Shades of Salem: The Puritans are astir again. The stakes are being driven into the ground. The kindling is being laid. The burning brands flicker. They highlight the features of the servants of darkness.
Lo and behold, it's not the witches of Salem, but Rafael Cruz and his spawn, Ted.
In the temples of today's neo-puritanism the sentence has been passed: Ted Cruz speaks with "pagan brutalism". Worse, he utters "dark and satanic tones". Others, like the bright-eyed Mark Rubio, are pulled into the devilish vortex emanating from the spawn-child.
The "pagan brutalism" characterization appeared January 12 in the hallowed transepts of The New York Times. The "satanic tones" accusation was preached from the lofty pulpit of the public television temple, specifically, the "PBS Newshour" on January 8.
The Cotton Mather who stood in those auspicious institutions of puritanical political correctness was David Brooks, a writer of much skill, distinction, and erudition. I am serious in those accolades, and that makes Brooks' over-the-top characterizations of the Cruzes in the Times and on PBS sadder.
Though he's probably gotten a bad rap, Cotton Mather is depicted in Arthur Miller's, The Crucible — the staged cliché foisted on scores of high school drama students and their long-suffering parents (I have seen it more than once) — as the epitome of the heartless Puritan.
Audiences leave at high levels of alert, scanning the horizon for the modern puritanical tyrants who will deprive people of free speech and belief. Everyone knows today that they mass on the far end of the right wing. The high priests of secular culture tell us so endlessly.
Miller's audiences would never expect to find authoritarianism in the ignoble, disguised progressivism of our age that kidnapped and executed classical liberalism. Thus one is surprised that a writer as smart as David Brooks — who has shown as well as anyone that genuine conservatism and classical liberalism are akin — would don the Cotton Mather three-cornered hat.
The seventeenth-century New England Puritans all had bony fingers, no doubt, with which they pointed out the satanic witches. I have never observed David Brooks' fingers, and don't know if they are bony or not, but they are certainly raised in the direction of father and son Cruz, accusing them of satanic witchery.
Rafael has been here before. Tortured by Batista's thugs in pre-Castro Cuba, then assailed by Fidel's gangsters, Rafael is no stranger to the flame. He's the feisty sort who will spit in the eye of the flunky who lights the flames at his feet. Rafael has passed on his pluck to his son.
In light of the high commentary that is Brooks' clear aim I could not imagine anyone labeling him a practitioner of tabloid-style yellow journalism. By the same token I know Rafael Cruz personally, and something of Ted Cruz' character, since he is a graduate of the school of Second Baptist Church Houston, where I am senior associate pastor. It is beyond belief that someone would suggest the Cruzes are "satanic" and "brutal pagans", even in metaphorical style.
David Brooks has not so much tarnished Rafael and Ted Cruz as he has smeared his own credibility as a fair commentator on today's issues. Maybe that's why, in the face of PBS Newshour anchor Judy Woodruff's surprise at his January 8 characterization, Brooks said, "I withdraw the satanic from Ted Cruz," and modified it to "Mephistophelian". Mephistopheles is the demon who aims to steal Faust's soul in Goethe's famous drama. Maybe Ted Cruz is stealing Marco Rubio's soul. Who might be next?
Rather than Rafael and Ted Cruz, I find Brooks' style sinister. I have written here previously of the sequence by which Christians are removed from the public square: caricaturization to marginalization to vilification to villainization to criminalization to elimination. Brooks, sadly, verifies my theory.
People in seventeenth century New England had every cause to wonder if Mather and his cohorts constituted the shape of things to come. If Cruz is already 'Mephistophelian' — maybe even a "brutal pagan" who is "satanic" — where will this thing go from here?
Is this the shape of things to come in the presidential election ahead?
Whatever the case, Rafael Cruz won't go meekly to the burning, and neither will his son.