Connie Schultz: John Kasich and Matthew 25, revisited

Connie Schultz

Connie Schultz

This is Republican Gov. John Kasich explaining in March why he expanded coverage for Ohio’s Medicaid recipients:

“The conservative movement — a big chunk of which is faith-based — seems to have never read Matthew 25. … There’s so much we have to do to clean ourselves up. … So instead of getting into the judgment, why don’t we get into the feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and helping the imprisoned and helping the lonely? (SET ITAL) That’s (END ITAL) what we’re commanded to do.”

This is Republican presidential candidate John Kasich explaining on Tuesday why he has joined more than two dozen governors who say they’ll refuse to accept any of the 10,000 Syrian refugees, many of them widows and children, to arrive in the U.S. in the next fiscal year:

“We understand these people are in trouble, but think about … us putting somebody on our street, in our town or in our country who (means) us harm. … We just got to be very careful for our friends, our neighbors, our families and our country. … Until we get a handle on where we are, we need to stop. And once we have a rational program and we can determine who it is that’s coming, then it’s another story. But for this point in time, in light of what we’re seeing in the world, it’s reasonable to stop.”

What happened to Matthew 25?

Pfft. So pre-primary.

I listen to these governors — all of whom know they have no power to defy the president and close their borders — and marvel at how readily they pander to the worst among us. I don’t know what version of the Bible they’re thumping, but I sure would like a cloud-side seat on that storied day when they try to explain themselves to you-know-who.

For me, the joking ends here.

Just a few short weeks ago, we reeled at the sight of a little boy named Aylan Kurdi. The 3-year-old Syrian Kurd tried to flee with his family from Turkey to Europe. Their boat capsized, and Aylan’s lifeless body washed ashore. His 5-year-old brother and mother drowned, too, but it is Aylan we remember because of the photographs of him that were published online and in newspapers around the world.

In the pictures, he is wearing a red shirt and shorts, lying on his stomach. His face is turned ever so slightly to his left, his arms resting palms up by his side. His was the universal pose of a busy little boy surrendering to a nap. Maybe that’s why he got to us. He was every child we’ve ever known.

On the same day that Kasich said Syrian refugees are not welcome in the state he has abandoned for his presidential race, he announced his nifty idea to fight the Islamic State group: a new agency to impose “the core Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share.” He would target China, Iran, Russia and the Middle East.

“We need to beam messages around the world about what it means to have a Western ethic,” he said in an interview with NBC News. “It means freedom. It means opportunity. It means respect for women.”

Let’s stop right there.

Respect for women? This, from the governor who has championed some of the harshest abortion restrictions in the country.

And what about this notion of a universal set of Judeo-Christian values in the Western world?

On Wednesday, I spoke to Colin Swearingen, an assistant professor of political science at John Carroll University, near Cleveland, to talk about Kasich’s theory that we’re all just one big freedom-loving family in the West.

“The Declaration of Independence centered on liberty,” Swearingen said. “A lot of Western civilization focuses more on equality. This is a significant difference in how you set up government.”

So what does he make of Kasich’s idea?

“Well, the establishment clause certainly jumps out at you,” he said. “Was it a slip-up, or is he trying to reach out to the Iowa caucuses? In 2012, 57 percent of them were evangelicals. Maybe this is some sort of coherent strategy where Kasich sees an opening in Iowa.”

I have searched and searched my Bible, and I cannot find any holy dispensation for presidential candidates who turn away widows and orphans to help their poll numbers with people who like that sort of thing. I did, however, find last month’s Quinnipiac poll that showed Kasich trailing far behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson in his own state.

Overall, we’re seeing some interesting timing from Kasich, don’t you think?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how this new interpretation of Matthew 25 works out for him.

Email:   con.schultz@yahoo.com

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