October 20, 2008

A Single Issue Voter? (Thoughts on the Election, Part 5)

As I continue thinking my way through the election on paper before you … I realize that I have left myself open to a particular criticism. That is, the charge may come that I am guilty of being one of the most narrow-minded of citizens … a (gasp!) single-issue voter. For many years, voting based on the devastating importance of a single issue (that of killing millions of babies) didn’t seem all that narrow. But in today’s climate, even some purportedly evangelical church leaders are saying to folks like me:

“Look, abortion is here to stay. We simply have to accept reality. And instead of spinning our wheels, hoping to overturn Roe v. Wade, we need to focus our attention elsewhere. Let’s take some educational measures to try and ‘lower the number of abortions in this country’; let’s focus on some other issues; and let’s not let this one issue, by itself, determine how we vote. After all, both sides say they want to lower the number of abortions (although check the facts on that) … so let’s put aside this hopeless fight to abolish abortion and get on to other things. Reversing roe v. Wade, frankly, is a pipe dream.”

That is the attitude of many ‘evangelicals’ – that when it comes to electing leaders, it is counter-productive and naïve to let a single issue dominate our thinking. To which I have two responses:

First (and borrowing heavily from John Piper) … what if one candidate proposed that we re-introduce slavery? Or reverse the civil rights laws? What if one candidate was a convicted felon? What if one candidate was a known drug-addict? Would any one of these single issues not disqualify him from the presidency? Of course it would … no matter what he believed about other things. There are just certain things you cannot do, be, or believe and still be qualified for the presidency. I think 99% of people would agree … and thus, in a given situation, become very adamant single issue voters.

So the problem is not with single-issue voting. The problem is simply that most Americans don’t care enough about 1 million dead children a year to have that strong of an opinion about this single issue. For my money, however, anyone who supports the upholding (not to mention expansion) of laws that have permitted 40 million children to be legally murdered (talk about a contradiction in terms) since 1973 is absolutely disqualified for the presidency. Read Psalm 139 again, think it out, and see if you don’t agree.

The second response I have who believe it is foolish or naïve to decide your vote based on a single issue is this: ‘What if Abraham Lincoln would have listened to the naysayers who surely told him that it was foolish to divide the country, to alienate people, and to risk his presidency and his life over a single issue? There were plenty of other political issues in the late 1850’s, just as there are today … many of them important. But nothing was more important than tens of thousands of black slaves being treated as property (and often worse) all across the American South. Nothing! This single issue was more important than the economy (which would take a big hit when all those slaves were freed). It was bigger than an end to war (in fact it created the war). It was bigger than anything. Injustice had to be denied. America’s plate had to be cleared of years of blood-guiltiness. And, praise God, it was!

But what if Lincoln would have listened to the sophisticated naysayers of his day? What if he’d decided (like so many today) that, after all, it was a bit naïve to base political decision-making on just a single issue? That ending slavery was a pipe dream? That he should slide abolition to the back burner, simply try and ‘reduce the number of slaves in this country’, and move on to other issues. You know the answer. And maybe we will get to live long enough to say ‘what if’ and ‘praise God’ with the issue of abortion. But if Americans decide single issue politics is too naïve for this day and age, we’ll never know what might have been. And neither, in 35 more years, will 80 million children.

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