Marco Rubio accidentally stumbles on the problem with religious pandering

Marco Rubio is a caricature of the earnestly religious politician. He’s said that the age of the Earth is a big mystery, that being gay is a choice and that abortion should be illegal in all instances — perhaps due to the fact that he currently attends both Catholic and Baptist churches, and he used to be a Mormon. But don’t worry: he’s also said that he doesn’t actually believe any of those things.

Either way, Rubio remains a committed multi-denominational Christian. And at a campaign stop late last month, flagged by RawStory yesterday, he expounded on his religious views when asked how his faith would affect his decision-making as Commander-in-Chief:

It’s a long answer with some decent and relatively non-controversial Christian theology — it’s even somewhat endearing at times — but here’s the part that sticks out. From RawStory:

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

“We are biblically ordered not to be afraid,” Rubio said. “You know why? Because God is telling us that no matter what happens, ‘It is part of my plan. I will give you the strength to endure it whether you like it or not.’”

Rubio noted that he had previously been asked why God would allow terrorist attacks to happen.

“Where was God on 9/11? Where was God in Paris?” he recalled being asked.

“I said, ‘where God always is — on the throne in Heaven,’” he explained. “The question was how could God allow these bad things to happen? It always challenges us to understand that God’s ways are not our ways. What we may interpret as bad, and most certainly is in the case of Paris or 9/11, even that is part of a broader plan for the universe and for our lives that we are just not going to know the answer to. God’s ways are not our ways.”

There are two problems here. First, by saying that everything that happens is part of God’s plan — even the worst things — Rubio is committing himself to the position that 9/11 and the Paris attacks were actually divinely inspired. That’s generally a bad look for a presidential candidate.

Second, and perhaps more important, Rubio is dismissing the entire premise of being Commander-in-Chief. He’s spent a great deal of time talking about how his plan to combat violent extremism (excuse me — [turns on Summer Overture] — radical Islamic terrorism) is the best way to prevent massive terrorist attacks. Like Paris and 9/11. Now he’s telling us that such attacks are unavoidable? That they’re all part of God’s plan? That he can’t really keep us safe? From terrorists or from God?

It would have been enough for him to state the obvious: that God doesn’t take sides in American foreign policy. Instead, he felt the need to repeat some platitudes he heard at one of his three churches. “God plans everything” makes for a good sermon, but it’s terrible policy.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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28 Responses to “Marco Rubio accidentally stumbles on the problem with religious pandering”

  1. Moderator4 says:

    You are skating on thin ice here, GetSmarty. Refrain from ad hominem attacks on other commenters henceforth. This is a warning.

  2. nofauxnews says:

    Rubio believes in getting himself elected, and just like TRUMPy and the rest, will say anything he believes will most appeal to the audience to which he is speaking at the time. Any “religion” he has is purely for theatrical effect.

  3. dcinsider says:

    I’m not sure I agree that most voters believe that god has a divine plan for us. Out of my friends who are religious, very few accept the notion that man was born without free will. If man possess free will, then he or she can alter god’s plan for him or her. One can freely decide to sin (and often do), according to most religions, and that sin is not part of god’s plan as you describe it.

    Now if you are talking about a more general plan for the universe, I’d be very interested to hear what that plan is. Or is it another thing that god has in store but doesn’t feel like sharing?

  4. dcinsider says:

    The target audience reads at a third grade level, so I’d suggest their message is dead-on.

  5. dcinsider says:


  6. dcinsider says:

    That is true, isn’t it?

    Except, I think, they argue that man can overcome satan’s temptations through faith and belief in god. So I don’t think they give satan equal billing, they just say that satan is strong and can offer his temptations (same sex marriage, chocolate, pot, alcohol, and Democrats) and that good religious people resist these temptations (by voting Republican, eating at Cracker Barrel and Chick-Fil-A, and drinking alcohol in secret).

  7. dcinsider says:

    If you can prove to me that god exists, I’ll capitalize her name.

  8. Craptacular says:

    “Rubio believes in God therefore he’s unelectable? Maybe in North Korea.” – GetSmarty

    Is that what you took from the article? I am not surprised. Ignoring half of what is written in your holy book starts to bleed over into other areas of your life.

    “None of this precludes President Rubio from having a positive impact on the future of our nation and our world.” – GetSmarty

    But only if it is part of god’s plan, amiright?

  9. Craptacular says:

    “How depraved are you?” – GetSmarty

    The question you should be asking yourself is “how depraved is the god I worship?” Doug105 simply called god out on his/her/its actions, and you have the gall to judge Doug105 for labeling your deity a prick for doing prickish things. Try turning that judgmental attitude towards yourself and the god you worship…I seem to remember some passage from a christian holy book about judging others…especially when one’s own moral compass seems to be skewed.

  10. Craptacular says:

    You upvote your own posts every time. Tells me everything I need to know about your narcissism.

