Abortion and the Evangelical Manifesto

Last week, while my wife and I were getting to know our new son, a group of prominent evangelical leaders released “An Evangelical Manifesto,” which issues to evangelical Christians (or “Evangelical” with a capital “e,” as the document recommends)

an urgent challenge to reaffirm Evangelical identity, to reform Evangelical behavior, to reposition Evangelicals in public life, and so rededicate ourselves to the high calling of being Evangelical followers of Jesus Christ.

There is much to commend in this document, and the signatories are some pretty heavy hitters in the Evangelical world. Since this is an election year, it touches on the issue of religion and politics.  Here’s GetReligion’s take on one aspect: 

Granted, “An Evangelical Manifesto” lacks specific examples of evangelical political misbehavior. It urges an “expansion of concern beyond single-issue politics,” but fails to sketch out how this might be accomplished or what form this would take. A Communist Manifesto this is not.

Here is the section from the manifesto itself:

We call for an expansion of our concern beyond single-issue politics, such as abortion and marriage, and a fuller recognition of the comprehensive causes and concerns of the Gospel, and of all the human issues that must be engaged in public life.  Although we cannot back away from our biblically rooted commitment to the sanctity of every human life, including those unborn, nor can we deny the holiness of marriage as instituted by God between one man and one woman, we must follow the model of Jesus, the Prince of Peace,  engaging the global giants of conflict, racism, corruption, poverty, pandemic diseases, illiteracy, ignorance, and spiritual emptiness, by promoting reconciliation, encouraging ethical servant leadership, assisting the poor, caring for the sick, and educating the next generation.  We believe it is our calling to be good stewards of all God has entrusted to our care so that it may be passed on to generations yet to be born.  (“An Evangelical Manifesto, 13-14)

Nothing I particularly disagree with here, but I am puzzled by the hand-wringing over “single issue politics.” If our goal is to be obedient to Biblical truth, and to call both major political parties to a deeper faithfulness to Biblical truth, then I’m not sure that accepting abortion rights – or, at least, accepting an acceptance of abortion rights – is all that good of an idea.  Abortion is a “hot button” issue precisely because it is an important issue, just as slavery, suffrage for women, and civil rights have been “hot button” issues in our country.  

Neither political party fully embraces God’s desire for our nation or our world.  We should never expect them to.  But when we vote, we’re faced with an imperfect choice.  We can’t say “I’ll vote for Candidate A on Issues X, Y, and Z, and Candidate B on Issues T, U, and V.” If, as this manifesto suggests, voting based on the issue we consider most important is not acceptable, what, then, is the right way for a Christian to vote in America? 

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