American politicians pander to the religious. The tried and true method has been to subscribe strongly to belief in a fairly nondescript ‘Judeo-Christian’ god (with the tacit understanding that the ‘Judeo’ part is only meant to mollify Jewish voters and means nothing more) and only mildly to any given church. That way you minimize the risk of alienating true believers in any faction. That worked for the Republican patron saint Ronald Reagan and for any number of presidents. But fresh out of the gate of the announcement of his candidacy, senator Marco Rubio has run into some problems with giving an answer to what might seem like a simple question: What church do you go to?
It turns out that for Rubio, the answer is complicated. While born and baptized and still in the Catholic church, he has not always maintained the fealty that that church requires. From time to time he has flirted with other religions, first spending three years as a Mormon before returning to Catholicism. Then from 2000 to 2004 he dropped out of Catholicism again and attended exclusively the Christ Fellowship Baptist church.
This church is not one of your run-of-the-mill middle-of-the-road churches that speak mostly about how Jesus loves you. Bruce Wilson has looked into what the church preaches and says it has “an anti-homosexual hiring policy, the promotion of demonology and exorcism, Young Earth creationism, and denial of evolution”, in short pretty much the full spectrum of all the really crazy stuff except perhaps for snake handling. Its pastor Rick Blackwood is fully into the idea that demons are everywhere, just waiting to sink their talons into the unwary. Wilson’s compilation of Blackwood’s statements is quite gripping and it will be interesting to see how much Rubio agrees with his pastor’s views on these things.
But Rubio says that while he was a Baptist there was something missing because he “craved, literally, the Most Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion”. Yes, he literally could not manage without his weekly fix of eating Jesus’s actual body and drinking his actual blood. What to do? He arrived at a compromise. He now says he goes to the Baptist church on Saturday nights and to Catholic mass on Sunday mornings.
So is this eclectic approach to religiosity going to help him aggregate all the Catholic, Baptist, and Mormon votes, not to say money? If so, why not go the full Monty of religious eclecticism and become a Baha’i? Or will each of the religious groups look on him as a dilettante who is not truly committed to the one true church, which just happens to be their own?
Rubio does not seem to realize that there should be a limit to religious pandering even in America. He seems to think that the more religion you have, and the more fervent you are about it, the better, even saying, “I don’t think you can go to church too often”. Well, yes, you obviously can. Given the long history of suspicion especially between Baptists and Catholics in the US and their joint suspicion that Mormons are not Christians at all, I suspect that this lack of commitment to one is not going to go well for him.