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It’s not always wrong to be a “single-issue” advocate
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This is the fifth in a series of classic columns by Joel Belz. In this column (edited here for space) for the July 12, 2008, issue of WORLD, Joel made a prescient case for “single-issue” voting among evangelical Christians.
It’s become an increasingly frequent reminder to us evangelical Christians not to let our cultural identity be framed by “single issues.”
It was a reminder implicitly included in the “Evangelical Manifesto,” a document whose basic content we at WORLD have applauded but whose political direction I questioned. Why are the manifesto’s backers so ready to join the cultural left in suggesting a guilt trip for those evangelicals who have been preoccupied with the evils of abortion and same-sex marriage?
And if some argue that the rising generation of younger evangelicals is a bit embarrassed by what they think is an out-of-balance focus by their elders, and thinks it’s time to get equally exercised over issues like racism, economic justice, and the environment—well, if that’s the case with our 20-somethings and our teenagers, then maybe we need to go to work and do a better job of explaining to them why we’ve put the emphasis where we have for the last generation.
Evangelicals shouldn’t be embarrassed to say boldly and clearly: Abortion and same-sex marriage are uniquely heinous sins. They rattle the foundations of a civilized society. They take a culture in a dreadful direction. We haven’t been wrong to say so. We aren’t fanatics.
And I’m not referring here so much to the young women caught in the anguish of an unexpected pregnancy or folks bewildered by their sexual identity. I’m talking mostly about a society that goes all out to tell such people that what they’re doing is just fine. There’s forgiveness for individual sinners. There’s judgment for societies that lead them astray.
It’s true that we evangelicals sometimes haven’t been as zealous as we ought in fighting racism, abuse of the environment, and poverty. But on all those fronts and more, we’re at least facing the right direction. We’re sometimes slow.
But here’s the difference: What evangelical do you know who says insensitivity to the poor should be promoted? What evangelical leader is calling for more racism? Who advocates the uncontrolled plundering of the environment? That is exactly the kind of cheerleading that is going on for abortion and same-sex marriage.
But here’s the core of the matter. To be robustly and consistently anti-abortion is at the very same time to cast your vote for environmental sensitivity, against racism, and for economic justice. These are not independent, isolated packages.
It’s hard to see how anyone can defend a focus on the future of polar bears and whales, while asking evangelicals to get less noisy about infant humans. Similarly, keep in mind that abortion is one of the most racist of all social causes in history. Minorities don’t just happen to be targeted by the practice of abortion. The history of Planned Parenthood and similar organizations is racist to the core—as is their current practice.
And no economist can look at the loss of 50 million American babies over the last 45 years and not wince at the drain on the economic vitality of our society. Today’s poor Americans are poorer than they would have been if we’d taken care to preserve enough consumers—and workers—to fill a state 1½ times as big as California.
So stop apologizing for having focused on a single issue. It’s the folks promoting causes like abortion and same-sex marriage who are the real “single-issue” fanatics, falsely teaching that you can mess with just one or two aspects of life without upsetting the balance God so wondrously installed in His created order. We need to expose that lie for the tragic falsehood that it is—and to teach the next generation what a very bad bargain they have been asked to accept.
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