There has been a lot of God talk during this presidential election cycle. I have searched past presidential elections, and I have not been able to find another period where God has played such a prominent role. Senator Marco Rubio has a group of advisers specially chosen for their faith perspective, and Ted Cruz father has claimed that his son has been anointed by God to be the President of the United States.
One candidate has been somewhat silent about his faith although he is a person of deep faith. Ohio Governor John Kasich is a man of deep spirituality, and his faith does help him come to conclusions on issues, but he has not made this a centerpiece of his campaign.
Governor Kasich has been polling in the low digits until the most recent GOP debate where the conversation was all about the size of certain things. Governor Kasich appeared to be the only adult on the stage and seemed to be very presidential and because of that more people are taking a long hard look at him.
Governor Kasich was born Roman Catholic but like most of us strayed away from his faith, but after his parents had been killed by a drunk driver, he found he needed more. In his book, Every Other Monday, he writes about his turn back to faith. "I drifted away from religion as a young adult. Then I looked up one day, and there was a huge hole in my life where God and religion had been." The book gets its name from a Bible study that he started to attend and that he feels started to give him some clarity in his life.
I wanted to know if this 'God thing' was real. For several years, some of my Washington friends had been trying to get me to attend their weekly Bible study reform group, and I'd always resisted. The last thing I wanted was to sit in a chapel with a group of politicians talking about God because I worried we'd say one thing in there and then go back out and do the exact opposite. But when I returned to Washington after my parents' death and tried to cobble my life back together, I started to look at this group as a possible lifeline. I was devastated, shattered, and desperate for any tether.
Governor Kasich belongs to the conservative Anglican Church of St. Augustine in Westerville, Ohio. St. Augustine is part of the Anglican Church in North America that splice from the Episcopal Church in 2004 after the election of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. Bishop Robinson was the first openly gay person to be elected a bishop in Episcopal church, and his election caused many to leave the national church.
Kasich believes in the traditional definition of marriage; he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, and he supported Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage. However, when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on June 26, 2015, that same-sex marriage was legal in the United States he said on Face the Nation, "I believe in traditional marriage, but the Supreme Court has ruled. It's the law of the land, and we'll abide by it... it's time to move on." He did not try and fashion exemptions to the law. Although he disagrees with the same-sex marriage, the law of the land is the determining factor. Many in the faith community would disagree with the decision as has been clearly displayed in Kentucky and Alabama, but in Ohio, the law is the law.
Governor Kasich has a strong sense of duty toward doing right by the poor. This is fueled by his Christian faith and the Scriptures that are part of his life. He came out in support of the Affordable Care Act especially the provision that expanded Medicaid. In 2013, the legislature in Ohio was debating a bill that would expand Medicaid to bring coverage to 275,000 more people in Ohio. A June 19th article in The Columbus Dispatch quotes Governor Kasich speaking about this duty toward to poor. "The most-important thing for this legislature to think about: Put yourself in somebody else's shoes. Put yourself in the shoes of a mother and a father of an adult child that is struggling. Walk in somebody else's moccasins. Understand that poverty is real."
Governor Kasich went on to relate a conversation he had with a member of the legislature:
I had a conversation with one of the members of the legislature the other day. I said, 'I respect the fact that you believe in small government. I do, too. I also know that you're a person of faith.
'Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. 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.'
On the campaign trail, Governor Kasich has tried to move the conversation away from the saber-rattling over divisive issues such as immigration and ISIS. He has tried to bring the conversation back to issues such as job creation, national defense and "healing the divisions between the races." I cannot help but this that this comes from his faith and his desire to help the poor.
Our faith should influence the decisions that we make, but we have to realize that we live in a nation of diverse religious beliefs. The United States of America was not founded as a Christian nation or a nation of any religion. The founding fathers wanted to create a place that was free from state-sponsored religion, and that people of all faiths could practice their faith as they see fit or have no faith at all. The top candidates have been using their faith as a statement of how to make America great. America already is great. Faith should be part of the conversation, but your faith better holds to the values of the Gospel you claim to represent.