Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is betting that an old-time religious revival will deliver him victory in South Carolina’s GOP primary on Saturday.
When Cruz announced Thursday that 300 Christian leaders across the state had endorsed him, it was the culmination of what the campaign has dubbed “Operation Gideon.”
It’s an alliance among a close-knit group of prominent Christians in South Carolina who are leveraging their positions as faith leaders to influence their thousands of followers to join them in supporting the Texas senator for president.
Among Cruz’s most influential supporters in the 300: Bob Jones III, the chancellor of the influential conservative Christian university in the state that shares his name; Ed Lofton, parish priest for an enormous Catholic church in Summerville; and the Revs. Stephen Williamson, Andy Wells and Chad Watson, who together are credited with arranging a Christian rally on the steps of the state capitol last summer that drew at least 10,000.
There’s also Bill Monroe, the pastor of the largest Baptist church in South Carolina, as well as Tommy Kelly and Skip Owens, the current and former presidents of the state’s Southern Baptist Convention.
“This is something I’ve not seen in my lifetime,” Watson said. “You have pastors and faith leaders across the state that maybe normally wouldn’t join together — people with doctrinal differences — but for sake of religious liberty, they’re laying those differences aside to stand with Cruz.”
The “Operation Gideon” tag and the 300 members it counts as activists are pulled from an Old Testament story in the book of Judges, at a time when the Bible says the people of Israel had turned their backs on the Lord.
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