The 2012 election has come and gone, so while we mourn the absence of political ads on TV, perhaps this is a good time to look back and reflect on the election. Rather than do what many other highly paid commentators are doing and wondering about the fiscal cliff or the fate of Obamacare in the states or what U.S. foreign policy might be during the next four years, I thought I would ask different questions. What might the election results mean for HU and its students over the next four years? Even more important, how will we behave in the public square over these next four years?
First, a cynic (not I!) might suggest that things for HU and its students would not have been much different over the next four years no matter who won the election. Even if that cynic is right, though, that does not mean we should not be paying attention to federal policies and actions in a host of areas. This is of particular concern to HU students and its leadership when it comes to matters such as higher education financing. What will happen with student loan debt rates and HU enrollment patterns? Will federal aid to higher education bring solutions or make the problem worse? Beyond that, will government interest in things like online education make it more difficult for residential colleges like HU to continue focusing on our traditional ways of offering education? These and other issues should command our attention over the next four years.
Second, the recent campaign season demonstrated that far too many Americans, almost certainly including some HU students and employees, associate their faith far too closely with one or the other major political party. Perhaps over the next four years we will take some time to think more carefully about the relationship between being a responsible citizen in this earthly world and being a responsible citizen in God’s kingdom. Such thinking may help us discover that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, neither a liberal nor a conservative and possibly not even an American. Perhaps when the next presidential campaign comes along in three years, we will see it through the lens of that responsible thinking and understand that while we should pay attention and participate in the political process, our views about the candidates must never become more important to us than our responsibilities to be thoughtful Christians in this fallen world.
Dwight Brautigam is professor of history and political science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.