Serving God And Mammon

No, this is not about a new restaurant opening in Newark. Analysis shows it is time to take a close look at presidential wannabe John Kasich, the postman’s son. Currently John is on a campaign to market his greatest success – having been part of a congress during the almost accidental and unusual period when the US Government had a balanced budget. A fluke, really, since it is not the norm (though many congresses have been elected and passed resolutions to insure just that). Now John is promoting legislating this as a norm for any situation, contingency, or time through an amendment to the US Constitution (did he take his cues from the gambling conglomerate’s amendment to the Ohio Constitution allowing casinos in Ohio?). Comparing fiscal irresponsibility to inebriation, this amendment would usher in a new Prohibition. Failing to get it passed (or supported) John benefits either way by calling attention to his part in this exceptional period in US history when the budget was balanced, that and his own exceptionalism.

Every so often survey statistics are trotted out showing what percentage of professed religious adherents indulge in regular repeated behavior that is counter to the tenets (teachings/admonitions) of their religion (one could say “faith” but Analysis will cover that too). Couples who regularly exercise artificial birth control while participating fully in the liturgy of an affiliation that bans this, cohabitation (“shacking up”, “living in sin”, whatever) within a canon that only legitimates committed marriage, children out of wedlock, keeping the holidays while not keeping kosher or penance or fasting, etc. The dichotomy is rationalized by considering “faith” as something exceptional to the mundane everyday with its obligations and responsibilities. Faith is tomorrow, the afterlife, better, “for the kids”, etc. The everyday requires knowing how to play the game, personal interests, “that’s how it is”, science, etc. When high school students are first introduced to ancient Greek mythology with its religious pantheon of gods, most are stunned and incredulous that any culture could openly and overtly embrace plurality, let alone also be the cradle of western civilization itself. “There is but one God” and his name is __ (various). Well, you get the picture. In actuality the ethos of our contemporary culture is also one of serving many gods, covertly (unlike the ancients). Don’t get caught, don’t get sullied or dirtied in the process, don’t ever admit to it, or identify it or with it. The resulting consequences are not pretty. The reflection of the ethos is that of a cruel and violent two edged sword.

John Kasich is often likened to former Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes. Rhodes embodied the ethos of his time remarkably well. During this period when you did not pander for votes through references of personal faith (indeed, John Kennedy went to great lengths to distance himself from it), Jim Rhodes embodied the American ethos through buzzwords lauding the common people, their common sense, hard work, loyalty, patriotism, responsibility, etc. At the same time he made every effort to sell, promote and help business amass wealth. Rhodes did not succeed in serving multiple gods without it going noticed, being sullied by it. Blood was on his hands with the killings at Kent State University. Unlike then California Governor Ronald Reagan, who initiated that tactic and policy, Rhodes’ orders resulted in death and maiming. Reagan remained unblemished in his unabashed service of multiple gods, eventually being proclaimed the Teflon president, since nothing would stick. (““That would just scare the living daylights out of some people — that Saint Reagan was for amnesty!”” John Kasich in interview with Andrew Romano, see this blog’s posting, 3-26-15). Indeed, the baptism of John’s success, the 1990’s, also witnessed the birth of evangelical churches preaching the gospel of prosperity, God’s rewarding his virtuous followers in the here and now. With his own born again political success of 2010, John’s public address naturally incorporated continuous testimonials and gave fundamental witness to the priority of serving God. Concomitant with Jim Rhodes, John’s actual policies and initiatives likewise emphasize an avid and vigorous service of mammon (JOBSOHIO, tax cuts for the wealthiest, increasing sales taxes and fees, charging for social programs, etc.). Along with this, a ruthless and continuous PR narrative recounts the tale of the postman’s son over and over again. The exceptionalism of John’s balanced budget promo tour (paid for by significant others) exemplifies perfectly this service of multiple gods while “officially” embracing one true faith.

Within the culture of the ancient Roman Empire, the person of Caesar communed as an equal within the pantheon of gods. To be Caesar was to be a god. “Render unto Caesar…” may be an effective way to blunt and placate the Tea party while shifting the tax burden. That is until it becomes apparent that the one quoting scripture intends to become Caesar himself.

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