Should We Be "Single-Issue" Voters?
My friend John Armstrong is the leader of Reformation and Revival Ministries in Carol Stream, Illinois. Each week he sends out an email update in which he discusses a important spiritual, theological or cultural issue (click here to sign up). Two days ago I received his email dated November 1, the day before the national election. In it he discusses the question of whether or not Christians should be "single issue" voters when they go to the polls on Tuesday. I am summarizing his column here because it is not currently available online.
John begins by noting that some Christian leader say that we can't afford to "single issue" voters this year. They point to concerns about the war in Iraq, immigration, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and many other legitimate issues. We need to be "consistently pro-life," they say.
Here is John's answer:
My conclusion is unambiguous - some political issues are more important morally than others! Some issues are so plain, so clear, and so life-impacting that I can have no other option but to respond as a faithful Christian citizen on the basis of a single moral issue. Our present “culture of death,” to use Pope John Paul II’s oft-used phrase, must be vigorously opposed by responsible Christians who believe discipleship includes public witness and ethical responsibility. I believe the “life” issue should outweigh every other consideration in who I vote for in the coming election.
He note that a century and a half ago slavery loomed above all others as the dominant moral issue in America.
To be wrong on slavery issue was to relegate millions of human beings to the status of things. It was also a position that attacked the very fabric of Western civilization itself. This issue finally tore the nation apart in its bloodiest war ever.
William Wilberforce stands as the model of a godly Christian statesman who spent his life working to eradicate slavery in England. He stuck to his single issue for decades, and eventually the battle was was won and slavery was abolished.
No "right" is as valuable or fundamental as the right to life. Without that right, the "right" to health and safety and happiness mean nothing. "If you kill the helpless child you violate the most basic principle revealed in both nature and Scripture." What good does it do to have the "right" to own property if you are dead? Or what good is the "right" to a living wage if you are not alive to enjoy that living wage?
We can debate specific policy decisions for hours. Christians can and do disagree about the war in Iraq. We can disagree about housing policy, how best to protect the environment, the right way to tax business, the best way to care for the elderly, and so on. These are debates about the best means to a desired end. But the debate over life is not a "means." It is a debate about the ultimate "end," the right to end the lives of millions of unborn children through abortion.
The conclusion of the matter is therefore plain. When the issue is the preservation and dignity of human life, all other issues take second place. We can, and should, argue about tax policy, budget cuts or increases, health care and education. But these issues will always pale into unimportance when life is at stake. Issues that touch upon life are non-negotiable. Pro-abortion, in any form, contradicts Christian identity so deeply that if I am not opposing it at every level, in both public and private ways, then I am complicit in the sin of abortion myself.
Thankfully, we do not have to wonder where John Kerry and George Bush stand on the life issues. They could not be more opposite. And to his credit, John Kerry has not flip-flopped on the life issues. He supports abortion, he opposes the ban on partial-birth abortion, and he supports embryonic stem-cell research. George Bush opposes abortion, supports the ban on partial-birth abortion, and opposes federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
Here is John's eloquent conclusion:
I will consistently support the dignity of human life, both in the church and in the public square. I will pray, I will counsel, and I will serve others in need wherever possible. I will also vote against avowed pro-choice candidates who will appoint judges who will make the laws (they call it interpretation of the law) that determine who will live and who will die. I can do more, I am sure. But how can I do less?
May God raise up an army of Christians who will go to the polls on November 2 and take their Christian convictions with them. When it comes time comes, and you have to make your choice, make sure you choose life.
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