There’s only two conclusions we can draw from the 2016 Republican primary: either God doesn’t exist, or he has a hell of a sense of humor.
I was thinking of this last week, when Ted Cruz dropped out after his crushing loss in Indiana. Cruz, more than any other candidate in the race, exemplified the attitude that God has a very specific political platform and had chosen him to implement it. Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, is a bona fide dominionist who believes that Christians have a divine mandate to conquer society and rule it as a theocracy. And according to Rafael Cruz, his son Ted was the anointed one who would bring this about:
“My son Ted and his family spent six months in prayer seeking God’s will for this decision. But the day the final green light came on, the whole family was together. It was a Sunday. We were all at his church, First Baptist Church in Houston, including his senior staff. After the church service, we all gathered at the pastor’s office. We were on our knees for two hours seeking God’s will. At the end of that time, a word came through his wife, Heidi. And the word came, just saying, ‘Seek God’s face, not God’s hand.’ And I’ll tell you, it was as if there was a cloud of the Holy Spirit filling that place. Some of us were weeping, and Ted just looked up and said, ‘Lord, here am I, use me. I surrender to you, whatever you want.’ And he felt that was a green light to move forward.”
Well, we know where that led. As it turns out, being the smuggest and most fanatically self-righteous candidate in the race doesn’t endear you to other people. Cruz – among other things, the architect of the 2013 government shutdown – was so hated by other Republicans that even when he was the only plausible non-Trump candidate remaining, he couldn’t consolidate the party’s support. And when he lost in a landslide in Indiana, he saw the writing on the wall (biblical metaphor alert!).
So much for that divine revelation! Why did God tell Ted Cruz to run for president, only to make him come in a humiliating second? That must have been a real knee-slapper in Heaven. I can just imagine God chortling from his throne: “Psych! Man, I totally had you going there! You should have seen your face!”
But, as you may be aware, Ted Cruz wasn’t the only failed candidate who claimed to have the Big Guy in his endorsements column. He’s just the latest in a long line of also-rans, many of whom also made a good showing in Iowa’s ultra-white, ultra-Christian caucuses and then evaporated like a puff of papal white smoke.
In just this election cycle, we’ve blessed with an abundance of them. There was Rick Perry, who said he “felt like he needed to see the burning bush” before choosing to run. (He was the first to drop out.) There was Scott Walker, who proclaimed that he was “certain that running [for president] was God’s calling”. (He was the second to drop out.) There was good old Rick “Don’t Google Me” Santorum (“we believe with all our hearts that this is what God wants”) and Mike Huckabee (“I can’t think of a worse place in the world to be than in the Oval Office without God’s hand upon you”). There was John Kasich, who said he was “trying to determine if this is what the Lord wants” (he clearly didn’t take a hint from his almost unbroken string of losses), and Ben Carson, whose pyramids-as-Israelite-grain-silos comedy routine proved that you can be a brilliant neurosurgeon and still hold lots of incredibly ignorant and wacky beliefs.In 2012, too, there were no fewer than four Republican candidates who claimed it was God’s will for them to run: Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry (again), Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum (again). Also hopping on board the clown car were the religious-right activists who claimed to have received divine assurance of Mitt Romney’s victory.
And then, of course, there’s Pat Robertson, who’s in a league of his own when it comes to falsely prophesizing. You’ve got to admire the chutzpah of a man who says that God told him to run for president and then compares his third-place finish to Jesus’ crucifixion:
After finishing a distant third, Robertson says in his book, The Plan, that he questioned his faith. “I’ve been asked the question a hundred times: ‘Did you miss God?’ I asked over and over, ‘Did I miss Your leading, Father? … Did I hear You? … Why didn’t I win?'”
Robertson’s soul searching led him to draw a comparison between his loss and Jesus Christ himself, whom, he writes, “failed by human standards but was part of God’s perfect plan. Was He hurt? Of course he was. Will He be vindicated? Gloriously so.”
“I followed God’s plan for me, so in His eyes I did win.” (source)
So basically, God’s ineffable plan is “I meant to do that.”
It’s enough to make you wonder, why does God keep failing to get his chosen candidates elected despite clearly stating (through his mortal representatives) that he intends to do so? Is he not powerful enough to control the outcome of a primary? Is he yanking the Republicans’ chain by sending phony run-for-president revelations to a whole bunch of politicians at once, just so he can watch them duke it out amongst themselves? Either they’re praying to Loki and don’t know it, or else God has the mentality of a small child who puts two bugs in a jar and tries to get them to fight.
Or maybe – just maybe – there is no supernatural campaign consultant who takes a special interest in humanity in general, or the Iowa caucuses specifically. Maybe when politicians say they hear God’s voice telling them to run for office, all they’re really hearing is their own not-so-secret desire, reflected back to them in the distorting mirror of religious faith.