Skip to main content

Joel BelzVoices Joel Belz

More than a single issue

A challenge to pray for America

Calling someone a “single-issue voter” may be accurate—but not the fastest way to win that person as a lifelong friend.

I know that to be the case based on experience. When someone says I’m a “single-­issue thinker,” I hear them calling me shallow, superficial, simplistic, and probably at least a little bit lazy.

But it’s a rare week that goes by without my hearing from some WORLD reader or listener charging that I need to get out and broaden my perspective on public policy issues. Specifically, they want me to know there are topics other than abortion for thoughtful Christians to keep in mind as we approach a presidential election. And fairly often, the language these folks use to reprove me isn’t too nice.

My bigger fear was that we in the Christian community might continue to fragment on all sorts of key issues.

Furthermore, these critics tend not to limit their comment to me personally, but typically paint WORLD itself with the same brush. “Why doesn’t WORLD admit,” one woman from Phoenix wrote me not long ago, “that on Judgment Day God is going to be talking about a lot of other sins besides abortion?” She (let’s call her Bertha—as she asked me not to use her real name) suggested that we deploy our staff to some big American cities and do some serious reporting on racism in evangelical churches. 

Skeptics like Bertha might be surprised if they took a little time to do an accurate word or story count measuring WORLD’s actual treatment of “abortion” and “racism.” So my first inclination was to scold Bertha a bit and dare her to get off her high horse, check her facts, and admit that maybe she’s the one with a lopsided focus on her own “single issue.”

But wait, I thought. Where is this getting us? ­Haven’t we been round and round enough times like this? If Bertha’s view of WORLD and me is skewed—and it is—then it wouldn’t be surprising to discover that my view of her is also less than accurate. Given all that background, what practical steps might we take now to sharpen our perceptions of each other? What ­concrete actions, however small, could we take to enhance our cooperative teamwork as fellow Christian believers?

It took a few days, but I finally got Bertha on the phone. She was skeptical about my intentions. “I’m frustrated,” I told her, “that we can agree with each other that abortion is evil, and we can agree with each other that racism is evil—and then we tend to part ways just because we can’t seem to agree on a few priorities.”

“Maybe,” she said perceptively, “that’s why there are so many different organizations out there—somebody to cater to every preference!” Frankly, although I worried that Bertha might be about to cancel her membership, that wasn’t my biggest concern. My bigger fear was that we in the Christian community might continue to fragment on all sorts of key issues—splintering again and again and thereby minimizing our effectiveness.

That’s when it struck me that Bertha and I might be well situated to do something valuable. 

“How often do you pray,” I asked her, “specifically for deliverance from our nation’s dark racist habits?”

“I try to do that,” she said honestly, “but not nearly as often as I should. It seems easier to read and talk about it than to pray about it.”

“So let me be just as open,” I said. “I am not nearly as faithful as I should be in praying for an end to the evil of abortion. If the two of us aren’t even diligent in praying for the issues we tend to identify with most, who’s going to be praying for those we see as less important? What would happen if great companies of us, smaller groups, or couples were to spend the next 30 days praying regularly for issues and causes we perhaps have never prayed for before?”

Bertha and I certainly aren’t forming a movement. We’re barely even talking to each other about it. But neither of us is still a “single-issue” voter.

Comments

You must be a WORLD Member and logged in to the website to comment.
  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Sun, 08/30/2020 07:30 am

    Amen! It is easier, and more fun, to argue and post on social media than pray. But, I must add that growing up in my conservative evangelical tradition I've seen that there is also a hyper spirituality often given to praying, only praying, and watching and waiting for God to do something. This sounds so spiritual but is also a cop out. Both, praying and doing is what we are called to do. I wonder if these might help us somehow edge with baby steps away from the single-issue mind set? Though writing this doesn't seem to quite capture my, or your, point I know it is more in line with our call as Christians in the world.

    And kudos to you brother for reaching out and engaging someone who disagrees with you. Rather than firing back some verbal volleys.

  • Janet B
    Posted: Sun, 08/30/2020 04:04 pm

    The more I see and hear about the arguments between people who share the name Christian (including me), the more I realize that, indeed, prayer is the only answer.

  • VolunteerBB
    Posted: Sun, 08/30/2020 09:33 pm

    Well, if there isn't life (abortion) then no other issues matter.