The Department of Judeo-Christian Propaganda

I think I paid brief, sardonic notice in a roundup to Gov. John Kasich’s nifty new idea of “a new government agency to push Judeo-Christian values around the world.” It occurs to me today that with the GOP presidential field having been “winnowed” by the departure of Bobby Jindal, I should take more seriously the “ideas” of our remaining bravos. But gotta say this one leaves me breathless; it’s that stupid and offensive.

You obviously need to take a big gulp of David Barton to buy the idea there would be anything faintly constitutional about setting up a government agency to promote specific religious traditions. If that’s not an “establishment of religion,” what possibly could be? And if it’s not specific, what’s the point?

But even worse than the existence of such an agency is the mission Kasich appears to envision for it, per a report from NBC’s Leigh Ann Campbell:

The new agency, which he hasn’t yet named, would promote a Jewish- and Christian-based belief system to four regions of the world: China, Iran, Russia and the Middle East.

Oh, that’s great: China, which has long viewed Western missionary activity as inherently subversive; Russia, which has a much longer and richer Jewish and Christian heritage than we have; and then two Islamic audiences where anti-American interests have long claimed the U.S. was a “Crusader” nation trying to encourage apostasy from Islam, as part of a Christian-Zionist conspiracy.

Charlie Pierce of Esquire had a similar reaction to my own:

​Pass the Balanced Budget Amendment but leave enough room for Radio Free Jesus. Kasich has lost his mind.

Leave aside the obvious First Amendment Establishment problems this idea has in this country. The one thing that the Middle East doesn’t need is more Judaeo-Christian proselytizing. Hell, the one thing that the entire Middle East doesn’t need is monotheistic proselytizing of any kind at all. The place already is the Abrahamic thunderdome. This is exactly the kind of conflict that Islamic extremists want.

On top of everything else, there’s the continuing irony that Republicans who have done so much to undermine the idea that the federal government can do anything right persist in wanting to entrust Washington with the spiritual redemption of the world, it seems. It reminds me of the old jibe that we need to get prayer out of the churches and back in the schools where it belongs.

Unless there’s something about this I really don’t understand, John Kasich has just winnowed himself right out of this contest.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.