There’s a fun article by Elizabeth Stoker Breunig up today at TNR. She looks at Ohio’s John Kasich and finds a politician who actually seems to have some consistency and intellectual integrity with regard to his interpretation of Christianity. “Yeah, right!”, I hear someone saying, and with good reason. Anyone who remembers Kasich in the House recalls his general orientation as pretty far out there. And of course he spent six years hosting a Fox News show while a managing director of Lehman Brothers until the firm collapsed in 2008. So he’s got all the marks of a died-in-the-wool “Christian” conservative who’s mainly interested in money.
But remember also that he was a Representative from 1983-2001, a period when the GOP was pushing its Christian contingent to the right but that push had not gone nearly as far as it has now, and it’s a bit easier to accept that Kasich doesn’t seem to fit the mold. For example, he doesn’t accept the standard Republican position that welfare from the government is morally hazardous to both giver and receiver. As Elizabeth says, the story that Jesus commanded generosity from individuals and never said that government should be involved is theologically incoherent and contradicted by explicit statements in the New Testament. Those propounding that line are simply using religion to advance their own selfish interests.
When hawking a story that creaky, politicians must maintain a unified front, lest the disparity between right-wing zeal for Christian teachings on sexuality versus Christian teachings on poverty expose opportunism. Yet John Kasich, for whatever reason, did not get the memo.
You’ve probably seen this Kasich quote before, but I’m impressed with it so I’m reproducing it again.
Kasich told reporters in 2013 that “when you die and get to the meeting with Saint Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.” For linking the extension of healthcare coverage to some 275,000 vulnerable Ohians with his Christian principles, Kasich received scorn from flustered rightwingers. Writers from RedState, The National Review, and The Wall Street Journal all converged to offer a collective sneer at Kasich’s pro-poor Christian politics…
They’re flustered, of course, because the enormous gap between their protestations and their actions is on the verge of being exposed by one of their own, and their hypocrisy might be measured against actual belief. A politician from their own ranks who acts on what he believes despite knowing that it will harm him politically is a standard few would wish to be measured against.
In the end, though, what fascinates me is that Kasich has no chance of being nominated for the office he clearly wants, in large part because he actually appears to make some effort to live by the creed his party loudly espouses when his colleagues are spending all their effort convincing crowds of potential voters that they are True Believers. Yet Kasich could very likely draw a nontrivial portion of the Democratic vote away from, say, Hillary for exactly the same reason; how many Christians who vote Democratic because they dislike both war and poverty could switch sides when the Democrat is known as a relative hawk and the Republican can tout not only an expansion of Medicaid but a willingness to go around his Republican legislature’s opposition to do it? Every day brings new evidence that the GOP is self-destructing.
Unfortunately that leaves us stuck with the Democrats.