Vail Daily column: Cruz’s distorted history veers off-course
Rafael Cruz, father of presidential contender Ted, preaches that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are divinely inspired. As self-anointed stump-speaker who believes our nation’s founding documents possess God’s approval, Cruz wins tea party converts in Texas. They demand the Advanced Placement U.S. history course emphasize “positive aspects of the U.S. and its heritage.”
Touring Texas towns, Rafael Cruz uses fiery rhetoric about the perfection of our nation’s founding documents. He first learned to speak this way as a Cuban revolutionary fighting the Batista regime. Fleeing this island homeland with $100 sewn into his underwear, Cruz settled in Canada before migrating to Houston. After working in Big Oil, this recovering alcoholic heard God calling him to become a preacher in order to save America from the hellish brew political liberals stir up.
His peppery convictions distort the origins of our nation’s founding documents. Cruz doesn’t weigh his words because he assumes the weight of God’s word fortifies them. He fabricates history instead of allowing its record to factually stand.
He sneers at Common Core national standards that guide teachers. State leaders, not Washington’s bureaucrats, developed Common Core. It establishes benchmarks in English and mathematics for each grade level. When states adopted these standards, federal funding supported local educational goals.
Listen to Cruz, however, and you come away convinced this venture is a huge government overreach. In fact, states implement Common Core, not Uncle Sam. The government expects teachers to improvise and put personal touches on lesson plans. Teachers who fine-tune this curriculum to meet students’ needs contradict Cruz’s assertion that Uncle Sam endorses rote learning in English and math.
Rafael Cruz’s influence stretches beyond Texas due to its powerful role in selecting public school textbooks. Once elected to local school boards, tea party activists promote Cruz’s misguided educational agenda. They want students to study why American is exceptional, preferable to other nations. Although God has many children in the world, He prefers Americans, say conservatives such as Cruz.
Why? America was born a Christian nation, asserts Rafael. And its Christian roots flourish because God has added as two inspired resources besides the Bible: The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Cruz preaches an arrogant message. He asks few questions, rarely speculates on differing opinions and brusquely puts down adversaries.
He claims, “There are many people that think, ‘Oh, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence are secular documents.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible was the foundation of these documents,” Cruz preaches. “As a matter of fact, they cite the Bible more than anything else, and so Christianity was totally intertwined with the Revolutionary War.”
As a matter of fact, what Cruz preaches and tea party-controlled school boards endorse distort U.S. history. Such fabrications aren’t tied to what happened when the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written.
Let’s separate historical fact from Cruz’s fabrications. Read the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson crossed out words, inserted new language and reshaped original sentences. The Continental Congress struck out passages, about a third of what Jefferson wrote, because his vigorous anti-slavery stance made southerners wince.
Is this how God works, by fits and starts, making mistakes that human editors correct? The original document shows little trace of God’s hand perfecting it. The Declaration has ear-marks of politicians’ give-and-take before they arrived at consensus. Rafael Cruz doesn’t grapple with counterarguments. He skips history’s inconvenient facts.
True, some Continental Congress members later spoke of God’s providential hand shaping their experiment in liberty. Even Jefferson used such reverential language two years before his death. In 1824, Congress sent him a new facsimile edition of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson received it “with pleasure.” He employed stately religious language, words such as “reverence,” “sacred” and “holy purpose” to urge posterity to honor this document.
Cruz exploits such testimony. He rejects, however, historical facts that contradict his conviction that Jefferson’s writings were divinely inspired. Jefferson made no direct appeal to God in the Declaration. He vaguely referred to a Higher Power as “nature’s God,” a nod to a divine spark that ignited the engine of creation and then checked out, letting it run by enlightened natural laws. Jefferson also wrote a statute that James Madison finally got passed after years of legislative maneuvering. This law separated church and state in Virginia.
Madison’s notes detailing deliberations during the 1787 Constitutional Convention report bickering, debating and bargaining by representatives who signed the Constitution. Their sessions were messy and involved lots of political horse-trading. Where are traces of God composing a perfect script, as Rafael Cruz would have us believe?
He exchanges historical fact for fabrications. Our nation’s founding documents express consensus that came through debate, bluffing, compromising and hard work.
That’s the gospel truth Rafael Cruz avoids and conceals.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.
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