Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz isn’t backing away from the endorsement of Mike Bickle, a controversial evangelical pastor who once characterized Hitler as “a hunter” sent by God to go after Jews who don’t to convert to Christianity.
Despite calls from Jewish groups to denounce Bickle’s interpretation of scripture, a senior advisor to Cruz instead welcomed the pastor’s support in a statement published today in the Jewish Journal.
Bickle, who runs the Kansas City-based International House of Prayer, made the Hitler comment during a 2011 sermon where he discussed two methods he believes God will use to convert the world’s Jewish population to Christianity — grace and violence.
After discussing the “fishermen” that will use “grace” to persuade Jews to convert, Bickle turned his attention to the “hunters” he believes will use violence toward the same end.
“And [the Lord] says, ‘And if they don’t respond to grace, I’m going to raise up the hunters,'” Bickle said. “And the most famous hunter in recent history is a man named Adolf Hitler.”
Last month, Cruz trumpeted Bickle’s endorsement in a post on his website. In the post, Bickle is quoted as saying, “We need a president who will work to defend religious liberty, uphold our Constitution, keep our country safe and our economy sound, and speak truth to the nation. We have been praying for righteous leaders, and Ted Cruz is such a leader. I am enthusiastically endorsing Ted Cruz.”
Later in the post, Cruz says, “Through prayer, the Lord has changed my life and altered my family’s story… I am grateful for Mike’s dedication to call a generation of young people to prayer and spiritual commitment. Heidi and I are grateful to have his prayers and support. With the support of Mike and many other people of faith, we will fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith.”
As you’d expect, Cruz’s embrace of Bickle’s endorsement doesn’t sit well with Jewish groups. Both the Anti-Defamation League and the National Jewish Democratic Council called on Cruz to clarify his opinion on Bickle’s views, according to a report in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, with the NJDC characterizing Cruz’s acceptance of Bickle’s endorsement as “profoundly troubling.”
But in a statement published in the Jewish Journal, Cruz Senior Advisor Nick Muzin refused to repudiate Bickle’s endorsement.
“Our campaign welcomes support from faith leaders across the country,” Muzin said. “Mike Bickle is one of the hundreds who have endorsed us. My understanding is that he was paraphrasing the words of the prophets Jeremiah and Zechariah.”
“I know that he has made support for Israel and the Jewish people a central part of his mission. No one has a better record than Senator Cruz when it comes to standing with Israel, fighting against radical Islamic terror, and combating global anti-Semitism. That is why he has been endorsed by over 70 rabbis and Jewish leaders from across the country, including leaders of major Jewish organizations.”
Jewish Journal reports that Muzin also forwarded along a statement from Bickle, who said, “There are several false statements being promoted by the liberal press that distort what I believe.”
“I am very committed to Israel — so is the ministry of IHOP,” Bickle continues. “My point in sharing Zechariah 12:1-3 and Zechariah 14:1-3 and Jeremiah 16 and especially Zechariah 13:8-9, is to stir the church up to stand with Israel in time of a future persecution as foretold by most of the Jewish prophets in the Bible. My message is that the Church must respond like Corrie Ten Boom’s family by standing with Israel instead of drawing back in fear and silence…”
On his website, Cruz, whose evangelical beliefs have been the subject of controversy, has a page devoted to his staunchly pro-Israel views.
“We must make clear to the world that the U.S.-Israel alliance is once again a strategic bedrock for the United States,” Cruz’s website says. “America’s security is significantly enhanced by a strong Israel. Israel has been, is, and always will be the Middle East bulwark in defense of the West. Our American-Israeli alliance is something to celebrate.”
“Not one penny of American tax dollars should go to an organization that incites hatred against Jews and seeks to partner with the terrorist group Hamas,” the page continues. “We should move to defund the United Nations if it continues its anti-Israel bias and withdraw federal funding from any American university that boycotts Israel.”