Shawn Mitchell Let the Blood Games continue.
Only weeks after election 2012 and years before election 2016, in a routine interview, a glossy pop magazine popped Florida Senator Marco Rubio with an oddball question: How old do you think the earth is? Rubio responded a bit clumsily and noncommittally. Smelling blood and opportunity, the wolf pack bared fangs and chased.
Their game is either to force Rubio to affirm a personal belief the earth is 4.5 billion years oldâ€”disturbing some of his religious supporters--or to mock and stigmatize him and others who could harbor any delusional uncertaintyâ€”damaging him with a different part of the electorate.
The snarling pack imposes a totalitarian demand: No matter whether youâ€™re intelligent, you engage the real world, you offer solutions to problems, and you attract and persuade citizens to support your vision and solutions; the pack demands to know if you have any hidden reserves of unsavory, illogical faith. Deny it or be tarred and marginalized.
The packâ€™s position, stretched to its logical end, amounts to demanding that politicians reject belief in Godâ€™s divinity and supremacy. That is, it countenances loyalty only to a god who exercises no will or power beyond passively upholding the principles set forth in Science 101.
Before reflecting why that is necessarily so, consider some of the other malignancies exposed by this flare up.
First is the premeditated bad faith of an upscale publication. The random question is untethered from public policy, from issues in the US Senate, or measures Rubio might pursue. It arose from a singular goal unrelated to reporting current events: GQ wanted to conjure a killer question, something that might damage a popular potential GOP presidential candidate. Itâ€™s easy to imagine the query came from a group brainstorm over lunch: â€œThink, peopleâ€¦how can we trip him?!â€
Second on the list is the poisonous effect of unresting, perpetual attack machinery. Scarcely had the interview hit GQâ€™s website and newsstands when it ricocheted across the blogosphere and commentariat, with sneers from the left and defenses from the right. Barack Obama is two months shy of putting his hand on the Bible for a second term. Yet, already an anticipated candidate for 2016 is under manufactured attack for how he might read that bookâ€™s teachings.
GQ forced the exchange, the left media took up the cudgel, and then a celebrity hack of liberal economics at the Grey Lady weighed in. Now, itâ€™s volleyed about on social media. Is it any wonder so many ambitious politicians opt for the duck and cover art of saying nothing about anything?
Ugliest of all is the totalitarian, anti-faith direction this attack takes our politics. A western Democratic organizer cited the GQ interview on her Facebook page to spread the smear. When I commented critically, a number of her friends suddenly appeared and pressed to know how old I think the earth is.
Their interest in getting a term-limited state lawmaker on record was surprising, but more troubling were their justifications for the questionâ€™s relevance: The earthâ€™s age is determined by scientific measurements of carbon, radioactivity, and other phenomena. Those technologies also inform the operation of nuclear reactors, radiation therapy, and a host of other modern processes. If someone believes in a literal account of biblical creation, then heâ€™s a threat to modernity and our comforts.
Oh, really? Do you see where this insanity goes?
Do you believe in the Virgin birth? Then how can we trust you with oversight of HHS programs and youth sexual education? If you wonâ€™t swear allegiance to the principles of biological reality and sexual autonomy then you are a freak and a menace.
Do you believe there was a purifying flood as the Bible describes? Is that established in the geologic record? How can you be trusted to oversee the Department of the Interior, the Geological Survey or BLM?
Did Moses part the Red Sea? You must be kept away from the National Weather Service.
Do you believe Jesus walked on the water to his disciples in the boat? Then how can you oversee a Navy that relies on conventional flotation physics to design its ships?
Do you believe He ascended after His resurrection? You are disqualified from commanding the Air Force: It relies on Newtonian physics for its understanding of aerodynamics.
Do you believe in resurrection at all? How can we trust you to make life and death decisions if you believe life is just a dress rehearsal and we all get a do over?
Only creativity limits the attacks on traditional faith and the grounds to exclude believers.
The gambitâ€™s offensiveness and sinister portent is obvious. The canine-Pavlov types pursuing Rubio may understand the logical ends of their position or not. But the logic leads, whether they grasp or not.
So, let me hazard an answer to the GQ interviewer. Itâ€™s directed to the specific question, but adaptable to those that are sure to come.
Our best science says the earth is 4.5 billion years old. I donâ€™t have a good reason to question that. I donâ€™t know what a â€œdayâ€ is in the account of Creation. But I do believe in a God of miracles and mysteries. So Iâ€™m not going to scratch your inquisitional itch by denouncing anyoneâ€™s literal belief in the biblical account.
Does that trouble you? Why? I accept the laws of science and physics, and I admire the people who work to understand and reveal them. If, as a public official, I propose to substitute prayer for research, Bible verses for nuclear codes, or religious rites for rigorous testing, then, you can get concerned.
But until that point, the faith I hold somewhere in my mind and heart is between me and my God. If you want to force me to sign a loyalty oath denying it, you can go to Hell, figuratively speaking.
Shawn Mitchell was elected to Senate District 23 in the Colorado General Assembly in November of 2004. Shawn is an attorney at private practice in Denver and Adams County