Republicans are badgered on their faith in ways that
liberal Democrats plainly are not. For the media, it's the same old
In a recent interview, Senator Marco Rubio --
effectively the Republican front-runner for 2016 -- was asked, "How
old do you think the Earth is?"
It's a question of utter irrelevance to the country's status and whether Marco Rubio
would be a good president. Rubio's answer was excellent: "I'm not
a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded
history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think
that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to
do with the gross domestic product or
economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the
universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I'm
not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question
To any sensible person, this was a perfect response. Who could
Well, an editor for the New York Times -- that flagship
of faith and reason -- judged Rubio's response "ludicrous." A
writer at the liberal Slate, who no doubt Googled
first, claimed authoritatively: "Our planet was formed 4.54 billion
years ago. If Rubio suggested otherwise, it's because he's
uninformed or stupid."
Ah, yes. I'm sure everyone at Slate knows the Earth is
4.54 billion years old.
As for myself, if someone asked me that question out of the
blue, I couldn't answer. I've been a scientist, an
agnostic/borderline atheist, and ultimately a Christian. I've
taught Sunday school, lectured at colleges, collected data at top
research labs, and everything in between. I've published in
scientific and political journals. I know, as Marco Rubio does,
that theologians dispute this.
In fact, anyone with a serious, sincere interest in this
question knows this. But, of course, the question wasn't asked to
Rubio out of serious, sincere interest; it never is when posed to a Republican.
Marco Rubio needs to understand two things at play here: (1)
these types of questions will only get worse as he continues to
campaign for president; and (2) these are not earnest questions.
No, these are political booby-traps set by political partisans who
work as journalists. They are used to try to caricature conservatives as
I recall a painful example when George W. Bush first became
Texas governor. Bush was known as a committed Christian who had a
late-in-life conversion. For the secular liberal media, this
meant that Bush was a "fundamentalist." For liberal journalists, it
also meant an opportunity.
And so, one journalist asked the governor if Jews get into heaven. Taken by complete surprise, Bush
fumbled his answer. Afterward, he thought long and hard about it,
and consulted Billy Graham. The next time Bush got the question he
was ready. It was December 1999, when he was running for president
-- and when his opponent, Al Gore, wasn't (of course) getting asked
any such questions by the liberal media. Bush's answer was a good
[I] understand that people communicate with God and reach God in
different ways .... Obviously there's the big issue between the
Christian and the Jew, the Jewish person. And I am mindful of the
rich traditions and history of the Jewish faith. And I am mindful
of what Billy Graham one time told me: for me not to try to figure
out -- try to pick and choose who gets to go to heaven .... Billy
Graham said, "Don't play God." I don't get to determine who goes to
heaven and who goes to hell. That's not me. Governors don't do
That's a really good response: "Governors don't do that." They
"don't play God." They don't decide who goes to heaven.
Marco Rubio wasn't asked that same question, at least not yet,
but his answer might be the same: "Sorry, man, I'm not playing
In fact, here's a further response Rubio might consider more
generally: "Look, let's be honest: We both know what you're trying
to do. You're trying to trip me up. I'm not a theologian. I'm not a
minister. I don't want to be one, and the American public doesn't
want me to be one. Let's stick to issues that concern people. And
one more thing: Are you asking these same questions to any
Democrats? Are you?"
Rubio should say it calmly, gently, and with a smile -- but
emphatically. He is running for president, and not running for
reverend. He wants to be President Rubio, not Reverend Rubio.
Unfortunately, for Rubio, like all conservative Republicans who seek the
presidency, it will be open season on his beliefs. Republicans
are badgered on their faith in ways that liberal Democrats plainly
are not. For the media, it's the same old double standard. I hope
Marco Rubio refuses to tolerate it.
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove
City College, executive director ofThe Center for Vision
& Values, and author of the
book, "The Communist: Frank Marshall
Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor." A
longer version of this article first appeared at "American
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