Unethical Quote Of The Week: Ohio Governor John Kasich

“[T]he most important thing is, what does the Lord want me to do with my life?”

Potential GOP Presidential candidate John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, explaining what considerations will determine whether or not he enters the race.

"Governor? It's for you."

“Governor? It’s for you.”

There is so much wrong with Kasich saying this that the only question now is whether it disqualifies him for elected office.

I guess that’s excessive, though. In a political culture in which Hillary Clinton is considered qualified to be President, almost no one can be truly disqualified. Anything goes, as long as you are wearing the right team colors.

If the Founders knew their democracy would come to this, I think they would have decided to just submit to King George’s tyranny.

Kasich is a skilled governor, just as he was an outstanding House member in a crowd of Republican embarrassments during the Bush years. Then he tried being a talking head for Fox, and had the integrity to quit in disgust. He seemed to have the qualities necessary to elevate the Republican presidential field.

Guess not:

1. He is pandering. The GOP evangelicals and religious right have a lot of power and influence, and they are the only ones who could possibly take Kasich’s statement seriously. “Ah!” they will say, or so Kasich’s shameless advisors have convinced him, “He’s one of us! He believes that weather disasters are visted upon us because of America’s sins! He believes that women belong barefoot and pregnant, that Adam was ducking dinosaurs, that school prayer will cure our ills…that good people ought to be able to shun and exclude the sinful by refusing to sell them services that they provide to everyone else, and that homos are the spawn of Satan.” The statement that Kasich is dictated to by God hints that he thinks a theocracy is hunky-dory. Hey, look at Iran!

2. He is lying. Or he is deranged.

3. The belief that God is likely to choose you as a leader of the most powerful nation on earth is so devoid of humility and so unfair to and disrespectful of the democratic process that it boggles the mind.

4. It avoids personal accountability.

5. The statement is a declaration of incompetence and fecklessness. What other decisions will President Kasich place in God’s hands, or blame on Him when they turn out to be duds?

6. Waiting for God to declare the right course is an intentional abdication of ethics for the moral direction on others, or, if you prefer, Others.

 God made you say that, John, so you would not be President. You have your answer.



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82 thoughts on “Unethical Quote Of The Week: Ohio Governor John Kasich

  1. That’s a really great critique. I’d have only come up with “people who talk to god are saying prayers; people whom god talks to are schizophrenic.” Anyway, your list goes a lot further and is very right.

  2. Mixed feelings on this one. Jack, I know you’re not a religion-basher, but this could be interpreted as a religion-bashing post, which I don’t think is what you intended. I think this might be taking one line out of context, because I am sure there was more to the statement than that, and politico.com is a notoriously liberal site, surprise, surprise. He also said “my family is a consideration” and that “I’m not going to figure [it] out laying in bed, hoping lightning strikes.” He isn’t actually thinking he is going to get a sign from the heavens that will tell him anything.

    Just for the record, John Kasich is an Anglican, or what most of us would call an Episcopalian. This is one of the more socially liberal denominations, at least the Episcopalian side of things. He was actually raised Catholic, but drifted away from the faith as an adult (as many do) but embraced faith again, and Anglicanism, after a car accident that killed both of his parents. He has stated he considers denominations irrelevant. He is divorced and remarried, and not really noted as a standard-bearer of social conservativism. Assuming that he believes, or wants others to believe, that he is a Jack-Chick-style caricature of extreme Christianity, is a long, and possibly unfair, leap to make. If he were a Southern Baptist or member of some charismatic megachurch then you might be onto something, but as it is that list of wacky views doesn’t fit, and could come off as a religious stereotype.

    As someone who chose to reembrace faith having drifted away from it once, I think it would appear normal for him to reference that faith as at least part of his compass in life, and to say something along the nature of “I look to my faith for guidance, among other things, on what path to take in life” or “I believe there’s a plan for everyone.” I don’t think he’s lying, and I don’t think he’s deranged. What he is guilty of is clumsy phrasing of what was supposed to sound inspirational, maybe it was his own idea, maybe it was his advisors’. Clumsy phrasing is certainly not a disqualifier, given the way Hilary was tripping all over herself campaigning for others in 2014.

    In all fairness, the main problems with the Governor said are 4 and 5, which are always the problem with any statement that tries to bring God into a human decision, whether it’s saying “I don’t think it’s God’s will that we organize this event” when the fact is there just weren’t enough people interested to make it worth doing, or “I’ve prayed about this and I just don’t see the fruits of the spirit in you,” when what you’re really saying is “I think you’re a rotten person I don’t want to associate with, but I don’t have the courage to come right out and say it, so I’ll bring God into it because no one can argue with God.” Yes, the “God works in mysterious ways” phrase is an overused and abused divine shrug, and probably should be retired. He should have recognized that and phrased it more along the lines of “I’ll be looking to my family, my faith, the people who put me where I am, the people who want me to go further, and any number of other factors before I make my final decision, but all will be revealed at the appropriate time.”

    I’d also note that this article is dangerously close to being an example of the clearly unfair treatment of faith vis-à-vis party by the media. I daresay if a Muslim candidate for high office were being interviewed there would be plenty of fawning coverage about how his faith “gives him direction” or a Jewish candidate referenced his family’s experiences in Europe and the power of their faith and his faith in getting this far no one would touch it. One relatively moderate Christian says that he is looking to his faith when deciding whether to take the biggest step personally and professionally, and suddenly he’s a fanatic talking it over directly with God? Sorry Jack, but I think you came down a little too hard here.

