It is hard to find anyone who doesn't like John Kasich. The ebullient former congressman from the Columbus Ohio area spent nearly twenty years making a mark in the House of Representatives as an expert of the budget, ran a principled campaign for the GOP nomination for president in 2000 to underscore his concerns on federal spending (prophets are never heeded in time) and then had a great run as a Fox News Channel host and commentator.
Last year Kasich decided to try and help his beloved Buckeye State and launched a run for governor against Ted Strickland, the affable but hapless career pol who has presided over an economic bleed out that continues despite promises of massive help by President Obama when, as a candidate for president, he stumped the key swing state asking for a chance to show what a united Democratic Washington could do for the industrial Midwest.
Kasich is teamed at the top of the Ohio GOP ticket with a former colleague from the House, Rob Portman, who is favored to keep George Voinovich's Senate seat in Republican hands. The two of them present the GOP's best face to voters: Earnest, smart, optimists who got into politics just as Ronald Reagan came to D.C. and who are now at the top of their games and ready to contribute urgently needed leadership at the state and federal level.
This is a great situation for a candidate like Kasich, and just as many candidates have done, he has authored a book.
Except Every Other Monday: Twenty Years of Life, Lunch, Faith and Friendship is unlike any other candidate's book that I have ever read. Every Other Monday is Kasich's spiritual autobiography, or more accurately, a biography of the small group he and seven other men put together in 1987 to discuss the biggest issues of life using the Bible as their guide. The group has grown over the decades into a cornerstone of the lives of the men who participate in it, a rock on which they have all stood through some very tough times and some deeply difficult circumstances.
It has also been the source of joy, friendship and meaning, and Kasich's "mere Christianity" has deepened and matured through the hundreds of sit-downs with ordinary believers grappling with both Old and New Testaments. Kasich's spiritual journey began after his beloved parents were killed by a drunk driver a quarter century ago, and the path forward for him hasn't been easy or obvious.
I heard of the book this past Monday, ordered it up on my Kindle and read it over the next two days. I asked Kasich to come on the radio show Thursday which he did, and my first question was probably the question most of my D.C. audience on WRC AM 1260 had even if not the first question all of the other listeners across the country would have had: What did your campaign people think about putting out a book like this in the middle of the campaign?
"John," I said "this is a very good book that could be put to very bad use by political opponents. I can see the direct mail now: 'Kasich an expert on greed and envy! Admits to meeting with co-conspirators every other week." I was laughing, but there was a point to the question --candidates don't often talk about their inner lives of faith because such disclosures can and have been used against them in the rough and tumble world of politics.
Kasich's answer was immediate: He'd agreed to write the book before he knew he was going to run for governor. It was an important project to him and he wanted to honor his commitment. He trusted readers and voters would understand.
I think they will. Certainly anyone who has ever been in a small group will identify with the stories in Every Other Monday, and pastors will celebrate that a high profile guy like Kasich has endorsed the approach that has been near the core of American Christianity for many years.
Even cynics and non-believers will find it hard to fault Kasich's account of how life is lived over decades because everyone experiences the same set of ups and downs, great joys and sudden shocks, and Kasich's connecting them to Scripture is not shocking or salacious, only unconventional for a politician. It is also inspiring and encouraging.
Every Other Monday may prompt many other men to seek out or form such groups, and if it does it will be a hugely significant book unlike most candidate books. If it has any impact on the race for Ohio's statehouse, it will be positive, for it is impossible to put down without concluding that John Kasich is exactly who he says he is and that that guy is the same guy you have seen occasionally on your television screen for the past few years --open, energized and upbeat. Every Other Monday is in fact an explanation for Kasich's approach and attitude, an unintentional but powerful marker of authenticity and humility in an age when very few elected officials have that particular sort of credibility.
Even if you are as far from belief in God as anyone you know, give Every Other Monday a shot. We would all be much better off if more elected officials met in more such groups and asked more such questions. In fact, send a copy via Amazon to your congressman or senator or state legislator. It might be exactly what they, and we, so desperately need right now.
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