A Big Political Year for Adventists

As someone hostile to the quasi-royalist tendency in American politics to insist on the mandatory participation of politicians’ families in their public lives, I normally wouldn’t have anything to say about the religious background of Ted Cruz’s wife. But since his presidential campaign is going to have massive religious overtones–as illustrated by his choice of Liberty University as the launching pad–and because it will almost certainly be a family affair (viz. his outlandish father’s regular role as a warm-up act at campaign rallies), it seems worth mentioning in passing that Heidi Nelson Cruz is from a very prominent Seventh Day Adventist family in San Luis Obispo, California.

Her great-grandfather was president of the Adventist Loma Linda University, and Heidi herself graduated from an Adventist boarding school near Watsonville. Her father, a dentist, and her brother, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, have followed the rich Adventist tradition of devotion to health care careers and medical missionary work.

You may recall there is another prominent Adventist surgeon who has been making political news this year: Ted Cruz’ rival Dr. Ben Carson.

I have no idea what Heidi Cruz’s religious beliefs or affiliations are today, but I assume they are acceptable to her outspokenly Southern Baptist husband and her fiery Dominionist father-in-law.

In conjunction with Carson’s faith, Heidi Cruz’ background could draw attention because for all their good press for valuable charitable and medical work, Adventists remain controversial for their peculiar dietary rules, their history of intense anti-Catholicism and criticisms of Sunday worship practices by other Christians, and their preoccupation with the End Times. Maybe such personal religious issues will not prominently enter the 2016 presidential campaign, but it would probably help if the candidates stopped making open appeals for sectarian support–starting with Heidi Nelson Cruz’ husband.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.