    • Great comment, and don’t be sorry.

      “I’ll be looking to my family, my faith, the people who put me where I am, the people who want me to go further, and any number of other factors before I make my final decision, but all will be revealed at the appropriate time.” is exactly what he should have said. Why didn’t he?

      Start talking like Pat Robertson, and yes, a public figure will lose me for good. This is very disappointing: I’ve been impressed with JK. This is cynical on his part, and arguably disrespectful for genuine faith. Using God as a political prop—that should be on the list–is obnoxious.

      • God and faith should never be used as political props, and manufactured faith for political reasons IS in fact an insult to those who genuinely believe.

        • Based on my study of the boys, I’d say “manufactured faith for political reasons” may describe an many as a third of our Chief Executives, including Obama. Very few of them—W being one—were undeniably and genuinely religious. Adams and Jefferson, in their letters to each other, for example, show themselves to be agnostic, and you now how TJ began the Declaration.

          • Manufactured or adopted faith is probably a fair way of putting it, though of course it’s impossible to look into hearts and minds and know. Jefferson of course never openly called himself agnostic, and would have bristled at such an public accusation (he remained a member of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church until the day he died) but his day to day words and acts show him to be more de facto deist than anything else, as was common in the Age of Reason. As for others, well, I think the fact that Harding, FDR, Kennedy, Clinton, and a few others didn’t honor their marriage vows says something about their level of faith. I also think the high level of arrogance in TR, Wilson, LBJ, and Obama, not to mention Nixon’s out and out criminality doesn’t speak well of their honoring any God.

      • P.S. While we’re on the topic of poor phrasing of political rhetoric, why did Obama refer to a policy difference as a “stinkburger?”

          • I don’t have to imagine. He did. What’s more, the line made its way around the world at cyberspeed and a lot of my liberal friends thought it was hilarious. I also agree that it was pathetic and juvenile, it sounded like something an 8yo would say. Nonetheless, my liberal friends just said I was jealous that the GOP couldn’t fire off as clever quips.

    • Steve-O-in-NJ, not sure I’m 100% with you but that was brilliantly written, and a real contribution to the dialogue. Thanks.

    • Great comment, but I disagree with you about 4 and 5.
      His statement does not avoid personal accountability and it does not show incompetence and fecklessness.

      It shows someone who thinks he is accountable to God. That is far better than our current President who holds no one accountable and appears to be accountable to no one. Someone accountable to God may make some politically dumb moves, though I don’t think many in our national and political culture want to turn us into a Christian version of Iran. However, someone who believes he is accountable to God, instead of passing the buck to God, will likely consider seriously and deliberately the decisions he makes (again, in sharp contrast to our current President).

      As for number 3, I think Jack is off-base. Such a statement is not devoid of humility, although such statements are often construed that way by non-religious people. If one believes in God and believes that one is accountable to God for what one does with one’s life. And, if one takes the parable of the talents (paraphrase: don’t hide your talents; use what you have been given), a governor in Kasich’s position may conclude that he has the ability to make a positive impact on the country because of the skills he has and his potential to ascend to the Presidency. That would be the position of a true “servant” (not to say he is a true servant), as opposed to someone (let’s call her Hillary) who seeks higher office solely out of personal ambition.

      However, the sad joke always is that, while Kasich may think that running for President is what God wants him to do, God may not want him to win.


    • Governor Kasich is an Anglican, but he’s not an Episcopalian–meaning, he’s a member of the Anglican Church of North America. The ACNA left The Episcopal Church after we ordained our first gay bishop and voted to allow openly gay clergy. The Episcopal Church is much more liberal now because most of the conservatives left with the ACNA.

  3. “If the Founders knew their democracy would come to this, I think they would have decided to just submit to King George’s tyranny.”

    Totes. What would poor George Washington and the 1789 Congress say? Besides this:

    “is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor…”

    Lincoln then?

    “We are indeed going through a great trial — a fiery trial. In the very responsible position in which I happen to be placed, being a humble instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father, as I am, and as we all are, to work out his great purposes, I have desired that all my works and acts may be according to his will, and that it might be so, I have sought his aid — but if after endeavoring to do my best in the light which he affords me, I find my efforts fail, I must believe that for some purpose unknown to me…”

    • All mandatory dicta then, and acknowledged as such my most at the time. I doubt that Lincoln believed in God. If the Founders were in sympathy with saying that God dictated what officials do, they wouldn’t have placed separation of church and state into the Constitution. This was pandering too, and cynical in its way. But Lincoln didn’t claim that a message from God urged him to free the slaves. He made it clear that it was his own decision.

      • The evolution of Lincoln’s belief is something someone could (and should) write a book about, as most biographers skim over it. It’s pretty complicated and he appears to have become somewhat more religious later in life than he was as a young man. That said, I think we’ll never know how much was show and how much was really believed from the record as it’s come down to us. Still, someone needs to take a good, neutral look that’s not designed to capture the greatest president of all for one side or the other. Yes, Lincoln, unlike some political leaders I could name, owned his decisions, saying once that if he was wrong ten angels swearing he was right would make no difference.

