Are the 21 Coptic martyrs pro-Israel enough for Ted Cruz?

Amen, senator.

Ted Cruz apparently said at CPAC this week that “the president needs to stand up and defend the beheaded Coptic Christians in Egypt,” and he’s been mentioning them frequently for the last week or so.

At the In Defense of Christians Summit he trolled last September, one of his last lines was, “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.”

It’s no secret that the Copts have some issues with Israel, and representative of the Coptic Patriarch was in the room that night. Was he one of the ones Cruz believes was “consumed with hate”?

At the very least, the junior senator from Texas has contradicted himself. Which one is it? Does he stand with the Coptic Church, regardless of its politically inconvenient relationship with Israel, or are the 21 Coptic martyrs simply a useful prop to criticize the administration and call for ever more aggressive military action in the Middle East?

I think we all know the answer, but let us hope we are wrong. Cruz’s IDC line is basically straight out of the John Hagee playbook, who’s said before in interviews that “if you are not for Israel and the Jewish people, you either are biblically ignorant or you’re not a Christian.” They are both Baptists, and as we were reminded last week by a blog post at some Montana hate preacher’s website that went viral, Baptists have significant differences with Coptic Christianity.

There’s some evidence Hagee and Cruz are close; not long after the IDC provocation, Ted Cruz’s father, a twice-divorced former Catholic-turned-Baptist preacher, headlined at the San Antonio-based church of John Hagee, chairman of Christians United for Israel. He also has some odd beliefs about Jesus and the end of the world:

In Hagee’s latest, Four Blood Moons, he advances the theory that a series of lunar events that started on April 2014 means that “in these next two years, we’re going to see something dramatic happen in the Middle East involving Israel that will change the course of history in the Middle East and impact the whole world.”

Hagee keeps saying this stuff; CUFI keeps separating itself from the rapture-ready bestsellers. On Monday I asked David Brog, the Jewish executive director of CUFI, whether Four Blood Moons was informing any of Hagee’s or the activists’ thinking about the crisis in Israel or Russia.

“Absolutely not,” said Brog. “Outside observers don’t give evangelicals credit for being able to hold two different ideas in their heads. There’s often confusion, when it comes to evangelical support for Israel, because evangelicals, like a lot of Jews, believe that we may be living in a messianic time. Of course, in the Jewish case, no one ever says—‘Ah, that’s why you support Israel, you think you’re going to bring the messiah.’ It’s black letter Christian theology that the date of the second coming was set eons ago.”

A politically necessary dodge, to be sure, but frankly it strikes me as complete nonsense given how politically active these people are; ‘We’re not trying to bring about the end times, we just want to bomb Iran.’ Later in November Hagee, and the younger Cruz appeared together at the Zionist Organization of America dinner, where the former called the president “one of the most anti-Semitic presidents in the history of the United States of America.”

Obama can’t be worse than Nixon on that score, but at any rate, it’s far from the worst thing Hagee has said:

Now, before we go any further, let me note that I consider myself a supporter of Israel and believe my record bears that out. I was the first to publish this expose by Edwin Black on the Palestinian Authority vetting acts of terrorism for whether they qualified as martyrdom operations, and had the author on the radio when I was subbing for Mike Church to talk about it afterward. I brought on an Orthodox Jew and Israeli citizen to help edit my section at the Daily Caller, and have published a founder of the Wiesenthal Center. It would be difficult for me to run a more pro-Israel opinion page. Maybe Robert Spencer would say I should stop publishing moderate Muslims too, that would be one way I guess — he goes after me whenever I publish one — but I refuse to do that.

However, I also hew to George Washington’s warning about entangling alliances, and sure am put off by the creepy theopolitics and political litmus tests of Christian Zionists like Hagee and Cruz. What seems beyond question to me is that it is going too far for a professed Christian to claim, in political apologias for the state of Israel, that “Jesus did not come to earth to be the Messiah.” It really says something about the state of the Christian right that a man like Hagee can state what seems to me a clearly heretical idea such as this and still be treated with respect.

As for Cruz, we should insist that he clarifies his position. Does he think the 21 martyrs had it coming, being part of a church that fails to recognize Israel as the hope of Middle Eastern Christians, as he has suggested they should?

Some may object to my bringing this up, that I’m politicizing the murders, or gainsaying both Israel and Ted Cruz at an important time, or that unity and deference are called for in the face of tragedy. Indeed, one could interpret the U.K.-based Coptic Bishop Angaelos’s worries that way, as expressed to TheDC’s own Ivan Plis:

While touched by the “immense amount of concern” he had received for his slain brethren, he said he was “very wary of them being used to make a political point” by those unfamiliar with the Copts and their church.

What Ted Cruz is doing here is trying to make a political point, and the most charitable spin one could put on his IDC provocation is that he was “unfamiliar with the Copts and their church.” To my mind, asking these questions is very much in the spirit of Bishop Angaelos’s concerns.

(Image source)

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