Summit Ministries recently received an email critical of our stance on abortion and gay marriage. The letter is not unique, but what makes it more remarkable is that it was written by a fellow believer. There clearly is a growing group of self-identified believers, even evangelicals, who feel that we should abandon the pro-life and pro-marriage stances that have been such a significant part of Christian cultural involvement.
Three primary reasons are offered for abandoning these convictions. First, it makes us “one issue” or “two issue” voters. Second, it makes us a pawn of the Republican party, who really care nothing about the issue but only use it to secure the conservative vote. After all, the argument goes, a Republican President with a Republican Congress didn’t overturn Roe V. Wade. Third, Christians should be about loving people, and fighting over these issues makes us appear unloving (see Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman’s book UnChristian for a case in point).
Today, I wish to look at the first argument, and will follow up on the other two in subsequent posts.
So, should Christians vote a particular way based on one or two issues?
First, there is often a hidden assumption here that this is only a political issue. “Why not do something to eliminate the number of abortions?” we are asked. And, “Why not do something about heterosexual marriage?” But, of course, many Christians are.
It would be impossible to quantify the blood, sweat, and tears that Christian conservatives have put into confronting these issues without even considering the political posturing part. Consider the crisis pregnancy centers in virtually every neighborhood in America where women are loved, helped, gifted with diapers and money and baby stuff. Consider one of the largest Christian companies in America, Chick-Fil-A, pouring millions into work with orphans and marriage retreat centers. Consider even Jerry Falwell, THE lightning rod for critique about his political involvement in the last 25 years before his death, who not only fought politically on abortion, but offered a place for women in unmarried pregnancies to live, work, have medical care, receive further education, and help find adoptive parents. Consider also the many other practical expressions of Christian conviction which can be found in local churches and ministries: the shelters for battered women, the food pantries, the marriage counselors, the programs helping men and women overcome porn addiction, the millions raised to buy back sex slaves and feed street children, and the tens of thousands of adoptive parents.
Of course, some of these expressions have not always been the best. But, it cannot be said that these are merely political issues either. In fact, and this should not be missed, it is more accurate to say that voting is only one of the many many ways that Christian conservatives show their commitments on these issues.
Second, whether one should be a “one issue voter” clearly depends on what the issue is! Suppose the Nazis were right on everything having to do with the economy, foreign policy, military, and domestic issues. The only thing that they were wrong on was the whole killing of Jews thing. That would be a big enough issue, wouldn’t it?
The question to be asked is, are these big enough issues? The pro-life position is based on one key point: unborn humans are valuable persons. Is this not a big enough issue? The pro-family position is based on another key point: there does exist a God-given design for society that is based on marriage and family.
Let me clarify. I am not suggesting that Christians ought to be one issue voters. I, for one, am definitely not. As created stewards of God’s creation, we should care about everything in creation and therefore every issue that is on the table. What I am suggesting, on the other hand, is that some issues are more important than, and even foundational to, other issues. In other words, if you get these issues wrong, then you have no solid place to stand in order to deal with the rest.
Marriage is one of these issues. God started civilization with a wedding, not a government, not the church, and not the United Nations (more on this in a future post). And, the sanctity of life is also one of these issues.
(Read the next part in this series here.)