Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Reflection

Last spring in the critical thinking class I teach, I had students get into groups and make a list of beliefs from those that they are absolutely certain of down to those that they still believe but only with a confidence level of barely over 50%.  I'm not entirely sure myself that this is a legitimate exercise.  I only believe with about a 55% confidence level that you can put a percentage on how confident you are of something.  But it is a fun exercise for students to think through, and I often learn a lot about my students in the course of it.  I remember that exercise today, because there was one group who gave as their "absolutely certain" belief back then that Barack Obama would not win a second term as president.  So much for absolute certainty.

I was never in serious doubt that the presidential election would go the way it did, and unlike many in my circles of acquaintances, I'm not overly troubled by it.  Let's be very clear:  we were not voting on whether to enact the Kingdom of God yesterday.  The approach of "Let's get our guy into the big political machine so that we can turn all of our convictions into law" has been tried before: King Herod got himself named "King of the Jews" by the Roman senate back in the day.  Instead of having a positive effect on the government, I'm afraid the direction of influence went the other way.  Perhaps you're not impressed with my sample size of one, but I think it has become pretty clear that the Kingdom of God is not going to be enacted through the election of temporal rulers.

Don't get me wrong.  I did vote my convictions.  I guess it's just that I don't have a lot of optimism that people who share my convictions can do very much good in the system, and I don't have a lot of pessimism that people who don't share my convictions will do very much bad.  Democracy is a tremendous leveler in that respect.  If you really want government to be able to accomplish much in a short amount of time, having a benevolent dictator with supreme power would be the way to go.  Democracies with bicameral legislatures and checks and balances don't get a whole lot done besides campaigning for the next election--which I expect to begin in a few days.

As for my convictions, I voted a decidedly split ticket.  These are eight of the folks elected in my neck of the woods:

President - Obama (D)
Senator -  Donnelly (D)
US Representative - Walorski (R)
Governor - Pence (R)
Supt. of Public Instruction - Ritz (D)
State Representative - Niezgodski (D)
St. Joe County Commissioner District 3 - McClure (R)
St. Joe County Council District I - Mark Root (R)

I was 6 for 8 among these in voting for the winning candidate.  In the interest of ballots remaining private, I won't tell you which ones I got correct--with the exception of Mark Root, since he is a faculty colleague of mine (and my son's boss!).

Speaking of son #1, it was his first election for which he was eligible to vote.  We were driving home from our polling station (where we were voters # 286 and 287) reflecting on the process, and I almost got a lump in my throat.  I'm not the most patriotic person in the world; I think Christians generally mix God and country in a deplorable fashion.  But on election day--no matter which way the winners and losers come out--I'm proud to be an American.  Our typical reaction around here to solving conflicts is through the use of force.  But even though the ideological conflicts in our nation are massive, we have impressively cultivated and maintained the tradition of a peaceful transition of power.  Thank God for that.


Roger Walterhouse said...
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David Pannabecker said...

Well said, Jim.

Taibor said...

Thanks for your thoughts! I am also proud to be an American :)

Lisa Joy said...

I, too, found myself both choking up and praising God yesterday for the peaceful way in which our country changes its leaders. Sure, our system is imperfect, but it's pretty darn nice to be able to vote without fear of violence or oppression.

Sam Ochstein said...

An excellent reflection, Jim. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.