No question, the contestants for the Republican presidential nomination are a very conservative bunch, but there is something that sets Texas Sen. Ted Cruz apart from the pack: his endorsements from some of the Religious Right's kookiest voices. Where the 2008 GOP nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, distanced himself from militants on the evangelical fringe, Mr. Cruz proudly embraces them.
Among the most notable -- or notorious -- of these Cruz endorsers is Mike Bickle, the pastor who runs the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. Mr. Bickle has preached that in the "End Times" God will raise up someone to hunt down Jews who fail to accept Christ -- someone, he imagines, in the mold of the most famous Jew hunter of them all, Adolf Hitler. Among Mr. Bickle's other end-of-the-world teachings is that Oprah Winfrey is unwittingly part of a "Harlot movement" that is paving the way for the Antichrist. He also predicts that the gay agenda, which he says is "rooted in the depths of hell," will lead to the elimination of marriage as an institution.
Most recently, Mr. Bickle opined that January's big blizzard on the East Coast was a punishment from God for the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear an appeal of a North Dakota abortion rights ruling that went against the pro-life side.
Another Cruz fan is Bob Vander Plaats, leader of an Iowa-based group called The Family Leader. Of Mr. Cruz, Mr. Vander Plaats says he is "the most consistent and principled conservative" in the nomination race.
One of the principles Mr. Vander Plaats espouses is that the fight against same-sex marriage is equivalent to the 19th century struggle against slavery. Same-sex marriage, he has said, is a "Satanic plot" that will lead to parents marrying their own children. Mr. Vander Plaats has praised Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin for his anti-gay policies. He has proposed the Putin-like idea that students should be taught homosexuality is a public threat on par with smoking.
Then there is Phil Robertson, the "Duck Dynasty" patriarch, who went on the campaign trail in Iowa to promote the Cruz candidacy. At a recent Cruz rally, Mr. Robertson called same-sex marriage "evil," "wicked" and "sinful." Of those politicians and judges who let gay rights prevail, Mr. Robertson said, "We have to rid the earth of them."
Mr. Cruz followed Mr. Robertson onstage and hailed the long-bearded duck call salesman as "a joyful, cheerful, unapologetic voice of truth."
The political question is whether Mr. Cruz shares the beliefs of his apocalyptically-minded fans or if he is just pandering. As his victory in the Iowa caucuses proved, there is a rich vein of voters to be mined on the far edges of the evangelical community. They want a champion who does not shun them for believing that gay marriage is one more indicator of the nearing Apocalypse.
Some among them speculate that the Evil One, the Lord of the Flies, the Antichrist who will rise up to rule the planet prior to the final battle and Christ's return to Earth, is already among us and that he just might be none other than Barack Obama. (Ex-Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann -- who had her own brief bloom in the polls during her ill-fated run for the GOP nomination in 2012 -- warned in a recent radio interview that Mr. Obama could fulfill his wicked mission to bring the world to heel by becoming secretary general ofthe United Nations. And here we all thought the UN was a weak, do-nothing debating society!)
One prominent End Times-believing preacher who is active in the Cruz campaign is Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, who just happens to be the candidate's father. The Rev. Cruz subscribes to Dominionist theology, a school of thought that says Genesis gives true men of faith the right to seize control of government and run the country by Biblical mandates.
Is that vision shared by the younger Mr. Cruz? If so, he needs to win a few more primaries before he takes over. Either that or call on God to send some foul weather to smite Donald Trump and Marco Rubio.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go tolatimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.