        Well, the phrase “separation of church and state” appears nowhere in the Constitution, but obviously the Founding Fathers wanted religious freedom and for the government not to get involved in favoring or disfavoring it officially.

        I apologize for bristling a little, but, as a person of faith, I dislike cynical or cheap attacks on my faith, or faith generally. I don’t think it’s all right to religion-bash, anymore than it’s ok to bash someone because of his color or his sexuality. If you want to talk about how organized religion sometimes reaches its goals and sometimes falls short of what it preaches, ok. If you want to talk about what if anything should be the role of religion in a modern society and in the public lives of its public figures, then ok. If you want to talk about the fact that elected figures’ personal lives, including their faith, can affect their public lives and how, then ok. These are all important topics that we can have reasonable discussions about. If you just want to spout religion-hating platitudes, either with an attitude of smugness or perma-anger, then that’s not a reasonable discussion.

        I dunno if it’s fully justified to fear for religious freedom these days. I don’t fear the fading away of faith, levels of devotion come and go and have throughout history, witness the Age of Reason and the Second Great Awakening. I do fear attitudes of tolerance toward faith changing. Maybe we won’t see pogroms in Spain and Russia again, maybe the Turks won’t use religion as an excuse to kill or deport everyone not like them, but when people are forced to do or say things that they find morally objectionable at the risk of their lives becoming VERY uncomfortable, that’s a problem. It’s also problematic if it’s uneven, but that’s a whole other discussion.

        • I was not intending to religion-bash, and I don’t think I did. Religiosity in politics, sports, the public square generally, however, I find insulting and manipulative all round. Claiming to take orders from God just can’t be done inoffensively—it is either arrogant, dishonest, self-aggrandizing or deranged, as I said. If the there is a God, I find it ridiculous that He/She/It would have nothing better to do in the whole universe than chatting with the Governor of Ohio. Does he also give political advice to TYRWWQS on the Planet QWERTY? Why not? Religion is useful for many people in many ways. Abusers of it should be called out, and this was abuse.

          • I’m ok with the former…up to a point. Generic references to God in political speeches and at public events as long as they don’t sound like sermons, athletes sincerely thanking God for success, simple crosses on war memorials, etc. Claiming to take orders from God is usually one or more (but not usually all of) the four things you mentioned. If you believe in an all-knowing, all-seeing, omnipresent God who is also a personal God (which I admit is a lot for the human brain to take in, without resorting to silly questions like whether God can make a boulder so big He can’t lift it), then it follows that you would believe that anyone can talk to Him anytime. Addressing political questions to Him is also silly, and disrespectful. I hope, I say I HOPE, that JK meant what he said in a personal way, not a political way, as in he was thinking and praying about where he was going to go next with his life, not whether God had picked him for some special mission. That said, Obama played the Messianic approach to the hilt.

      • There is a pretty great book “Lincoln’s Battle with God” I think. Younger Lincoln was cynical, but, unlike most, he seriously wrestled with religious questions and really wanted to know the truth.

        He was ultimately persuaded to faith by a theologian friend. By the time you get to President Lincoln, I have no doubt that he was very serious about his faith.

        It’s interesting that you brought up the slavery issue, because from all I’ve read, Lincoln viewed the Civil War and abolition through the lens of God’s will, seeing the war as a sort of penance for slavery. Lincoln believed himself personally mandated by God to end slavery, and I believe said as much in government speeches, opening up about his prayers and struggles over the issue. If I wasn’t on my iPhone in a car at the moment,
        I’d Google it up.

      • The freedom from a Federally established church was needed to protect the state established churches. If you couldn’t prove you tithed a church, you had to pay a 10% tax to the official Congregationalist Church in Connecticut until 1838. The ministers were state employees and paid by the tax. This practice of established religion by the states was never found to be unconstitutional, it was voted out by the public, as these things should be in a democracy. The ‘separation of church and state’ wasn’t in the Constitution until the late 19th century and the founding fathers had nothing to do with it.

        I don’t really see anything strange about this. This language is commonplace in the center part of this country. As an example a friend of mine said this same thing when he was trying to decide between running for higher office and taking a job as a minister. He ended up working for a group that helps inmates transition back into society after prison. This denigration of any person of faith is another example of religion being treated as a hobby. Oh, it is ok to be religious, as long as you don’t believe in it.

    • Really? Show me. If it’s in here…

      “He’s one of us! He believes that weather disasters are visted upon us because of America’s sins! He believes that women belong barefoot and pregnant, that Adam was ducking dinosaurs, that school prayer will cure our ills…that good people ought to be able to shun and exclude the sinful by refusing to sell them services that they provide to everyone else, and that homos are the spawn of Satan.”

      I am bashing only those of the faithful that abuse their faith by using it to justify these ignorant, hateful, or ridiculous positions. That’s not bashing religion, that’s bashing stupidity.

      • And if you had said:

        “He’s one of us! He believes those of us not wronged are owed reparations by those who didn’t wrong us! He believes it’s ok to hate on the police and then sue them when one of us gets killed fighting with them! He believes in every word that comes from the mouth of the Dear Leader and that everyone who disagrees with it is simply a racist who can’t stand to see a black man succeed!” you’d be tarred as a racist, even though that’s not bashing being black, it’s bashing on ridiculous positions hiding behind color. But no one would care. Even if you said you were just bashing stupidity, or bashing behavior that’s wrong, the consensus is that as a white guy you don’t get to say that. The same would apply if you were shooting down extreme feminism, as a man you don’t get to do that.
        I think the same logic should apply to unbelievers bashing believers, but for some reason it doesn’t.

