Ohio Gov. John Kasich will – thankfully – not be the Republican nominee for president this year. Nor is it likely that Kasich will find his way to the GOP nomination unless the candidate at the top of the ticket decides in some election (now or in the future) that Kasich as VP is the way to carry Ohio. That said, John Kasich still matters this year, and that’s because of how he talks about his faith.
While other candidates, namely Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, share their personal faith on the campaign trail, Kasich typically avoids too much personal detail and instead generously uses the tenants of his faith to justifying growing government in Ohio.
With the rise of the evangelical vote it has become more acceptable for presidential candidates to not only wax eloquent, but also personal, in explaining their personal faith. But there is a wing of the Republican Party that prefers to keep its faith declaration carefully scripted, focused only on how it interacts with political decisions and not their personal life. John Kasich is a part of this wing, and it doesn’t make him more of or less of a Christian than a Mike Huckabee or a Cruz or Rubio, but it does offer insights into how he views the role of his faith and how it informs his governing.
After pointing out that 60% of Iowa caucus goers consider themselves evangelical, Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked this question Thursday night:
Governor Kasich, you talk a good deal about your faith. In fact, you say it played a role in your decision to expand Medicaid, and you say that when you meet Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates, he’s going to ask what you did for the poor, not what you did to keep government small. Senator Cruz is on the opposite side of this issue from you, so does that mean that you’re getting in and he isn’t?
A fair question, and one that Kasich could have answered in any variety of ways.
Kasich immediately began ticking off a well-rehearsed list of statistics describing how well Ohio was doing after voluntarily implementing the ObamaCare expansion of Medicaid. It was 205 words before Kasich mentioned anything about his faith. Here’s what he had to say:
“In terms of my faith, look, all I say is that when I study scripture, I know that people who live in the shadows need to have a chance. But I’m not deciding that anybody’s got to make these decisions the way that I do, on the basis of what I do. But what — I will tell you this. The time has come to stop ignoring the mentally ill in this country and begin to treat them and get them on their feet, along with, of course, with treating the drug-addicted.”
He concluded his answer talking about criminal justice reform and job creation.
The entire answer is noteworthy because Kasich used Scripture – he didn’t cite any specific passages this time – to justify expanding a government social program. There’s no question Scripture commands compassion – but it commands it of individuals and churches – it doesn’t command it of government. The good Samaritan didn’t start assessing a toll when he came across a brutally beaten traveler so the traveler’s medical bills could be paid. He paid out of his own funds for the treatment of this stranger who had encountered unfortunate circumstances.
Just as evangelicals should be aware of candidates who spend their entire lives waging war on their values before suddenly undergoing a conversion to conservatism (See: Trump, Donald), they should be skeptical of candidates who use their faith to justify growing government. Donald Trump will – hopefully – depart from the political stage after this cycle. But other Republicans who use their faith as an excuse to promote far-left policies will likely continue to run for various offices.
This doesn’t mean John Kasich isn’t a Christian – it is up to each person to decide how they will talk about the faith – but it does mean that evangelicals shouldn’t be naive and simply look to any candidate who cloaks his or her platform in Scriptural terms.