Tween Marco Rubio Was a Mormon, But Does Anyone Really Care?
Buzzfeed, the site about cute cats and "penis size math" that apparently has a political habit on the side, is out with a new shocker about Florida Senator Marco Rubio that, according to journalist McKay Coppins, could be "potentially damaging" and complicating to Rubio's political future. Well, what is it BuzzFeed? He doesn't like cute cat videos?
No, he used to be a Mormon for a few years when he was a tweenager living in Nevada. Wait, do we really care what God-loving social club Rubio belonged to as a mere child?
BuzzFeed, which recently hired away former Politico star reporter Ben Smith to edit the site, leans on the recollection of two of Rubio's first cousins, Mo Denis, a Democratic State Senator in Nevada, and Michelle Denis, to fill us in on Rubio's Mormon past.
Despite being born in Miami, Rubio's family moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, for a while when he was 8. Rubio's aunt (the Denis's mother) lived in the same neighborhood. While the Rubios, like most Cuban immigrant families, had belonged to the Catholic church in Miami, the Denises had become Mormons. While Roman Catholicism is the largest religious denomination by attendance in Nevada, Mormonism is second. It seems natural enough to us that the Rubios, new to the area, would attend church with their family in the area.
BuzzFeed would like you to believe that Marco was the driving force behind his family's brief conversion to Mormonism. His father, we should note, did not convert (he liked to smoke and drink, our kind of man), but Marco, his mother and sister did. Mind you, he was about 8 or 9 years old at the time.
As the family patriarch toiled to support his wife and children, Michelle said Marco--or "Tony" as the family calls him, after his middle name Antonio--stepped in at a very young age as a natural leader in the family. Smart, confident, and slightly stubborn, Rubio was skilled at persuading his siblings, cousins and even his mother to see things his way, Michelle said.
However "smart" the young Marco was, we seriously doubt anyone under the age of 10 really had a grasp on the doctrinal between different branches of Christianity.
Let's remember, many of us belong to the churches not because we did some serious soul searching and independent thought and decided that church best represented our own views or is "correct." We belong to our church because our family does, or our friends and neighbors do.
Church is about connecting to something higher. And on one level that something higher is the feeling of community. We're not going to say churches are just social clubs, but are they not basically religious social clubs? So it follows that the Rubios, brand new to Nevada, would start attending church with their closest family members in the area.
At 13, Rubio's family moved back to Catholic-heavy Miami and begin once again attending Catholic church. There isn't much of a Mormon community in South Florida anyway, but it makes sense that the Rubio family would again be attending the church that their friends and family in the area did.
Rubio still identifies as Catholic but attends a non-denominational Baptist church in West Kendall. It seems to us that for Rubio, the actual act of going to church isn't so much about the scripture as it is the community. How else do you explain a Catholic going to a Baptist church? Of course, it could be about political calculations as well, but, hey, just about every politicians is guilty of using their religion for political gain nowadays.
McKay Coppins tries to spin this as something big. See, if you haven't heard Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is also a Mormon.
The revelation adds a new dimension to Rubio's already-nuanced religious history--and could complicate his political future at a time when many Republicans see him as the odds-on favorite for the 2012 vice presidential nod. Vice presidential candidates are traditionally chosen to provide ethnic and religious balance to a ticket. Mitt Romney's Mormonism and Rubio's Catholic faith would already mean the first two members of minority traditions on a Republican ticket in American history. Rubio's Mormon roots could further complicate that calculation.
Romney, mind you, has far from captured the Republican nomination. As far as polls are concerned he's not even the frontrunner. Meanwhile, Rubio has said time and time again he does not want to be the eventual nominee's running mate. He's left a little semantic room open lately to the possibility, but there's certainly no guarantee the GOP will have a Romney-Rubio ticket heading into November.
He's also rewriting history to say that running mates are "traditionally chosen to provide ethnic and religious balance." In case you aren't aware, "traditionally," the vast majority of presidential tickets in American history have included two white Christian dudes. "Traditionally," running mates are chosen to provide geographic and ideological balance to a ticket. Say, a Northern moderate (Romney) and a Southern conservative (Rubio).
Unless Rubio is actually a Mormon sleeper agent who is part of a vast Manchurian conspiracy to join Romney in the White House to rule America under strict Mormon law, we're really not sure how any of this is all of that important. It's not like Mormonism and Catholicism translate to very different political opinions. Both creeds hate gays and a woman's ability to chose what to do with her body.
Personally, we're much more interested in the tidbit BuzzFeed buried: Rubio made his family start an Osmonds cover band.