Friday, January 29, 2016

The Christian Right, By Any Other Name

Of  all the Republican presidential candidates, Ted Cruz has been most assiduously courting evangelical voters, and with considerable success.  But Senator Rubio is not willing to concede that portion of the electorate to the Texas senator, nor to anyone else. And it was less than two weeks ago that The Atlantic's outspoken and unqualifiedly atheistic Jeffrey Tayler turned his sights on Marco Rubio.

Tayler quotes, in a new campaign ad, Rubio  remarking “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.”   He responds

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 growing atheist constituency in his electorate. We rationalists do not take lightly implicit charges of faith-derangement, which impute to our character and intellect multifarious defects (e.g., wishful thinking, a willingness to accept propositions without substantiation, the need to fear divine retribution to behave decently toward our fellows) from which we do not suffer.

Rubio maintains "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 Chris.  "The struggle,” he adds, “on a daily basis as a Christian is to remind ourselves of this.”   The ad (below) is entitled "Marco Rubio on His Christian Faith" and includes the Senator asserting "the purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan” and "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."

Tayler, who considers himself a  "rationalist" who does not believe "in fairy tales," concludes

You have, Senator, a constitutional right to profess belief in whatever you want. But you have no right to do so unchallenged by those tasked with ferreting out the truth and conveying it to the public. Unfortunately, though, you can broadcast such views throughout the land with little fear of being called out by journalists, who will shy away from religion as too sensitive and personal a topic.

Tayler thus far appears quite prescient, for in Thursday night's debate in Des Moines, Rubio wasn't questioned about his Christian faith, and didn't need to be.  So committed he is that when asked about Chris Christie's shift of position on gun control, Common Core, and the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, Rubio said nothing about gun control, education, the Supreme Court, or Planned Parenthood (another issue Christie has conveniently flipped on), instead replying

Yeah, I would encourage people to go on my website,, and we’ll put all the facts up there so people can see it for themselves. But you’ve just asked a very fundamental question about the role of faith in our country. And I think this is an important question. I think if you do not understand that our Judeo-Christian values are one of the reasons why America is such a special country, you don’t understand our history. You see, why are we one of the most generous people in the world — no, the most generous people in the world? Why do Americans contribute millions of dollars to charity?

It is not because of the tax writeoff. It is because in this nation, we are influenced by Judeo-Christian values that teach us to care for the less fortunate, to reach out to the needy, to love our neighbor. This is what’s made our nation so special.

And you should hope that our next president is someone that is influence by their faith. Because if your faith causes you to care for the less fortunate, it is something you want to see in your public figures. And when I’m president, I can tell you this, my faith will not just influence the way I’ll govern as president, it will influence the way I live my life. Because in the end, my goal is not simply to live on this earth for 80 years, but to live an eternity with my creator. And I will always allow my faith to influence everything I do.

There was no explanation from the Florida senator of the impact of those Judeo-Christian values upon slavery, the violent displacement of  native American tribes, or of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II. Most of the individuals responsible for those policies also considered themselves Christian.

Asked about his electability, Rubio began his response "Well, let me be clear about one thing, there’s only one savior and it’s not me. It’s Jesus Christ who came down to earth and died for our sins." In his closing statement, Rubio was determined that potential caucus-goers recognize the appeal he was making and so stated "the bible commands us to let our light shine on the world. For over 200 years, America's light has been shining on the world and the world has never been the same again...."

Such soaring rhetoric is mostly what Rubio believes, or wants voters in Iowa to believe. But it is at least disquieting after two months ago he declared

We are clearly called, in the Bible, to adhere to our civil authorities, but that conflicts with also a requirement to adhere to God’s rules. When those two come in conflict, God’s rules always win. In essence, if we are ever ordered by a government authority to personally violate and sin, violate God’s law and sin, if we’re ordered to stop preaching the gospel, if we’re ordered to perform a same-sex marriage as someone presiding over it, we are called to ignore that. We cannot abide by that because government is compelling us to sin.

This is theocracy, defined by Merriam-Webster as "government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as  divinely guided."  Nobody is ordering anyone to "stop preaching the gospel" or even discouraging anyone from preaching the gospel.  But when Marco Rubio decides that when civil law and what he interprets as God law conflict, "God's law" is to prevail, he is advocating a  theocracy.  And there already is too much theocracy, mostly Islamic, in the world.

John Adams argued that government should be of laws, not of men, a concept foreign to Marco Rubio, one of the media's favorite Republican "moderates."  When one claims immunity from the civil law because of alleged religious belief,  privilege has smashed a hole in the wall of separation between church and state.

Note: The initial version of this post omitted the sentence "asked about his electability...." 

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