March 25, 2015
March 25, 2015
By Tom Krattenmaker
Award-winning Portland-based writer
Recent book: The Evangelicals you Don’t Know
– Article Also featured on..USA TODAY,
Ah, the perils and pitfalls of the Christmas … er … holiday season.
And they’re off!
Now that it’s 2015, we can say it: There will be a presidential election next year. Public and news media interest will build toward the frenzied crescendo that characterizes these races. After all, in a country that loves competition, what could be more riveting than the contest for the most powerful political office in the land?
Yet for all Americans, especially people of faith and values, there’s more to this quadrennial exercise than the thrill of victory and agony of defeat.
“It is not about which candidate will win, but which candidate, if elected, will help make us a better people,” says Miroslav Volf, a theology professor at Yale Divinity School and author of the book A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good.
Typical of today’s environment is this advice for politically savvy voters from “The Upshot” column in The New York Times: Pay attention to which GOP contenders are jumping ahead in the quest for support from donors, party leaders and operatives.
Fine. But how about some attention to more substantive questions, too, such as which candidate is more likely to steer a course toward a just, ethical and well-functioning society? And when it comes to the always-popular faith angle, let’s hope the news media and the public can focus on more than the same-old-same-old storylines, such as which Republican contender can woo evangelical voters in Iowa
What to look for
Here are a few admittedly idealistic factors for religious Americans, and all who operate from a well-formed ethical base, to bear in mind as they engage the upcoming presidential election:
What to be wary of
As it turns out, President Obama was not able to transcend the real and bitter divides in our public life as many had hoped on the wings of his campaign rhetoric. (It’s doubtful anyone could.) This is not a call to disengage but a reminder to be realistic, and mindful of the many non-political ways in which positive change is created.
In the end, people of faith and values ought to resist getting distracted by the drama of who’s ahead in the polls, who’s sticking it to whom with the latest rhetorical volleys, and how candidate X is using such-and-such strategy to woo a given voting bloc.
If it’s competition you crave, well, that’s what sports are for.
Tom Krattenmaker is a religion-in-public-life writer, communications director at Yale Divinity School, and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. His latest book is The Evangelicals You Don’t Know.
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