ONE OF AMERICA'S unacknowledged problems is the national calendar shortage. It is not a general problem but restricted only to a segment of the population, although an influential one.

Unfortunately, the calendar-challenged group is composed mostly of Republicans. No doubt some Democrats are also a few calendars short of a load and are similarly living in the past, but recent news indicates where the phenomenon has proliferated.

One sign of calendar deficiency is the start of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Canada, the first major candidate to declare, announced his candidacy at Liberty University, Va., which he acknowledged as the largest Christian university in the world.

This, of course, served his main purpose.

Cruz wanted to make abundantly clear that he is running for some high ecclesiastical position. It is apparently not pope, because that job is already filled by someone whose sense of Christian decency is suspiciously liberal in its concern for suffering humanity.

For Cruz, as the leader of a revived Christian America, his idea of suffering humanity would be to make some parts of it suffer some more. For example, he would end what he calls Obamacare now that it has become a godsend to millions of previously uninsured Americans.

As for gay Americans, they would be put in their place, right quick. As president-archbishop-ayatollah and defender of the faith, Cruz would "uphold the sacrament of marriage," which assumes that all Americans are married in church and not in town halls or in other secular ceremonies in which sacraments are not part of the deal.

Even a messianic-minded politician ought to know that just because a marriage is between one man and one woman doesn't make it a sacrament, for example when it is performed at a drive-in chapel and the officiant is an Elvis impersonator.

This stirring of old resentments, this rekindling of the culture war that seemed lost, comes as a source of amazement to those of us with calendars - and indeed history books, which are full of accounts of wretched unfairness when governments think religious morality is their business.

It's 2015, for goodness' sakes! We have been there and done that. As more and more gay Americans have married, Americans have become less and less shocked. And now Ted Cruz wants to put the nation in reverse.

Theocracy, here we come. Society's scapegoats, please assemble on the left for processing. Those of you to be thrown out of Obamacare, please have the decency not to make a scene when you are ill. Praise the Lord and pass the animosity.

Of course, Ted Cruz has no chance of becoming president, even if an unnatural reading of the Constitution were to declare him a natural-born citizen. He is the candidate only of those who don't want to wear canvas underpants to keep them chafed and energized but like politics to do the job, especially if it makes them feel holy.

The trouble is that Ted Cruz does not have the monopoly on crazy in GOP ranks. With a supreme disregard for what year it is, and how America has changed, plenty of Republican politicians are faithfully trying to insert the Almighty into the unholy precincts of politics. As Prince sang, they want to party like it's 1999 (1959, more like it). And, as always, they dress up prejudice in righteous garments.

The latest example comes from Indiana, where the Republican-led Religious Freedom Restoration Act has caused bitter resentment and has Gov. Mike Pence talking about another statute to clarify the recently passed original.

Critics contend that the law would make it easier for gays to be discriminated against on religious grounds, say by protecting a baker whose moral sense is so scrupulous that he can't bring himself to make a cake for a gay couple's wedding. Its defenders say the bill's effects have been exaggerated.

But, oh, the horror, of applying icing in such a situation. When it comes to cases of religious conscience, this may be the exact point where the sublime meets the ridiculous. Of course, they had to pass a law.

Common sense suggests that a baker who doesn't want to bake a cake for a gay wedding should find another line of work, ditto a florist who won't send flowers without pronouncing judgment on the moral fitness of the customers. Discrimination doesn't need new excuses.

Republicans, want to have a prayer of beating Hillary Clinton? Get some 2016 calendars and act as if you know what year it is.

Reg Henry is a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist.