Preface to the November 2004 Issue: The Political Election

[1] Last night I watched a television special in which the commentator compared the candidates in everything from the pathos of their siblings to the way they parted their hair to the breed of the family dog. I have to admit that I was surprised to learn that George W. Bush is a small dog person, but John Kerry did move up a few notches in my estimation when it was revealed that he has a German Shepherd. Tongue in cheek it was, but on days when the candidates can’t seem to get past arguing about whose military record is more embarrassing, Mo Rocca’s evaluation methods seem as valid as any for deciding how to cast my vote.

[2] Research has demonstrated that party loyalty tends to determine not only how a citizen votes, but how the same person perceives the effect of any politician in office. Democrats in the 1980s thought the economy was in far worse shape than it really was, and Republicans were, shall we say, a bit optimistic. In this season of the partisanship intrinsic to our political system, I found it refreshing to read Mark Noll’s article None of the Above: Why I Won’t be Voting for President. Not because Noll says he won’t vote, but because he chooses one standard and doesn’t let party argumentation sway him one way or the other. Now if he could just decide how to vote in the end, we’d all be happy.

[3] Not surprisingly, three-quarters of those we asked to respond to Noll’s essay wanted him to vote-close your eyes, take a guess, sin boldly, do whatever you have to do, but vote. (And if you don’t feel very sincere about it, counsels Bob Benne, at least vote the way I would advise.) Benne’s essay imparts an important point for Christians engaged in political discussion. Given that all of our decisions about politics are contingent, and no one party will satisfy every one of our Christian convictions, it is probably best, it is probably best to allow for the possibility that Christians of equal strength of conviction and faithfulness could come to entirely different conclusions. Please, go to the polls on election day, just don’t be too certain that whatever party you support has cornered the market on faith in action.

Kaari Reierson

Kaari Reierson is the founding editor of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics and is the Chair of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics Advisory Council.