Fasting for Ted Cruz: GOP presidential contender's appeal raises spiritual and political questions

With crucial primaries in Ohio and Florida today, the lead front-page story in the Dallas Morning News concerns Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's prospects:

The Morning News reports:

GLEN ELLYN, Ill. — Ted Cruz’s future hinges on contests Tuesday in Ohio and Florida. He’ll almost certainly lose both states.
The key is whether Donald Trump wins. If he knocks out John Kasich and Marco Rubio in their home states, it will set up the two-man contest for the Republican presidential nomination that Cruz has craved for months — but it also might pad Trump’s delegate lead so much that the Texan can’t capitalize.
Polls show Kasich in a close fight and Rubio in deep trouble. Stumping in Tampa on Monday, Trump declared that if he wins Ohio and Florida, “It’s pretty much over.”
Most analysts agree, though Cruz vows to soldier on.
Trump has won a majority of the contests already. He’s collected more than a third of the delegates needed to secure the nomination on a first ballot.
The Cruz camp remains convinced the senator has a shot not just of forcing a floor fight at the Cleveland convention in July, but also of winning enough delegates beforehand to clinch the nomination.

The politics are definitely interesting. But it was a different, smaller Cruz story -- this one on Page 9A of the Dallas newspaper -- that tingled your friendly neighborhood GetReligionista's spidey sense. The headline on that one:

Fast for Cruz, prayer team urges in email

And the subhead:

Candidate ignores query on whether he was forgoing food

OK, obviously this, too, is a political story. I mean, that's the case with any news report about someone running for president, right? I get that. But isn't there a potential -- even a need -- for the Morning News to address the religion angle, as well?

Let's see if that occurs:

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign asked supporters Monday to consider fasting for the presidential hopeful, one day before delegate-rich primaries that could cement front-runner Donald Trump’s grip on the Republican presidential nomination. ...
An email from Cruz’s prayer team urged “fellow prayer warriors” to bow their heads and abstain from food on behalf of voters in Tuesday’s contests.
Cruz ignored a question shouted by a reporter in Glen Ellyn, Ill., as to whether he was personally fasting Monday.
The prayer team email read: “Many of you have prayerfully interceded and fasted on your own for our nation and for Ted Cruz, the candidate we believe God will use to reignite the promise of America.” It urged voters to do so again, and pray that “each person would discern the difference between [God’s] wisdom and the distraction of false messages.”

That lede is pretty straightforward, but will the rest of the piece explain the spiritual meaning of fasting for evangelicals like Cruz?

Actually, nope.

Instead of quoting a theological source, the Morning News seeks input on the politics:

But for a presidential candidate to ask supporters to fast ahead of a voting contest was “certainly unusual,” said Martin Medhurst, a political science professor at Baylor University. He said he could not recall such an instance in the last 40 years.
The request is not unusual for Cruz’s campaign, which has lobbied hard for the support of the evangelical right, Medhurst added. “Prayer and fasting often go together,” he said. “Part of what he’s trying to communicate is that this is a crucial moment.”

End of story. 

But I wish the newspaper had delved just a little deeper, and asked a theologian — not a political scientist — about the potential meaning of prayer and fasting for the Cruz campaign and his supporters.

Is Cruz himself fasting? I'd love to know.

Did he ignore the question because he didn't hear it? Or because he was hungry and about to order a pizza? Or perhaps because he didn't want to answer it?

In Matthew 6:6-18, Jesus says:

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Will God reward Cruz?

Stay tuned.

Photo by Rich Koele, via

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