          • I’m not sure if either of those phrases really captures what I was trying to say. My point is that any criticism of black culture by whites is tagged as racism, any criticism of feminism by men is tagged as sexism, I don’t see why criticism and stereotypes of religion are any less up for being tagged as hatred. I guess I’m just uncomfortable with criticism of Christianity by non-Christians. That goes double for the politically correct (that’s not you), who won’t touch criticism of other religions.

  4. I don’t think it is ever unethical for a candidate to discuss his religious beliefs (or lack thereof) as long as he is being truthful It is then up to the voters to decide whether that candidate is worthy of office.

  5. Jack: I’m not Kasich’s biggest supporter in the world. Yet, I think you’re being a little harsh by just assuming that his comment was political pandering and not genuine. Personally, I think the world would be a lot better place if, instead of pondering the “what’s in it for me?” question before a major decision, a leader would do some actual communing with his Creator beforehand.

  6. Regarding your grandstanding point, how can one judge? Religions are tricky and they (and their followers) come in all shapes and sizes. Assuming you are a believer, were the prophets grandstanding? Moses? How about Luther? Any and all of the Popes? Some people sincerely believe that God governs every moment of their lives. Other people feel he is just a casual observer.

    My hope is that politicians just tell the truth. I’m pretty sure Obama is agnostic (or even atheist) but he pulls the religious card when necessary. And he is not alone in that regard. Other candidates will hide or promote their religious convictions if they feel it expedient.

    I could not vote for a leader if I feared his personal beliefs were so strong that they trumped his view on the law — or his decision to wage a war against an “infidel.” As an atheist, if I see a moderate Jewish, Catholic, or Christian candidate running for office, I don’t have any problems — but a very religious person? I don’t think I could vote for him. I also can’t see voting for a Jehovah’s Witness, Muslim, or Scientologist. (It’s hard to be a casual practitioner in these faiths.) Truthfully, I was surprised Mitt Romney so easily got the nomination — the newer the religion, the easier it is to question.

    All that being said, the reverse obviously is true for other voters. I have several friends who ONLY will vote for candidates who acknowledge their belief in God. The “grandstanding” quote that you note above is probably a question that some of my friends ask every day. I would worry though if they think they are getting a direct answer back.

    • “Regarding your grandstanding point, how can one judge?” Easy: if he’s genuine, he doesn’t talk about it. It’s between him and his spiritual guide. There is no way one can say that God is his political advisor without assuming prophet-like status, and wanting to send that message to the gullible, naive and the desperate.

      • Hmm, dangerously close to saying religious people need to keep quiet. That’s not what the First Amendment is about.

        • Not what I said. Leaders need to not suggest that God is their campaign manager. The First Amendment also allows a candidate to boast about the size, thickness and length of his erections, and how well he can satisfy his copious sex partners, with a running tally of ejaculations. I think they should shut up about that too…which is also grandstanding.

          I would be more likely to trust the latter than the former, however.

      • I don’t agree with that statement at all. For the average person — sure. I don’t need to hear about my boss or my colleagues religious views, or lack thereof. I don’t need to hear scripture in the grocery check-out lane. But — presumably, friends are like-minded and they either talk about their faith or they don’t. And I think a candidate does need to talk about faith if he is religious. How else are we to know what he thinks? Religion is all about beliefs. I can’t vote for somebody if I don’t have all the information.

      • That’s a bizarre and irrational method of judgement. “You know how someone can tell if something’s really important to you? If you never talk about it. Don’t mention it.” Apparently, I’m super passionate about toenail fungus, load-bearing ratios, and the differences between Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. Or, I was once – now that I mention it out loud, I’m not so sure anymore.

        • I addressed this already. Expressing one’s faith, saying you’re going to pray, swell. Saying you have a pipeline to God and will leave your personal decisions in a deity’s hands? Again, grandstanding, and an implication that you are something above the ordinary.

          And personally, I think it’s BS.

    • I would be OK voting for a candidate who didn’t talk much about religion, or who didn’t believe but was mostly quiet about it, but I think an out-and-out religion-basher should be treated the same as a racist. You wouldn’t vote for someone who said black people are stupid and need to put down the pork rinds and malt liquor, why would you vote for someone who said Hasidim are stupid and need to stop dressing like it’s 19th century Russia or that Catholics are stupid and worship some Jewish chick who got knocked up? P.S. I don’t think you’ll have to worry about voting for a JW, they don’t run for public office because they must remain neutral in the affairs of this sinful world.

      • Fair point re JWs — although I am related to some who do vote.

        I also think it is unlikely that an acknowledged agnostic or atheist will be elected President — at least in my lifetime.

