With his announcement Monday that he's officially joining the 2016 GOP presidential field, Marco Rubio's faith – and the underpinnings thereof – has become a hotter topic of interest and curiosity among prospective conservative and faith-based voters.
Born to Cuban immigrants in Miami, Florida, the 43-year-old Republican senator's religious background spans from Catholicism to Mormonism to Protestantism — much of which he touched on in his 2012 book, An American Son: A Memoir.
Even though Rubio's upbringing began as a Catholic, he was once a serious practicing Mormon as a youth.
"Rubio's parents baptized him Catholic and he is now a practicing Catholic, but when he was 8, his family moved from South Florida to Las Vegas, where his mother attributed the wholesomeness of the neighborhood to the influence of the Mormon church," reports Religion News Service's Lauren Markoe. "Young Rubio was baptized again, this time in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
More than just a Mormon by name, Rubio was adamant about following the religion's precepts.
"He spent three years as a Mormon, upheld its teachings more enthusiastically than his parents, and chided his father for working as a bartender – a no-no for Mormons who abstain from alcohol," Markoe explains.
Southern Baptist or Catholic?
Even though Rubio proclaims himself and his family to be Catholic, he regularly attends a Southern Baptist megachurch.
"Rubio and his wife Jeanette often visit Miami's Christ Fellowship, a Southern Baptist congregation the couple appreciates for its strong preaching and children's programs," the RNS reporter explains. "Rubio has donated at least $50,000 to the church, which he attended almost exclusively from 2000 to 2004. But he now finds his religious home in Catholic churches in Washington, DC, and Florida."
While traditionally attending Sunday Mass, Rubio still makes it a point to fellowship on Saturday nights with a local Southern Baptist congregation.
"In his memoir, Rubio writes that he will go with his family to Christ Fellowship on Saturday nights, and Mass on Sundays at St. Louis Catholic Church," Markoe points out. "His children have received first Holy Communion."
Creation or evolution?
Despite his connection with Southern Baptists, Rubio ascribes to the secular account when it comes to the earth's origin.
Initially shying away from answering a question by GQ magazine asking, "How old do you think the earth is?," Rubio ended up declaring his belief in the secular evolutionary science taught in academia as fact.
"I'm not a scientist, man," he told the monthly magazine in 2012, attempting to evade the question. "I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all."
Rubio followed up his answer by saving face with academia, the Leftist media and gap theorists.
"After much criticism, Rubio said that he knows the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that the fact is consistent with his belief that 'in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,'" Markoe said.
No friend of atheists?
Some have interpreted Rubio's past comments about faith and America as isolating himself from atheists.
At the 2012 Republican National Convention, when Rubio introduced Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, he emphasized the importance of faith in Americans' lives, which evidently rubbed many atheists the wrong way.
"We're bound together by common values [and] faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all," Rubio proclaimed to the conservative audience.
After the convention, a popular Catholic pundit analyzed Rubio's proclamation. "Rubio just ruled atheists out of being Americans," Andrew Sullivan wrote in his blog.
Foot inside both doors?
If Rubio had it his way, the practices of Catholic and Baptist churches would be integrated to get the "best" of both worlds ... so to speak. He expressed his love for how the teaching and fellowship at Christ Fellowship strengthened his relationship with Jesus Christ, but also noted that there are aspects about the Catholic Church that keep him anchored in his Catholic roots.
"I craved, literally, the Most Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion, the sacramental point of contact between the Catholic and the liturgy of heaven," Rubio explained in his book. "I wondered why there couldn't be a church that offered both a powerful, contemporary [G]ospel message and the actual body and blood of Jesus."
Just over a decade ago, Rubio made the commitment to explore his Catholic faith even further by reading over the entire catechism.
"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," Rubio asserted in his decision to stick with the Catholic Church.