2016 Presidential Faith: The Republicans

As presidential contenders throw their hats into the ring, we take a closer look at their convictions

carly-fiorinaCarly Fiorina: A Religious Rejuvenation

This profile was co-authored by Allison Walter, an education policy associate with NETWORK Lobby, a national Catholic social justice lobby located in Washington, D.C.

If you asked a younger Carly Fiorina about her faith, she may have talked theoretically about a God “out there.” Now, it’s personal.

Struggling against breast cancer and suffering from the loss of her stepdaughter, Fiorina rediscovered a very personal faith, one that replaced her years of feeling abstractly connected to God with a deep connection that animates her political views today.

Fiorina is often portrayed as an irregular churchgoer with no denomination, but that doesn’t mean she is not a woman of faith. Far from it.

Raised in an Episcopalian family, Fiorina went through times of disenchantment with God, as many do, feeling that God couldn’t possibly know or care about the details of her life.

Tragedy drove her to ask the big questions.

Fiorina says, “Jesus Christ saved us” in those dark times. Her faith sustained her through the trials.

She holds very tightly to Christian values today, citing faith as the reason for her staunch opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

“What’s really at stake here for gay couples is how government bestows benefits,” Fiorina says, “What’s really at stake here for people of religious conviction is their conviction that marriage is a religious institution because only a man and a woman can create life, which is a gift that comes from God.”

Now that she’s in the thick of things in the GOP presidential race, Fiorina emphasizes her faith by her many appearances on Christian radio and talk shows.

Her religious rejuvenation also led to her heavy involvement in nonprofit work. “I am a Christian,” Fiorina says, “I believe that everyone is equal in the eyes of God, and therefore I know everyone is capable of living a life of dignity, purpose, and meaning.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio delivers a policy address at The Catholic University of America in 2014. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio delivers policy address at The Catholic University of America, 2014 (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Marco Rubio: “American” faith

Of all the potential candidates for the American presidency in 2016, Marco Rubio comes with the most complex faith background. Born Catholic, raised both Mormon and Catholic and today regularly involved with an evangelical church, Rubio’s faith is distinctly American — that is to say complex and, at times, confusing.

Despite the confusion, Rubio today strongly identifies as Roman Catholic. While he goes to an evangelical service with his wife on Saturday, he attends Catholic Mass on Sunday. His children have also been baptized in the Catholic Church.

Rubio also claims to have a strong devotion to the Eucharist:

[While attending evangelical churches], I craved, literally, the Most Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion, the sacramental point of contact between the Catholic and the liturgy of heaven. I wondered why there couldn’t be a church that offered both a powerful, contemporary gospel message and the actual body and blood of Jesus.

According to his autobiography, he found that place to be the Catholic Church. He discovered that “every sacrament, every symbol and tradition of the Catholic faith is intended to convey, above everything else, the revelation that God yearns, too, for a relationship with you.”

While some might see Rubio’s complicated faith life as a negative among Republican primary voters, the 43-year-old Cuban-American’s faith is likely to connect with young voters who themselves often have complex religious identities.

rand-paul-1Rand Paul: Saved More Than Once

In previous years, it seemed that some Tea Party candidates in the Republican presidential primaries were running for pastor-in-chief of the United States. Rand Paul — whose father is one of the intellectual founders of the movement — is certainly not that type of Tea Party candidate.

Paul puts it candidly:

Dostoevsky wrote that I did not arrive at my hosanna through childlike faith, but through a fiery furnace of doubt. My faith has never been easy for me, never been easy to talk about and never been without obstacles. I do not and cannot wear my religion on my sleeve. I am a Christian but not always a good one. I’m not completely free of doubts. I struggle to understand man’s inhumanity to man. I struggle to understand the horrible tragedies that war inflicts on our young men and women.

Paul, like Rubio, has dipped in and out of religious traditions. He grew up Episcopalian, but now worships in a Presbyterian church where his wife serves as a deacon.

Paul acknowledges he’s still wrestling with his faith to this day:

As a teenager, I found that something was missing and decided that I would find that in Jesus. It’s something that — I tell people it didn’t always stick, either. I don’t know if that’s not — if that’s uh, blasphemy to say you have to be saved more than once, but I think sometimes it takes more than once for people.

A Paul victory in the Republican primary would confirm what many believe already to be true: You don’t need to be an outwardly perfect Christian to be the Tea Party standard bearer for President of the United States in 2016.

The times have changed indeed.

tec-cruz-1Ted Cruz: The Preacher’s Son

No 2016 candidate is as vocal about their faith as Ted Cruz. In fact, the first-term senator from Texas launched his campaign at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University — the noted and controversial Notre Dame of conservative evangelicalism.

Perhaps more than anyone else, Ted Cruz owes his presidential ambitions and possibilities to his faith. Cruz’s father Rafael underwent a powerful personal conversion that took him from alcoholism and the verge of abandoning his family to being a noted Christian preacher and responsible father.

Here’s how Ted Cruz vividly describes it at his presidential announcement:

When my Dad came to America in 1957, he could not have imagined what lay in store for him. Imagine a young married couple living together in the 1970s. Neither one of them has a personal relationship with Jesus. They had a little boy and they’re both drinking far too much.

They’re living a fast life. When I was 3, my father decided to leave my mother and me. We were living in Calgary at the time. He got on a plane and flew back to Texas. And he decided he didn’t want to be married anymore and he didn’t want to be a father to his 3-year-old son.

And yet when he was in Houston, a friend, a colleague from the oil and gas business, invited him to a Bible study, invited him to Clay Road Baptist Church — and there my father gave his life to Jesus Christ. And God transformed his heart — and he drove to the airport, he bought a plane ticket and he flew back to be with my mother and me.

There are people who wonder if faith is real. I can tell you, in my family there is not a second of doubt — because were it not for the transformative love of Jesus Christ, I would have been saved and I would have been raised by a single mom without my father in the house.