  11. rmthunter says:

    Most kids are empathetic. They have to learn to be otherwise.

  12. GetSmarty says:

    How could you call God such a name?

    How depraved are you?

  13. GetSmarty says:

    You capitalize “Syrian” twice but not “god.”

    Tells me everything I need to know about your bias.

  14. GetSmarty says:

    Rubio believes in God therefore he’s unelectable? Maybe in North Korea.

    Jon Green’s criticisms of Rubio are laughable. Most voters believe that God has a divine plan
    for the universe–just as most voters believe that God created the universe.

    None of this precludes President Rubio from having a positive impact on the future of our nation and our world.

  15. FLL says:

    I always wondered about that sneaky dodge. Isn’t it duotheistic rather than monotheistic? I mean, wouldn’t it indicate that the Goody-Two-Shoes God isn’t really in charge, or at least that Satan is equally in charge? I’m just posing an annoying secularist question.

  16. FLL says:

    If God’s ways are unknowable, then maybe Rubio can bring himself to admit that the specific Biblical instructions on topics as complex as human sexuality and the social dynamics between men and women are just Bronze Age fairy tales. There are times when I think that Marco is in the wrong line of work. From the Fusion article that Jon linked to above, here is Rubio’s answer to a reporter’s question about whether he would attend a same-sex wedding if someone in his family or on his staff were getting married to their same-sex partner:

    “If it’s somebody in my life that I care for, of course I would,” Rubio told Ramos in an interview on Wednesday.

    “I’m not going to hurt them simply because I disagree with a choice they’ve made or because I disagree with a decision they’ve made, or whatever it may be,” he added. “Ultimately, if someone that you care for and is part of your family has decided to move in one direction or another or feels that way because of who they love, you respect that because you love them.”

    This is Marco Rubio at his most endearing. Either he should find a different profession or he should take a sabbatical from politics until 2024 when the evangelical Christian political will almost certainly be on life support. Rubio just looks goofy trying to simultaneously be a Catholic, a Baptist and a Mormon just to get votes.

  17. Don Chandler says:

    Side observation: not to mention they mimic each other…in naughty ways. Republicans can be very spiteful–another very childish trait. Some kids actually have empathy–you certainly can’t say that about all republican adults.

  18. 2karmanot says:

    God, get off the throne. There’s a long line waiting.

  19. sane37 says:

    God is paying attention.
    There is no God.

  20. BeccaM says:

    Like I said in another comment elsewhere: If terrorism, violence, and murder are all part of God’s unknowable plan, this alleged super-deity is either a psychotic sadist, or sociopathically indifferent to suffering, or extraordinarily impotent — or some combination of those three things.

    And if we humans are literally incapable of comprehending “God’s ways,” then why are his followers so vehemently certain they know beyond any shadow of a doubt what he has commanded and wants?

    Side observation: Has anyone else noticed how much of the GOP presidential field sounds like a bunch of immature grade-schoolers? Whether it’s Trump with his self-aggrandizing lying, Carson making up stories about things which never happened, or here, Rubio painting a child’s fan-fic depiction of God as a literal person sitting on a literal throne in mythical Narnia Heaven — none of them, with the possible exception of Kasich (a corrupt snake…), express themselves like grown adults.

  21. nicho says:

    God needs to get off the throne and start paying attention.

  22. Ol' Hippy says:

    And to think these folks could have their finger on the nuclear trigger, frightening!!

  23. 2karmanot says:

    Come and sit by me. let’s talk.

  24. 2karmanot says:

    “On the throne in heaven” Oh honey, show me your magic tiara and get in line. “You know why? Because God is telling us that no matter what happens, ‘It is part of my plan…” Why is it that every dim wit Moron in the Republican Party is rising to the surface like pond scum. OhMyGawd—–COULD IT BE, REALLY BE…the end times? Throne in Heaven? Seriously?

  25. The_Fixer says:

    Good grief, what a logic train-wreck.

    God’s ways are not our ways. OK. So then, God whips some death and destruction on us, yet we’re constantly told to be good to each other. Because it’s godly.

    This is a ridiculous collection of words designed to explain away “The Problem of Evil” and it simply is a complete logical fail.

    Back on the short bus, Rubio. You need more learnin’.

  26. dcinsider says:

    He also missed the most obvious dodge that religionists use for such things: “There is Evil in the World.” Satanic support for ISIS is totally consistent with the other BS he spouts, so he missed a good opportunity to connect god with all things good and holy (like gay bashing and rejecting Syrian refugees) and connecting anything negative (like same sex marriage and Syrian refugees) to god’s stand-in satan.

    In other words, he’s so stupid he cannot even get the religious BS message correct.

    Total moron.

  27. Doug105 says:

    So then god plans to be a DICK, and rubio plans to do more nothing like he did on his last job, being absent for more votes than any other senator.

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