Madison Cawthorn, the Republican party’s latest square-jawed hope, has given few interviews since he was elected to serve in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional district. But recently, perhaps in an attempt to distance himself from accusations of racism and the 2017 Instagram posts in which he gushed about visiting the “Füher’s” vacation home, the newly elected representative granted a 30-minute interview to Jewish Insider, a publication focusing on “U.S. politics, philanthropy and business news with a Jewish angle.”
It would appear, however, that whichever of Cawthorne’s handlers booked this interview and allowed him to talk about converting Jews to Christianity miscalculated somewhere along the way.
In the interview, Cawthorn does his best to strike the stately tone of an elected official rather than the kind of trolling teenager who’d tweet “cry more, lib” moments after a victory: As he tells Jewish Insider, he’s a big fan of infrastructure, has little use for the “military industrial complex,” and will “respect the office” in the extremely likely event Biden becomes president.
The interview veered into rather thorny territory, however, when it turned to religion. Cawthorn, who is a part-time preacher and comes from a family of what he calls “fun Christians” and “a bunch of true frickin’ believers,” insisted to Jewish Insider he would respect the separation of church and state: He also asked the fact that he’d read the Q’aran be off the record before consenting to have it printed, adding that he’d converted “several Muslims to Christ” because of his familiarity with the religious text.
Similarly Cawthorn, perhaps unfamiliar with the contours of his audience, told the publication that actually, funny they would ask, he’d absolutely tried to convert several Jews in the past:
Had he ever tried to convert any Jews to the Christian faith?
“I have,” he said with a laugh. “I have, unsuccessfully. I have switched a lot of, uh, you know, I guess, culturally Jewish people. But being a practicing Jew, like, people who are religious about it, they are very difficult. I’ve had a hard time connecting with them in that way.”
Cawthorn expressed a similar sentiment during a July 2019 sermon at a church in Highlands, North Carolina. “If you have Jewish blood running through your veins today,” he told the crowd, mulling on a chapter from the Gospel of Mark, “this might not mean as much to you, but for someone like me, who’s a gentile, this means a lot.”
Cawthorn, who has been accused of harassment and predatory behavior by a number of his former classmates, made an apparent attempt to redeem himself by painting his beliefs as more in the vein of a cool pastor than a soldier in a holy war: His Christian community, he says, are “people who just meet you where you are. If you want to cuss and drink, that’s your prerogative. I cuss and drink. I probably shouldn’t, but, you know.”