        • Yes yes, just like there are varying degrees of devotion in any religion, although the stereotype of the JWs as extreme non-participants in activities that most consider normal is more true than not true. An acknowledged agnostic I could see, as long as his associated rhetoric was geared more towards refocusing the conversation on more relevant issues like the economy, etc. I can’t see an atheist because folks like Madeleine O’Hair and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which I think would be more accurately titled the Hatred Of Religion Foundation, together with the fact that this country’s sworn enemies during the Cold War were officially godless,have gotten atheism a very bad rap. There’s also a perception of atheists as smug and dismissive at best, hateful at worst, partly due to the above actors, partly due to a culture of insulting rhetoric that’s grown up (“sky fairy,” “imaginary friend,” “religitards,” etc.). That isn’t really fair to the atheists who are just people for whom faith doesn’t play a part in their lives, but, just like the mud of terrorism sticks to Muslims and the mud of abusive priests sticks to Catholics, the mud of assholery using atheism as a tool sticks to atheists, and I’m sorry, wasting everyone’s time and money suing over a benign war memorial that someone got a bee in their bonnet about or hurling insults on social media is assholery. Craig Hicks and his murder of three Muslims coupled with a constant stream of hate on social media didn’t help either.

  7. Thanks for highlighting this! Another one that’s disqualified from receiving my vote before they even began! The list so far: Cruz, Christie, Kasich, and Clinton. Since the Republicans have lost more so far, I’d say they were in trouble….if it weren’t for the Democrats only option being disqualified as well.

      • Somehow I can’t see you giving the nod to either party. Both have piled up rotten records in the past 2 decades. Paul and Cruz will peter out long before it’s time to pick the nominee. I frankly would prefer not to have to cast a vote for Jeb either, but not because of the Schiavo mess, which, frankly, most people have forgotten now and which could be parried with a reference to Benghazi. (if that’s not such a big deal, then why is this?) I’d vote for the Devil himself if it meant keeping Hilary out of the White House, though.

      • Rand is on thin ice, but not DQ’d from my vote yet. Jeb I want to DQ but realized I wasn’t being fair yet. I have no doubt I’ll be given a proper reason soon. I think we’re at another point in history where if there were a popular person who wanted to steal the presidential election on name recognition and positive name association, they could? They’d have to be crazy to want such a crappy job and the abuse that comes with it, but it would practically be a landslide. At this point, I think there’s more faith and support in a non-politician to make it up as they go along than to have a seasoned policy guru who’s jumped the shark multiple times a year for the last decade.

        I won’t put forward any names – as that would derail into political squabbling, but I think the concept might not be far from reality.

  8. I think the ugly side of organized religion is too exposed for it to survive except in marginalized fashion. Yes, this will be throwing out the baby with the bathwater on a grand scale, but the bathwater has been revealed as so filthy: de facto bigotry, bias, exclusiveness and prejudice, sexism and homophobia; fraud, greed and chicanery from the mega-churches and televangelists, the organizational betrayal on innocents by the Catholic hierarchy, the public visibility of cult-like “faiths” like Scientology. Islamic terrorism, and the association of “religious freedom” with the withholding of basic rights from women and gays.

    That’s too much baggage, and I don’t see the cultural damage being reversed.

    • The Abrahamic faiths have been around for 6,000, 2,000, and 1,400 years respectively, Orthodox Christianity saw a BIG uptick everywhere in the east except the Czech Republic once Communism ended, and Catholicism, the Baptist faiths, and Islam are still growing faster than atheism. Organized religion isn’t going anywhere in our lifetime. It may fall back a bit as it did during the Age of Reason, before that became a tyranny of personalities, but as the Second Great Awakening followed and gave us Adventism, Mormonism, the Disciples of Christ and a bunch of other faiths, I think it will rise again. Atheistic regimes in history don’t offer such a great alternative: tyranny of personalities, casual cruelty, a system where people could fall and fall hard from favor at the drop of a hat, and so on.

      • I am a great believer in the civilizing benefits of religion, but it’s weaknesses are too exposed by modern communications, and its leadership has not shown itself to be sufficiently competent, virtuous or trustworthy to deal with the challenges of survival. Dinosaurs thrived for millions of years, but when the jig was up, it was up. Of course, they evolved into birds.

        Ironically, evolution is the best shot organized religion has.

        • Well, the current scientific consensus is that some of the lighter carnivorous dinosaurs evolved into birds. Then again, I can remember as a boy reading dinosaur books that took the propositions that the brachiosaurs had nose openings on the tops of their skulls and could function comfortably in 20+ feet of water, that the duck-billed dinosaurs could fill their hollow skulls with air to stay underwater for extended periods of time, and that the mosasaurs (a form of aquatic reptile) had fin ridges on their backs and lizard-like tails, so they moved like eels, as scientific fact. All of that has now been conclusively disproven. Who knows what scientist will next show us a new model of this or that, rendering what we thought as scientific fact untrue and sending us back to the drawing board?

          That said, old dogs survive when they learn new tricks, and the sooner organized religion takes hold of modern technology to get the message out and consistently shoot down bs accusations, expose those critics that are just out for themselves or who are simply haters, because many activist atheists are simply that, and get the message out, it will have a fighting chance. Religion isn’t ready to go the way of the dodo bird yet.

  9. >>1. He is pandering. … “Ah!” they will say, or so Kasich’s shameless advisors have convinced him, “He’s one of us! …

    >>6. Waiting for God to declare the right course is an intentional abdication of ethics for the moral direction on others, or, if you prefer, Others.

    Observation 1 is partially incorrect; and the others mostly incorrect by corrolation.

