Last month I wrote a post on “The Kasich Way.” Here is what I wrote:
Kasich’s theology of politics comes from a slightly different place than the religious sensibilities informing the Cruz, Rubio, and Carson campaigns. Kasich doesn’t tout his evangelical credentials or talk about his conversion experience or claim (at least not yet) that he wants to restore America to a Christian nation.
Kasich’s campaign seems to focus on the idea that we are created and called for community. His remarks about people being “special” seem to reflect the Judeo-Christian idea that human beings have dignity and worth because they are created in God’s image. If God created everyone “special,” then this belief should be the basis of neighborliness and local community.
I also picked up a bit of the Catholic idea of subsidiarity in his comments about the way problems should be solved locally.
In his acceptance speech following his victory in the Ohio GOP primary, Kasich doubled down on this religious approach to politics. His message is a mix of Wendell Berryism, Front Porch Republicanism, and Catholic social teaching (especially in the area of human dignity, care for the poor, and subsidiarity). His language of social “healing” also reflects a communitarian ethic blended with a nostalgia for his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.
It also seems like Kasich (or someone in his campaign) has read the University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter’s book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.
Here is a taste of what I wrote about Hunter’s book back in 2011:
This leads to Hunter’s second relevant point. In order to change the world, Christians need to practice what he calls “faithful presence.” Such “faithful presence” is incarnational. It is, as Hunter puts it, a “theology of commitment.” It recognizes that the God of the Bible has always worked in particular places. It requires us to work toward human flourishing and to nurture and cultivate the world where God has placed us…As Hunter puts it:
I would suggest that a theology of faithful presence first calls Christians to attend to the people and places that they experience directly. It is not that believers should be disconnected from, or avoid responsibility for, people and places across the globe. Far from it…. But with that said, the call of faithful presence gives priority to what is right in front of us—the community, the neighborhood, and the city, and the people in which these are constituted. For most, this will mean a preference for stability, locality, and particularity of place and its needs. It is here, through the joys, sufferings, hopes, disappointments, concerns, desires, and worries of the people with whom we are in long-term and close relation—family, neighbors, coworkers, and community—where we find our authenticity as a body and as believers. It is here where we learn forgiveness and humility, practice kindness, hospitality, and charity, grow in patience and wisdom, and become clothed in compassion gentleness, and joy. This is the crucible within which Christian holiness is forged. This is the context within which shalom is enacted…. Faithful presence… would encourage ambition, but the instrumentalities of ambition are always subservient to the requirements of humility and charity. (253)
Hunter is also skeptical that the world can be changed through politics. We will see if Kasich can prove him wrong.