In church news:

Cruz’s stump speech is by far the most religious one of all the Republican candidates, in which he tells his supporters to pray “each and every day” until the November election.

At a campaign stop in Hamlin, Iowa, before the caucus, he told supporters that it’s time to, “awaken the body of Christ that we may pull back from the abyss.”

For non-Christians in the readership “the body of Christ” here refers to the church universal. He’s telling his Christian supporters that the country is going to hell in a handbasket, but if they wake up and “vote [their] values,” they might turn things around.

CBN’s Brody File has a clip of a recent private Cruz address to Iowa pastors. He’s really good on the stump. At just past the one minute mark, Cruz admonishes his audience to caucus for the candidate who “defends Biblical values. … The people who burn us tell us they agree with us. So don’t listen to what they say or what I say. Don’t listen to what I say! Hold us to the test. Hold us accountable.”

You might have missed this Politico report from December 23, based on a recording of a meeting Cruz had with some wealthy Manhattan donors. Politico reported:

During the question period, one of the donors told Cruz that gay marriage was one of the few issues on which the two disagreed. Then the donor asked: “So would you say it’s like a top-three priority for you — fighting gay marriage?”

“No,” Cruz replied. “I would say defending the Constitution is a top priority. And that cuts across the whole spectrum — whether it’s defending [the] First Amendment, defending religious liberty.”

Soothing the attendee without contradicting what he has said elsewhere, Cruz added: “People of New York may well resolve the marriage question differently than the people of Florida or Texas or Ohio. … That’s why we have 50 states — to allow a diversity of views. And so that is a core commitment.”

The donor was satisfied, ending his colloquy with Cruz with a friendly: “Thanks. Good luck.”

A well-known Republican operative not affiliated with a 2016 campaign said by email when sent Cruz’s quote: “Wow. Does this not undermine all of his positions? Abortion, Common Core — all to the states? … Worse, he sounds like a slick D.C. politician — says one thing on the campaign trail and trims his sails with NYC elites. Not supposed to be like that.”

Cruz’s campaign responded that the candidate is not dissembling here, that the “leave it to the states” view has always been his this cycle. Mike Huckabee has accused him of talking out of both sides of his mouth, but the truth is, neither of them are being straightforward with voters. You’d think that the Obergefell ruling had never come down. What they’re doing is virtue-signaling to Evangelical voters. It doesn’t matter if they would “leave it to the states” or not; SCOTUS has made same-sex marriage a constitutional right. I don’t like it any more than Ted Cruz does, but it has happened, and there’s no realistic prospect of overturning that ruling, which, alas for us all, is popular. 

Same-sex marriage is here to stay. The question now is what happens to the religious liberties of institutions and individuals who dissent from the new orthodoxy. That is something that the president and Congress do have some say over, if they have the vision and the courage to act, and act with strategic intelligence.

Yesterday in Iowa, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame warmed up a Cruz crowd:

Robertson said Cruz was the only candidate who could restore the constitutional and biblical foundation of government.

“When a fellow like me looks at the landscape and sees the depravity, the perversion — redefining marriage and telling us that marriage is not between a man and a woman? Come on Iowa!” Robertson said.

“It is nonsense. It is evil. It’s wicked. It’s sinful,” he said to applause. “They want us to swallow it, you say. We have to run this bunch out of Washington, D.C. We have to rid the earth of them. Get them out of there.”

“Ted Cruz loves God, he loves James Madison and he’s a strict constitutionalist. You know what Ted Cruz understands,” Robertson said. “God raises these empires up. It is God who brings them down.”

It’s all so easy, isn’t it? Vote Ted, rid the earth of evil, and all will be well. Why does anybody believe this stuff anymore?

“The people who burn us tell us they agree with us,” Cruz told those pastors. The implication is that they’re lying, that they really don’t agree with the Evangelicals. I don’t believe that’s what Cruz is guilty of. What he’s guilty of is misleading Evangelicals into thinking that by electing him, they will be casting a vote for getting rid of same-sex marriage. I wish that were possible, but it’s not — and Scott Shackford, the gay libertarian, explained very well why the GOP candidates running on this issue are blowing an opportunity to defend religious liberty. So what we have here is the same old Religious Right song-and-dance. Vote for me and I’ll re-moralize America. 

It’s untrue. Politics cannot do the work of culture.

UPDATE: Here’s a column by Francis Beckwith criticizing Evangelicals who have jumped on the Trump bandwagon. Great final graf:

And Trump is a damn good preacher. So much so that many evangelicals don’t seem to notice the un-Christian personal insults, slurs, arrogance, mendacity, and incoherence. Which just goes to show you that not only is a sucker born every minute; sometimes he’s born again.

UPDATE.2: I can’t decide if it’s more unnerving to think that Ted Cruz doesn’t really believe what he’s saying … or that he does.