    Gov. Kasich is speaking to Christians in a manner of speech that is immediately recognizable to other Christians, but apparently appears obtuse to outsiders. His statement, to “discern God’s will”, is understood to mean prayerful reflection on one’s actions. It is not, as “Polico” suggests, waiting for a prophetic edict of action. Kasich even specifically disclaims such expectation saying his is not waiting for “lightening” to strike.

    Describing prayerful reflection as finding “God’s will” is taught by every mainstream Christian church or denomination. This is not an “everybody does it rationalization”, but recognition of a term d’art.

    Taken out of context, the statement does perhaps suggest delusion, pandering and/or lying. However, when understood as nearly every practicing Christian would understand it, the statement is materially equivalent to your suggested alternative: “I’ll be looking to my family, my faith…”. Saying that one is “looking to one’s faith” is not different than saying one will reflect on the issue during prayer.

    That “discerning God’s will” is understood by mainstream Christianity as meaning “prayerful reflection” seems to be well known enough that even here many are saying this column overreaches in its conclusion. The governor’s statement amounts to stating that he prays while making difficult and important decisions. To mean that praying is irresponsible and unethical would be overreaching and “religion bashing”. It would suggest that no Christian, ever, would be ethically fit to run for office.

    The phrase, or more importantly, the practice meant by the phrase, is a perfectly innocent, and is logically necessary when one believes in a higher power. One cannot honestly believe there is a benevolent and infinitely wise creator, who asks us to pause and reflect before acting, and then conclude that there is probably no need to pause and reflect. Even if one did not understand the importance of reflecting, one might still trust a friend of mentor, and follow such advise; that the advise comes from one’s religion is no different.

    Polico seems to purposefully misunderstand this phrase and use it as a cheap source of mockery. As a democratic and pluralistic society, we have a duty to meet each other half way and seek to understand rather than mock. That even so common a phrase, to discern God’s will, is used as a source of derision is a symptom of a toxic political and social culture.

    You have written extensively about the foreseeable negative consequences of this toxicity, which breed unethical thinking. To permanently write off a candidate that otherwise impressed you as unethical, for describing his faith using an idiom common to that faith, would only contribute to this growing culture-wide misunderstanding.

    • Wrong. He’s not auditioning to be King of the Christians. He’s running for President. That’s why it’s pandering. he doesn’t get to talk one way for whites and one way for blacks, either. That’s why it’s pandering.

      And Kasich said that he wasn’t going to wait around for lightning to strike, meaning that he would still be doing things while waiting for God’s OK.

      When we are talking about someone who wants to be a national leader, we are talking about trust. We shouldn’t compromise on trust. I expect someone who genuinely believes that they speak with God, and that He speaks back, to understand that for many citizens, this is not an encouraging sign. If he doesn’t understand this, I don’t trust his judgment. If he does and says it anyway, that raises other issues.

      I am very, very confident that anyone who says he gets direct orders from God is deluded, which I will tolerate in friends and business associates but not my leaders, a narcissist, or lying. In politicians, as with evangelicals, it is almost always the latter.

      Just because it involves God doesn’t mean a statement is immune from rational analysis.

      • Which takes us back to C.S. Lewis’ analysis of faith, cleverly brought down to a kids’ level in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” after Lucy’s first accidental stumble into Narnia. When she tells her siblings of her wondrous experiences, her two older siblings approach the learned professor with whom they are staying in the hopes of making some sense of it all. He asks if they had known her to be a liar in the past. When they say no, he asks if they think she is crazy. When they again reply in the negative, he says if she isn’t lying, and she isn’t mad, then the only other possibility is that she is telling the truth, adding the tagline “What DO they teach them at these schools now?”

        I’m not prepared to throw people with strong faith all into the category of liars or lunatics, although I do find discussing practical solutions with fundamentalist people to be a little frustrating. I don’t believe that JK was lying here either, since he has not been shown to be a liar or a politician who slimes his way into things. I do believe he was very clumsy in the way he phrased this, and I also believe that should not be an automatic disqualifier.

          • Mmmhmmm. We can be measured in our responses here and try to come to some kind of consensus or we can hurl insults at each other and generate a lot of heat, but very little light. There is zero value in hurling insults. I also think there’s more power in poking holes in people’s arguments than stringing insults together.

      • >> I am very, very confident that anyone who says he gets direct orders from God is deluded, which I will tolerate in friends and business associates but not my leaders, a narcissist, or lying. In politicians, as with evangelicals, it is almost always the latter.

        With this I concur, but the Governor is not claiming “direct orders”. He is using an common idiom. If an actor in your theater company literally wanted another actor’s leg broken, you would figuratively kick him out the door. If Christians were to understand Kasich to literally expect a burning bush to talk him, they would assume him to be literally delusional as well.

        Let us consider another well known and worn out Christianism: WWJD (What would Jesus Do?)* No one would assume any claim was made to prophetic knowledge as to the actually response of the historical Jesus to the current situation.

        Let us know now draw a parallel; imagine Gov. Kasich said “What would the Lord want me to do?” The key word “would” removes any grammatical Tom Foolery that makes this sound like a claim to prophesy. The Christian convention, however, is to use the present tense. Idiomatically, they mean the same thing.

        It would seem to border on religious bashing to assume the most delusional meaning possible when a phrase has a common idiomatic, non-delusional, meaning.

        * Whenever Sunday school teachers ask a misbehaving student “What would Jesus Do?” they seem to forget that cracking whips and overturning tables are an option!

