?
That being said, Cruz has stated clearly that if elected, he would “be a president of everybody, president of every faith. …” But of course.
Rabbi Gruenwald, however, is unhappy that Cruz would use “Judeo-Christian values” to oppose homosexual activism, especially under the guise of protecting religious liberties, writing, “You claim that your ‘Judeo-Christian values’ are the basis of your opposition to the equal protection of the law for same-sex couples.”
And it is here that we get to some of the rabbi’s specific concerns with Ted Cruz.
The rabbi appears to be a committed liberal (his ordination as a Conservative rabbi does not mean conservative politically; Conservative Judaism ordains gay and lesbian rabbis and performs same-sex “wedding” ceremonies); the senator is a committed conservative. In this regard, specifically concerning the question of homosexuality, it is the rabbi who has departed from historic Jewish teachings, not the senator.
Finally, Rabbi Gruenwald attacks Cruz for embracing the endorsement of Pastor Mike Bickle, devoting 126 words to excoriating Bickle’s beliefs, with most of those 126 words misrepresenting what Bickle actually teaches. (To cite just two glaring examples, Bickle does not believe in a pre-tribulational “rapture” nor does he believe “in a millennium-long war whose battlefield will be the land of Israel.” Click here for Bickle’s relevant beliefs, penned in an Op Ed piece for the Times of Israel.)
Making matters even worse, the rabbi seems completely unaware that the Cruz campaign issued a formal statement rejecting Bickle’s misquoted (or, at the least, misunderstood) remarks concerning Hitler and the Jews.
But to debate this point is to quibble. The real issue is that the rabbi has written his letter based on misinformation, opining that, “Theocracies like the one envisioned by Dominionism stifle religious expressions, pervert true faith and corrupt effective government.”
To repeat: The goal of Ted Cruz is not to establish a Christian theocracy in the name of Dominionism.
Given that the Jewish people have suffered for millennia based on the willful spreading of slanderous reports which played to people’s fears, Rabbi Gruenwald should have done his homework better before engaging in the same kind of dangerous rhetoric against a real friend of Israel and the Jewish people.