Thursday, January 03, 2008

"Values" Questions We Should Be Asking

Syracuse professor R. Gustav Niebuhr (any relation to Christian theologian Reinhold?) posts the five questions he uses to assess a candidate's morality here. I have to say, beyond stances on the issues I care about, Questions 1-4 are pretty much what I vote on. Question 5 I don't like because I don't like it when candidates make guarantees on issues.

At any rate, these questions go much, much farther into understanding a candidate's morality than does asking them about what flavor of religion they enjoy (I like butter pecan... tasty). We'd have a far more effective political process if people concerned themselves with a candidate's answers to these questions instead of whether or not the candidate believes that some poor schmuck that got nailed to a tree 2000 years ago was resurrected/came to America afterwards/was God or not. If he/she can answer in the affirmative to Questions 1-4, who cares?


Ben said...

I like all 5. Unsurprisingly. I'd distinguish number 5 from "never involve the country in a war." I read "start a war" as being the instigator of war. It's hard for me to see how being the instigator of war can ever survive a truthful Just War scrutiny (though perhaps I'm not thinking hard enough about that.)

2 and 3 really sound the same. They basically come down to "Are you willing to learn?"

No idea whether R. Gustav Niebuhr has any connection to Reinhold (although his name sounds really familiar to me)....but I can say that Reinhold would disagree with him on war.

Mike said...

Good luck finding someone not named Jed Bartlett who will answer "yes" truthfully to number 4.

Barzelay said...

Seems like this particular set of questions is quite influenced by the current President. If we answer those questions about him, the answer to each of them would be the "wrong" answer. They're all good questions, and better ones than the ones we usually ask. Still, I'm sure we will be able to come up with a few others during or after the next administration is in office.

Kenny said...

Gustav is the grandson of H. Richard Niebhur.

I agree these questions are more probative that a simplistic inquiry into what box a person checks for "religious beliefs" on their facebook profile. But, how a person answers these questions is inextricably tied to that person's essential beliefs, and for many people those beliefs are "religious." Just along those lines, this list of questions arises from a theologian, which I would bet is not coincidental.