        • “I am very, very confident that anyone who says he gets direct orders from God is deluded.”

          I have always struggled with understanding this. The Bible is full of people who received direct orders from God. Christians don’t believe THOSE people were deluded. So why would God only speak with people then, and not now? If there is a God, how do we know when someone is deluded or if that person might be the next prophet? (I doubt its Kasich, but who knows!)

          I’m not religious, and I rarely talk about religion because if you take the argument too far, then the religious person ends up insulting the atheist person for arrogance and the atheist ends up insulting the religious person’s intelligence. That doesn’t achieve anything.

          I try to walk this line very delicately because my life is full of more believers than non-believers, so I need to respect them and they need to respect me. That’s why I felt Jack’s comments were over the top throughout this thread. I’m not going to condemn somebody for this type of thinking — even if he is running for office. And, as I mentioned above, I think politicians have to be brutally honest about their belief system (or lack of one) because we deserve to know how they tick before they earn our vote.

          As for pandering …. well, show me one politician who you think doesn’t pander, and I think 5 minutes on Google will cure you of that misconception.

          • >>I have always struggled with understanding this. The Bible is full of people who received direct orders from God. Christians don’t believe THOSE people were deluded. So why would God only speak with people then, and not now?

            The official answer is that the age of public revelation (prophesy) closed with the deaths of Jesus’ apostles and the evangelist who wrote the New Testament scriptures. Some Christians accept there is limited private revelation, such as visions seen by certain saints, but unlike scripture, Christians are not obligated to believe these visions are authentic. Only scripture is considered mandatory for most Christians (though Catholics and Orthodox also add as mandatory the traditions preserved and taught by the Church).

            For Catholics and Orthodox Christians, the church is believed to be continually guided by the Holy Spirit to authentically interpret scripture and tradition in the modern day. There is no claim to direct communication, however; priests and scholars must study and debate an issue thoroughly, and several competing interpretations may exist until a consensus is drawn. The churches believe that this consensus is divinely protected from error, but in a manner distance from prophesy.

            For Evangelicals and many Protestants, individual interpretation is supreme. An individual is called to study scripture and pray, perhaps seeking guidance from a pastor, to understand how Christian teaching applies to him. This discernment is called “finding God’s will”. There is no claim to personal prophesy involved, but a desire to align ones conscience with God’s will as documented in scripture. (Catholics, and perhaps Orthodox, are also taught to discern God’s will, but with the added step of aligning their conscience to both Scripture and the complementary teachings of the Church.)

            The basic reason that there are no longer prophetic leaders among humanity is that all prophets are taught to herald and foreshadow the arrival of Jesus Christ. Jesus, who is taught to be True God, and True Man, fundamentally changed the relationship between God and Man, Jesus becoming the permanently humanly leader to the exclusion of any future prophets.

            Even the Pope is taught to only govern vicariously for Christ.

          • Those who heard directly from God doesn’t stop with the Bible. It doesn’t even stop with the Koran, where Muhammad supposedly spoke to a God only he could hear and see and ascended into heaven on the back of a winged horse (not from Jerusalem, that was a later addition). Constantine the Great supposedly saw a fiery cross in the sky with the words “In this sign thou shalt conquer” before his great victory at the Milvian Bridge. Supposedly Attila was turned aside from Paris by the prayers of St. Genevieve and from Rome by a vision of SS. Peter and Paul. St. Ferdinand was supposedly pointed in the right direction to catch the Muslims at Las Navas by St. James. St. Francis was supposedly inspired by a vision. St. Joan of Arc supposedly heard voices. Joseph Smith supposedly met both the Father and the Son in upstate NY. At Mons in WWI supposedly the allied soldiers saw nation-specific visions during their fighting retreat.

            I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what happened in all of these situations. Maybe Constantine really saw something, maybe he was just savvy enough to know Christianity was an idea whose time had come. Maybe Attila was really turned aside by the prayers of a young girl and a warning from the hereafter, and maybe he took a look at the cities’ formidable walls and decided his limited siegecraft wasn’t going to win the day. Maybe Mohammed really heard from the Supreme Being, and maybe he just put the biggest hoax of all over on one-third of the world. Maybe St. Ferdinand really got apostolic information, and maybe he just had good intelligence on the ground. Maybe St. Francis really was told to rebuild the collapsing faith by He who founded it, and maybe he just had a febrile hallucination. Maybe Joan was a saint, maybe she was just a schizophrenic. Maybe Joseph Smith was really the latest prophet, and maybe he too put a big hoax over on thousands who became millions. Maybe St. Joan of Arc and Henry V really rose from their graves to cover the retreat of their countrymen, and maybe it was all a mass hallucination by soldiers operating on very little food and sleep.

            This is where faith comes in. For those who believe, no explanation of any of this is going to be needed. For those who don’t, no explanation is going to be possible. I for one am more inclined to give a little more credence to the older stories and a little less to the later ones. I also think Mohammed’s miraculous visions including a visit to Heaven and Joseph Smith’s claims about golden plates and civilizations in the Americas that there is zero archaeological evidence for are at best narcissistic ideas that took off during fertile times (the uncertainty between the Christian West and the Zoroastarian Persians and the Second Great Awakening), at worst fraud. Part of that’s probably because I’m a Catholic (albeit with some Deist tendencies) and I know what I do and don’t believe.

