Remember the scene in the Sopranos where Tony Soprano strangles Ralph Cifaretto, a “rat”?

James Gandolfini, the actor who played Tony Soprano, was a master of his craft. His portrayal of an evil Mafia boss was flawless. Watching him you can imagine this is real, this is how a Mafia boss behaves, this is what life as a New Jersey Mafia boss is like.

But it was all an act. Gandolfini was a successful actor, not a Mafia boss. In the movie Zero Dark Thirty he is equally convincing as the CIA Director.

For the past four decades almost all politicians have been actors. What the electorate sees in public is a carefully choreographed script. Behind the scenes an army of media experts, advisers and speech writers coach their clients on what to say, how to deliver the “message”, what clothes to wear, what answers to give to questions and every other aspect of the performance.  What you see is as much a movie production as Star Wars and often has as little relationship to reality.

I don’t mean that the participants in a debate are colluding. What’s real is that each of the participants in the Republican or Democrat debates genuinely wants to be president. Each of them is trying to convince you that he or she is the best person for the job while trying to wrong-foot their rivals.

But each of them is trying to follow a script carefully planned in advance with their advisers. What they say, the way they answer, their body language, is more often than not what their advisers tell them will appeal to segments of the audience they are trying to win over. The advisers will in turn have conducted polls and focus groups to “test drive” various messages.

In short, the candidates you see debating each other on TV are actors putting on a polished performance.

To their advisers the candidate is a “product” to be sold.

Now, back to my question, is Ted Cruz a Christian?

More than any other candidate Cruz has emphasized his Evangelical Christian credentials from announcing his candidacy at the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University to walking out of a conference on persecuted Christians because of their refusal to support Israel. Here’s how Christian Post describes him.

5 Interesting Facts About Ted Cruz’s Christian Faith

Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced his presidential bid at Liberty University, a well-known conservative, Christian college founded by Jerry Falwell. It’s a testament to his faith and Southern Baptist roots that have kept him grounded throughout his life. But here are five facts you may not know about Cruz’s personal faith.

The article then goes on to describe aspects of Cruz’s faith including the following.

While Cruz says that government should protect the religious rights of people, leaders should avoid using their faith for political gain.

So is Ted Cruz the real deal? Is he a Christian or is it part of an act?

I don’t know. Unless you’re a confidante of his neither do you. There’s just no way for an ordinary voter to know.

And that’s the point I want to make. What you see is theater. It’s showmanship. There’s just no way for most of us to peek behind the scenes. Ted Cruz may be a sincere Baptist Christian or it may be all an act like James Gandolfini playing Tony Soprano. It may be somewhere in between.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could see behind the curtain as Dorothy did in The Wizard of Oz?

In real life we can’t. In real life the curtain stays put.

But what we can do is remember always that the curtain is there.