At a campaign stop in Iowa, Justin Scott confronted Senator Marco Rubio over whether he is running for Commander-in-Chief or “pastor in chief.” Scott, by the way, is an atheist.Scott asked Rubio how he plans to be a president for atheists too, bringing up a recent video ad in which Rubio talks entirely about his faith. Scott said atheists want candidates who will “uphold their rights as Americans and not pander to a certain religious group.”
Rubio said that Scott has a perfect right to “believe in nothing at all,” explaining, “No one’s gonna force you to believe in God, but no one’s gonna force me to stop talking about God.” Rubio then talked about his personal faith and his belief in life after death before telling Scott that he “should hope my faith influences you.”
The video ad referred to above is entitled “Marco Rubio on His Christian Faith” and here is what Rubio says in the ad: “Our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our Creator and for all time, to accept the free gift of salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ. The struggle on a daily basis as a Christian is to remind ourselves of this. The purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan, to those who much has been given much is expected and we will be asked to account for that. Were your treasures stored up on earth or in Heaven and to me I try to allow that to influence me in everything that I do.”
I would just like to remind Senator Rubio that he is running for the Office of President of the United States and not for the Chaplain of the Senate. This ad should actually frighten even the most devout Christian, because it says that Rubio will be a President and Commander-in-Chief who will use the Word of God (the Bible) instead of the Constitution to govern, and that his goal is, in fact, to be with God “for all time.”
One of the most annoying things about religious folks is that they just cannot keep their “good news” to themselves. Senator Marco Rubio is one of them and his latest campaign ad in Iowa is all about how much he loves Jesus. For Rubio, in the United States having faith in Jesus is all that matters when it comes to governing. That, I submit, is deranged thinking of the first magnitude.
The so-called “faith-derangement syndrome” afflicts the undeniably young and intelligent, and most notably among the Republican contenders for the White House, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. I will deal with Ted Cruz in a future post, so for now, let me concentrate on Marco Rubio. After all, he is a serious contender for the Republican nomination for president.
Marco Rubio is a lifelong Roman Catholic, except when he was a Mormon, or when he is a kind of Baptist, or when the pope says something he does not like. Rubio once converted to Mormonism in the 1970s, but currently identifies himself with both the Roman Catholic Church and the extremist, pro-creationism, anti-gay, pro-exorcist Christ Fellowship, a Christian megachurch affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention located in Miami, Florida. He apparently attends services at Christ Fellowship quite frequently.
In the Rubio ad, as a pianist taps out a sleep-inducing bland tune that would befit an ad for a funeral parlor, Rubio, seated against a dark backdrop, explains the delicate balance he strives to achieve in melding his faith and career as a lawmaker, as well as offering detailed, faith-inspired plans for governing the United States in a time of international turmoil and domestic discontent.
No, wait! Rubio leaves out the plans for international turmoil abroad and domestic discontent at home. He uses his campaign ad to talk only about his religion. I may be naïve but I have labored under the assumption that campaign ads were supposed to at least have something to do with politics?
Anyway, I want to dissect Rubio’s message line by line. He opens with a statement that is presumptive, irrelevant to the office he seeks, theologically contentious, and tritely superfluous. He says: “Our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our Creator and for all time, to accept the free gift of salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ.”
Our goal? Assuming Rubio is not using the “royal we” reserved for monarchs and other heads of state, he is, by speaking for the rest of us, insulting the non-Christian, agnostic, and atheistic constituency in his electorate. Whether the senator believes in such nonsensicalities is really none of my business. It is, however, the business of the United States Constitution. Article VI of the Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” There is no need for him to drone on about his faith to the electorate. One does not have to be a person of faith – any faith – to be President of the United States. Period.
And what about the “free gift” of salvation? (Which gifts, Senator, does one have to pay for?) Admittedly, however, for those inclined to waste time scouring ancient texts for salvation truths, there is an issue to be explored here. The Mormon faith Rubio once dabbled in does mandate salvation by Jesus. And in Roman Catholicism, you have to help Jesus boost you heavenward by slavishly obeying the Lord’s commands. Protestants generally abide by the sola fide principle, which proclaims that God-dispensed faith alone, not works, will guarantee entrance into heaven. Rubio, in attending the Roman Catholic Church plus the evangelical Christ Fellowship, has attempted to cover both bases. However – and more to the point – why should “salvation” even be a matter for discussion on the campaign trail?
Rubio then says in his ad: “The struggle, on a daily basis as a Christian is to remind ourselves of this.”
Here he doubles down on his presumption, stressing, for those who missed it, the sectarian nature of his declaration. He is, after all, appealing for support to Christians alone – not Jews, not Muslims, not Buddhists, not Hindus. The Founding Fathers, to thwart sectarian influence in governance, wrote the aforementioned Article VI. Sectarian pandering should play no role in running for public office. I suspect that Senator Rubio never received that memo.
