Marco Rubio's Insufferable, Preening Religiosity

Ave Maria Law School, where Marco Rubio delivered a commencement address on May 15, was founded in 1999 by Catholic fanatic Tom Monaghan and a few fellow papists from Michigan. That this is an explicitly, in-your-face religious school rather loosened Marco's tongue, so that each time he said something truly lovely -- such as

Ultimately, you will find that life is not about what the world defines as happiness. In fact, what you're really striving for is peace... Peace [is] the ability to take anything that comes your way and see the good in it. Peace is the ability to be happy in both good times and in bad. When you have pain and when you have joy. The ability to be happy with great disappointment and great triumph.

-- he undercut it with something foolish, such as

And that peace will never come from any person, any job, or anything you do. It's supernatural and will require your complete reliance on God to achieve it.

There's something lovely about this commingling of the sublime with the batshit, perhaps because it evokes an era of illusory but sweet unity, when someone could express such sentiments and imagine he wasn't gravely insulting half his listeners on C-Span. Forty years ago, I'm sure nobody would have hastened to point out that the peace to which Rubio refers was well-known to Buddhists and Stoics long before anybody thought to invent Rubio's god.

But let's point it out, because Rubio really does seem to believe, and want us to accept, that peace is impossible without devotion to his particular version of the Judeo-Christian deity. This was very nearly his only point during his 15-minute address.

Here's how Rubio began:

I thought I would share with you what I hope, or wish, someone would have told me 13 or 14 years ago. And it's something that I'm sharing with people like you who are very well prepared, have learned a lot academically, gone to undergrad, probably did very well in high school, did very well in your undergrad careers, spent the last three years training to be lawyers, and learn not just the law, but how to think like a lawyer -- which is a process in itself. Especially that first year, where your mind is remade to argue both sides of any issue. And, and -- so you're well prepared for your career. And the one tip I can give you, the one that I wish I had more fully embraced 14 or 15 years ago, when I began embarking on my career -- not just as a lawyer but interest in public service and in life in general -- is this, and it's pretty simple: You cannot do anything without God. It's a profound and elemental truth. Not, you cannot do most things without God. You will not be able to do anything that you want, truly, in fulfillment, without God.
Hearing this, three responses immediately spring to mind. Unfortunately, the first involves the lone expletive I'm not allowed to use on this blog.

The second is: Quick! Somebody tell the Danes!

Because when I think about "anything that I want, truly, in fulfillment," I think about living in a civil, sane, and tolerant society. I think about prosperity, about the availability of medicine, and about education -- the ability to be educated and to surround myself with people who've got a freaking clue. And I think about economic security. And if those things are impossible without "God," I wonder how to make sense of the map at right, which compares the number of atheists in various European countries. (The lighter the country is, the fewer people believe in gods.) Unless I'm badly misjudging the desires of the human soul, "God" has made far more things possible for the disbelieving Swedes, Dutch, and Danes than for the pious Spaniards and Portuguese. I wonder: Could it be that the Danes are lying when they're polled about their contentedness? Or are their brains so befoggled by secular humanist nonsense that they don't even know how miserable they are?

My third reaction takes a bit more explanation. Perusing Ave Maria's website some months ago, I noticed that they have institutionalized belief in "natural law." That's "natural," as opposed to "positivist." Proponents of natural law theory believe that there is an objective moral order to the universe and that it may be divined using reason. Remembering this, and hearing Marco Rubio's speech, called to mind the modern giant of natural law theory, Thomas Hobbes, who tried to simplify matters with his "Nineteen [Natural] Laws," the tenth of which reads:

That at the entrance into the conditions of peace, no man require to reserve himself any right, which he is not content should be reserved to every one of the rest.

Failure to make such reservations, in Hobbes' view, was the definition of arrogance, and I think that's an idea upon which Rubio would do well to meditate. I don't doubt that he knows what it takes to make himself happy, and he may even know what makes Mrs. Rubio happy -- and the above video aside, it's not inconceivable that he might have a few worthwhile bits of advice to share with a bunch of fresh-faced young lawyers. But for a leader of a religious polyglot people to stand before a camera and to say the people who pay his bills will never have peace until they come around to his side in a theological debate is cruel, stupid, and pompous.

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Brandon K. Thorp