            I also know all these beliefs have been around for thousands of years and are still pretty deeply rooted, although we find ourselves turning away from them in times of plenty and toward them in bad times. I also think most of the belief systems are at worst harmless and at best great forces for good – Catholic Charities is still the biggest charitable force in the world that has done the most good, although their administrations are capable of big failures. The big exception is Islam, which never successfully made the separation of religion and state which Christianity did in the Thirty Years’ War, and which still has fundamentalist leaders in power who simply will not tolerate those who think differently. Most are at least enough in touch with reality not to do something really crazy, and the recent sentencing of Mohammed Morsi is proof that at least some of that world can police its own, but ISIS and Iran and the Taliban are still powerful nations or regimes, and it only took 19 men to make 9/11 happen.

            All of that said, we in America are supposed to respect belief and respect plurality of belief, and respect lack of belief. I think too often that gets forgotten on all sides. Most of us believers are comfortable in our belief not to push it on others, but some of us feel the need to get the word out. Anyone who wants access to any religion to learn or join should have it. Anyone who chooses to walk away should be allowed to. Any religion that wants to celebrate publicly should be allowed to, as long as it doesn’t snarl up society generally, including Italian Catholics marching behind the saint, Chinese Buddhists doing the dragon dance, and so on. Those who don’t want to join the celebration are free not to.

            Any seeker of office shouldn’t have to pass ANY test of belief, whether of believing in a particular faith or believing in none. The test he needs to pass is whether he will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office he is seeking and uphold the law, no matter what his personal beliefs may be.

            What shouldn’t be encouraged, and too often is, is deliberate clashing among believers and non-believers and deliberate stirring up of trouble between the two. I am sorry to say it, but the fact is that almost every sign or meme I have ever seen from the atheistic side of things is aimed at insulting religion or tearing it down, sometimes with a generous dose of snark, sometimes with some very profane insults, sometimes with just naked jerkassery.

            Christmastime the decorations go up, and most folks, I daresay, have no problem with a splash of blue and white among the red and green as the Jewish community adds their celebration to things. However, to see a sign amidst this that says “You Know It’s A Myth” or “Dear Santa, all I want this Christmas is not to go to church, I’m too old for fairy tales,” doesn’t add to the celebration, or really add much to anything. It’s just an insult to those who are celebrating, who are probably going to feel at least mildly annoyed, at worst insulted.

            If someone wants to discuss the question of faith and why do people believe and the relative dearth of historical evidence for a lot of the underlying stories, then that’s fine, it might even teach someone something he didn’t know. However, if someone just wants to make blanket statements like “If God is your light you are choosing to walk in the dark,” that’s not a starting point for a discussion but an insult to the believer, and if you hurl insults you shouldn’t be surprised when the reaction is negative. I’d like to believe that non-believers have as much to add to the human dialogue as believers, but when the majority of what I hear and read from them is this kind of insulting and in some cases hateful stuff, it’s pretty hard not to think of them as negative folks who just want to hate on those they think are not as smart as they are.

            • Steve-O, Bravo. I think that’s an excellent statement, one I can totally agree with, even though I’m more generally from the atheist side (a former midwest Presbyterian, God’s Frozen People). I always thought Kierkegaard was the only truly honest theologian, uncompromising in his statement that faith was the be-all and the end-all – there’s really just nothing to be said, by or to either side, other than that issue.

              Without intending to take anything away from your statement (honestly), and with all respect (seriously), there was only one tiny line that gave me pause in your note; “most of the belief systems are at worst harmless and at best great forces for good…”

              We may have traded notes on this before, forgive me if I forget, but I’d be curious to hear your opinion of James Carroll’s book Constantine’s Sword. I suspect that Carroll (a Catholic) would agree with you that the net effect of Catholicism is clearly positive (Catholic Charities are far from the only good example), but that he would take issue with the “at worst harmless” line. He documents a great deal of harm.

              And for what it’s worth, the best theological statement I’ve seen (I don’t know whether to count it better or worse than Kierkegaard, but certainly near) was (oddly) in a science fiction story by the late Stanislaw Lem, published in the 70s or so in The New Yorker. It was a tale set in the then-future – roughly the 2000’s – about a researcher keeping track of the intellectual progress of computer-simulated civilizations, using software with names like Baal-2000 and Jahweh V.

              The researcher could “tap in” to the intellectual progress of the virtual civilizations, which recapitulated Western thought, particularly on the issue of the existence of God (“does evil really exist…if there is a god, how could he permit suffering…why doesn’t he reveal himself more…etc “).

              As he reads the increasingly subtle, refined theological speculations by these digital-yet-humanistic “entities,” it occurs to him that he is to them, for all intents and purposes, God. And it raises the question of his obligation to them, his “creation.”

              He recoils from “revealing” himself by injecting a deus ex machina situation into the program as being a cheap trick, insulting to his creation, a creation he deeply respects. And as he reflects on his moral obligation to “them,” he decides that his ultimate role is simply to keep getting enough research grants that he doesn’t have to pull the plug on the machine that keeps “them” in “existence.”

              I’ve always felt that to be a powerful metaphor on two dimensions. It makes a hash of our ontological speculations. It also provides a morally respectable reason for supposing that if there were a Creator, he would limit his role solely to that of a Great Observer, indistinguishable from the absence of any deity at all in all ways evident to us.

              For what it’s worth.

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