Does Rubio’s malleable religious identity have something to tell us?

It is the American way, it seems. I recall the social ethnographer Joseph Campbell recounting how the religious rituals of native American tribes would shift substantially when they moved from farm to plain. Context is all in religious conviction.

One of the more interesting of the other candidates in the US Republican primaries is Marco Rubio. His parents were Cuban and he was brought up a Catholic, whilst they lived in Florida. When the family moved to Las Vegas they converted (albeit) to Mormonism.

After their return to Florida they went back to Catholicism. Interestingly it is his dual attendance at a Baptist Church and Mass which seems to have ruffled some feathers, although there are those who think having a foot in three fundamentalist camps won’t do him any harm.

And Catholicism brings with it a certain political and economic hazard for all right leaning Catholics these days:

…in 2012, he told Politico’s Mike Allen, “I am a Roman Catholic and support 100 percent the teaching authority of the church.”

In hedging closer to his Catholic roots, however, Rubio inadvertently set himself up for criticism from another class of Catholic faithful: Catholics who skew progressive on many issues, including the pope himself.

When the wildly popular Pope Francis released an apostolic exhortation in 2013 on progressive economics and unveiled a papal encyclical in 2015 calling for action on climate change, Rubio — like other Republican Catholics — found himself in a theological quandary.

Unable to completely reject the moral authority of the Church he worked so hard to reclaim, he attempted to sidestep the debate, claiming the pope could speak authoritatively on some issues, but not others.

In the land gave the world consumerism, Church shopping is something that affects 40% of all Americans, suggesting that identity is much more malleable than we sometimes take for granted in Northern Ireland.

It has always happened within the Protestant community, which if anything is diversifying even further in the era of peace than ever before. Traditionally crossing the Protestant Catholic divide has been a one way ticket with attendant loss of family, traditions and community.

But I wonder if this is beginning to change? The US has come a long way since JFK’s speech in Houston on ‘the religious issue’ in 1960 (transcript).  What about Northern Ireland now the price of being something you shouldn’t be has lessened in peace.

  • Newman

    I lean much further to the left left on issues such as gun control health care and immigration than Senator Rubio, but it is wrong to conflate the teaching authority of the Church with a party political manifesto. There may be overlap as in the dignity of life issue, but on economics and most other political issues there is a wide margin of appreciation for politicians and the Church would not seek to interfere. These nuances are important and much as this may undermine the analysis of an interesting post I think we need to factor in the inconvenient truths.

  • New Yorker

    I don’t think you can come to any conclusions about US trends based on Marco Rubio because he is devoid of any substance. He will do or say anything that either he thinks will advance his career or that his financial backers demand. In current politics VP Biden is probably the most prominent Catholic and I doubt he would hold dual Catholic and Baptist membership, and he is a man of substance.

  • npbinni

    Surely no one still believes in papal infallibility?!
    And climate change is not a doctrinal issue, it’s a fact of nature. The earth has experienced periods a lot warmer than it is today, and we are still here.
    The current fuss over so-called global warming – created by skewing data to fit the desire result and perpetuated by constantly-failing computer predictions (remember GIGO?) – is a storm in a tea cup.

  • npbinni

    Just thinking, does Hiliary’s malleable concept of the sanctity of marriage have something to tell us?

  • Greenflag 2

    Reminds me of the old yarn of the Irishman going overboard somewhere in the South Pacific and finding himself on a small island is intrigued to see two buildings at the other end of the beach .As he approaches they appear to be Churches but made from local materials . As he comes closer he’s astonished to see a heavily bearded unkempt gentleman emerge from one of them and hhe decides to greet him with a friendly ‘Hows she cuttin ‘ . The island dweller replies in a voice and accent which the Irishman recognises as distinctly Welsh . Once introductions were over he finally summons up the courage to ask the Welshman how long he had been on the island –

    2yrs came the reply and no rescue yet !

    Oh dear says the Irishman not good then I can see why you built the one Church but why build two ?


    Well he says pointing to the nearest church -that is the one I go to every Sunday and the other one is the one I don’t go to !

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘because he is devoid of any substance’

    His backer a Florida billionaire who keeps a very low profile has more than enough ‘substance ‘ . Rubio’s religion is money and wherever he can get the most votes . Although of Cuban origin most Floridian hispanics will vote for Clinton .

    As for Mr Biden – Well he’s an old pro and been around since dirt but he was never immune from accepting financial donations from the financial services credit card companies headquartered in his home State of Delaware .

    There isn’t a politician in either main party in the USA who isn’t being financed in part or to greater extent than is generally known by a corporation -financial – Oil -banking you name it , And then there’s the NRA .Anybody going for election who has the temerity to dare change the law re gun ownership will find their political opponent (usually Republican ) getting a huge inflow of funds from the gun lobby ) .

    Trump is the only candidate who does’nt need lobbyists money at this stage . And he’s the leader of the pack of mad dogs (mostly ) . Warmongers , religious fanatics -born again crazies and brain surgeons who know less about the outside world than Sarah Palin 🙁

    Clinton is a shoo in but she is being forced to the left by Bernie Sanders . Once elected she’ll call up Goldman Sachs and thank them for the money and tell them there’ s no need to worry about any of their top executives going to jail as long as she’s in the White House 🙁

  • Greenflag 2

    Tobacco companies lied for decades about their products carcinogens . The Lead companies lied about the neurotoxins being released in urban areas by the lead additive in petrol/gas and now the oil and coal burning and energy lie to the public in misinformation campaigns just like big tobacco in the 1950’s and 60’s and even to today in the developing world .

    These large corporations care only about profit and their shareholders . They will kill , lie , spin and do anything else they can get away with to hold onto and increase their market share . Sad but thats the nature of capitalism . The dark side for want of a better word . There is of course a brighter side which is why Government by the people is needed and not Government by the most avaricious and amoral corporations and financial institutions . .

  • Chingford Man

    Jim Allister couldn’t do any better.

  • npbinni

    what?! JA couldn’t do any better than…?

  • npbinni

    you are getting pretty close, but unfortunately it is government by the elite, who think they are better than everyone else. it’s all about increasing government control.

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘it’s all about increasing government control.’

    Indeed -by the financial institutions , corporate oligarchs and the oil industry . There are only two types of politicians left in the US Congress -those that have been bought off completely by special interests and those who have just been mostly bought off by the same interests . For the UK and Ireland its getting there