Next he says: “The purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan.”
What is the objective evidence for such a comprehensive assertion – for both the existence of a supernatural being named God, and for that being’s guidelines pertaining to us? Straightaway, I believe that we should discount the Bible – an assortment of texts authored during ancient times by unknown humans who knew nothing of biology, of physics (Newtonian or quantum), of the empirical method, of either a priori or a posteriori knowledge, or even of why we should wash our hands after using the bathroom. I believe that we should immediately reject “personal revelation” as unverifiable and subject to falsification. So, too, we should exclude out of hand, tradition and circumstantial justifications (you were born in a predominantly Christian country, therefore you are Christian). Finally, we should refuse to fall for philosophical ruses that categorize truth as either “scientific” (subject to verification) or “religious” (supernatural or metaphysical). It boils down to this: We should demand evidence – hard evidence – of both of the deity and his plan. I personally do not see any evidence of a plan. Ask six million Jews – God’s chosen people – what God’s plan was for them during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany!
Continuing, Rubio declares: “To those who much has been given, much is expected and we will be asked to account for that, were your treasures stored up on earth or in Heaven.”
Apart from the strange syntax here, hidden in Rubio’s use of the passive voice is a classic begging the question, that is to say, taking as a premise that which you are asserting as a conclusion. In other words, by assuming a divine “giver” and by that assumption, ignoring the labors of his parents to provide him with a decent upbringing, and also his own efforts to succeed, as well as a complex network of contingent circumstances over which he had no control (place and date of birth, for example), Rubio disregards the real story of his life. It is a good story and it exemplifies the American Dream. Rubio’s progress from a son of Cuban parents who departed their island under the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in 1956 (and who did not flee the Fidel Castro regime, as Rubio once so-self-servingly led voters to think) to a presidential hopeful, is a story that is worth examining, but not one about which one heads to a church pew in order to consult the Lord. I know that Rubio wants to “give God the glory,” but how about giving his parents credit as well as his own persistence to achieve his lofty goals?
As for treasures, Senator Rubio, please elaborate what you mean, specifically regarding those treasures that you have stashed in heaven. In other words, “up there” where heaven supposedly is – in the minus 270.15 degree Celsius or minus 459.67 degree Fahrenheit hard vacuum known as outer space – the IRS, along with the rest of us, are most curious to know how you transferred those treasures out there, how you have accessed them, and what the rate of return is. If you cite the Lord as your broker and account manager, is he complying with new FATCA regulations (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) applying to banks abroad? If so, please have him provide documentation, and append it to your tax returns, which we presume you will make public at some point. Now that might be real proof of God’s existence!
Rubio closes with: “I try to allow that to influence me in everything that I do.” This statement is just more begging the question and enough has been noted above about that.
The crushing banality, the devastating dullness, and the overwhelming unoriginality of everything Rubio says in his ad evokes in me something akin to astonishment. Absolutely any convinced Christian could have uttered the exact same words, which are nothing more than what is heard from Christian pulpits across this nation on any Sunday morning. That Rubio chose to speak thusly before the camera shows just how abysmally low the expectations of the faith-addled really are: offer them mind-deadening boredoms and sit back and wait for the hosannas, the hallelujahs, and the praise the Lords that are sure to issue from that segment of the public that will not think for itself, but has to be told fairy tales to feel comfortable about voting for a candidate.
So let me be shamelessly presumptuous here and point out a few things to the junior senator from Florida.
To wit: Senator Rubio, rationalists, like myself, find ourselves compelled to draw disturbing conclusions from your ad. You choose to address a similarly deluded portion of your electorate as yourself, ignoring reasonable, rational people and discounting their sensibilities. You present your faith as supporting your qualification for the highest office in the land at a turbulent time in history when the United States needs a serious, clear-minded commander-in-chief. This ad says a great deal about your judgment. To handle the crises we face, and those to come, we will need most of all, a mature leader with keen, reality-based judgment.
Senator Rubio, you seem to be more concerned about the afterlife than about your current life, as evidenced by the opening words in your ad: “Our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our Creator and for all time.” Is that statement supposed to make you qualified to lead this country? Is that statement the driving force for every single thing you do as you claim in this ad?
If so, such thinking is why other countries make fun of us: such pandering drivel passes for political debate in this country. In a not-so-religious nation as ours, such declarations would be a sure sign of how little substance a candidate brings to the table. Since Rubio cannot garner votes based on his merits, his record, or his expertise, he is campaigning on the hope that believing in this faith story will propel him to the top.
After watching the Iowa caucuses this week, what is so depressing – what is so disturbing to me – is that it probably will help him.