By Tony Perkins
You didn’t have to be in Lynchburg, Virginia to hear the starting gun of the 2016 presidential race. The first out of the gate was Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who distanced himself from the competition by announcing his campaign for liberty at Liberty.
Anxious to get a lead on the crowded GOP field, Senator Cruz picked the largest Christian university in America to announce his candidacy. Senator Cruz’s presence on campus this morning followed a long line of presidential candidates who have fanned the flames of conservatism on Liberty’s campus. Still, today’s speech was significant in that it not only signaled the start of the effort to win the support of evangelical voters (which made up almost 50% of the primary vote in the 2012 presidential cycle), but it once again flies in the face of the pundits who are eager to eulogize social conservatives or the “Religious Right.”
But, as this morning’s enthusiastic auditorium of thousands of young evangelicals showed, the movement is more alive than ever in the hearts and minds of the next generation. The proud legacy of the school’s founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, a man unafraid of speaking truth, was as much on stage this morning as the Senator occupying it. While the Republican Establishment would like nothing better than to write off the social wing of the party, Ted Cruz just proved how vital a role these conservatives continue to play.
Trending: Former Kavanaugh Law Clerk Speaks Out
“Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting,” he said. “They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.” As a graduate of Liberty, I can appreciate that it didn’t become the largest Christian university in the world by compromising on truth. And like us, Senator Cruz seems to understand that the next generation of believers is looking for conviction — not a milquetoast version of the Gospel that requires nothing. “From the dawn of this country,” Senator Cruz explained, “at every stage America has enjoyed God’s providential blessing. Over and over again, when we face impossible odds, the American people rose to the challenge.”
He asked the auditorium of Liberty students to be those people, the next generation of patriots willing to take their nation back. It’s time to “get back to principles,” he said to huge applause. That means, he explained, repealing ObamaCare and Common Core, abolishing the IRS, securing the border, protecting privacy rights and the Second Amendment, honoring the Constitution, giving every child the right to a quality education, and — as students erupted in cheers — “standing unapologetically with the nation of Israel.” But all of that, he warned, is impossible without first recognizing “that our rights don’t come from man. They come from God Almighty.” While some Republicans seem embarrassed by their faith, Senator Cruz embraced it, making a point to share his testimony and the “transformative love of Jesus Christ.”
“Instead of a federal government that wages an assault on our religious liberty,” he said, “imagine a federal government that stands for the First Amendment rights of every American.” Instead of a government that “undermines our values,” he told the crowd, “imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life and to uphold the sacrament of marriage.”
Given the backdrop of the Obama administration, the Texas senator couldn’t have painted a starker contrast between his priorities and the current President’s. And while the race to the nomination is sure to get interesting, Senator Cruz certainly raised the bar in competing for the social conservative vote. This nation is desperate for a pendulum shift — and evangelicals’ response will largely determine if it gets one.
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.