Yes, I Am a Single-Issue Voter
If you have ever been called a “single-issue voter,” chances are it was not meant as a compliment. “Single-issue voter” is to political discourse what “flat-earther” is to scientific discourse—a label for low intelligence. The sins commonly associated with single-issue voting are narrow-mindedness, obliviousness to the complexity of American politics, and a stubborn refusal to recognize nuance in voting determinations.
To be sure, politics is complicated, and one must not allow their passion for a particular issue to blind them entirely to matters of justice and equity elsewhere. Christ rebuked the Pharisees for this very thing, fixating on select portions of the Mosaic law to the exclusion of others:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matt 23:23).
And yet, notice that Christ did say that some matters of the Law were “weightier” than others. Such being the case, would it be a stretch to say that some laws were so singularly important that it would be unthinkable for a God-fearing Jew to violate them? What if a man rigidly adhered to countless laws of lesser importance, but compromised on a single weighty matter—would he be exempt from censure? How would it go if he were confronted? Would those who voiced their concern be written off as “single-issue Jews”?
Were they alive today, I suspect that they would.
Since the leak of the draft Dobbs opinion last month, the “single-issue voter” label has been swiftly applied to those who question whether Christians can compromise on the issue of abortion. Meanwhile, the rationales for compromise are as legion as the angry protestors picketing Washington D.C.:
“While I am personally opposed to abortion, I realize that I cannot force my personal beliefs on others in the political realm.”
“I support this pro-choice candidate because he or she will rectify the systemic racial injustices that give rise to abortion.”
“I support this pro-choice candidate because he or she wants to expand healthcare, welfare, and offer universal childcare which will encourage single mothers to keep their children instead of aborting them.”
“I vote for pro-choice candidates because studies have shown that when pro-choice candidates are in office abortion rates actually decrease.”
It is not my goal to address such arguments individually. However, I would like to highlight a dangerous premise that the above rationalizations share: they all suggest that a believer may support those who perpetuate a gross injustice so long as said believer’s intention is to achieve a righteous outcome.
If this describes your own approach to the issue, please hear me: Christians cannot unjustly destroy or support those who unjustly destroy the image of God, even if it is done in the name of protecting and defending the image of God. Good ends, no matter how noble, do not excuse evil means. Christ’s gospel does not free us to become worldly pragmatists or even spiritual utilitarians. Consequentialism is not Christian liberty. God cares about the way in which we do justice and show steadfast love to our neighbors (Micah 6:8). Any politician that runs on a platform of death in the name of human flourishing is one for whom a believer should never cast their vote.
To be clear, I am not saying that being good on a single issue (like abortion) would be enough to qualify a person for leadership who is otherwise incompetent. However, compromising on a particularly weighty issue is enough to disqualify a person who is otherwise very competent.
We all recognize this, as an overused-but-relevant example will show. Imagine if Adolf Hitler’s only flaw were his state-sanctioned extermination of an entire class of image-bearers whose lives he deemed less valuable than his own. Now, given the opportunity, would any of us hesitate to tell a professing Christian in 1930s Germany, “You cannot support the Nazi Party”? I sincerely hope not! But what if they replied, “What? You’re not one of those single-issue voters, are you?”
Would that be a satisfactory response? Of course not. And yet that is precisely the response of professing Christians who rationalize their support for pro-choice candidates and legislation. Whatever their intention, the fact is that such Christians are supporting those who openly protect and promote the state-sanctioned extermination of an entire class of image-bearers. I do not make this comparison lightly, but the extermination of the Jewish people is not altogether different from the extermination of our nation’s unborn children. And if we applied the same standard of justice to the issue of abortion as we do to the Holocaust, I suspect that the household of faith would be considerably less divided on this issue than it is presently. He who has ears to hear, let him hear: There is a coordinated assault against an entire class of image-bearers happening right now in our nation. Will we have the courage to call it what it is, or will we be intimidated into silence when we are chastised for being “too political”?
“But,” someone will ask, “is abortion your only single issue? What about racism? Isn’t your obsessing over abortion a textbook example of evangelical myopia?” By no means. Were any candidate looking to reinstitute the racist policies of Jim Crow or craft legislation that sought to deprive members of any societal group of their God-given and/or constitutional rights, we should all agree that a professing believer could not support that candidate either. Such policies would deprive individuals of their rights of citizenship, and thus functionally deny their equal dignity as image-bearers of God.
Jim Crow was a horrific injustice, and the racism that lay behind it remains just as reprehensible today. So why make abortion the primary issue? Because abortion is in a class unto itself. Call it what it is: abortion is child murder, a termination of the image of God. How can those who proclaim so loudly that they stand for “true justice” at the same time stand shoulder to shoulder with those who have perpetuated the grossest of injustices against 63 million unborn children? Until there is genuine repentance for tolerating abortion as a “necessary evil,” all calls for justice will continue to ring hollow.
My political philosophy does not necessitate the legislating of one injustice in the interest of forwarding justice elsewhere. The same cannot be said for those who support any candidate— Democrat, Republican, or Independent—who claims to pursue justice for men and women that have been born, while at the same time using the force of law to allow for gross injustices to be committed against those yet to be born. Christians can have differences of opinion concerning welfare, healthcare, and how to reform the criminal justice system. Those discussions are healthy and necessary. But there can be no discussion concerning the sanctity of an unborn child’s life and our responsibility to do everything in our power to protect it. This obligation is non-negotiable, and Christians need to stop speaking as though it were optional.
I used to become sheepish when people called me a single-issue voter. I would often apologize for my apparent narrow-mindedness and drop the conversation for fear of giving further offense. I cared about what the other person thought of me; I wanted to be one of those thoughtful, enlightened Christians. However, as I have thought through, prayed over, and considered this subject carefully in recent days, I am even more persuaded to say, “Yes, actually I am a single-issue voter. And you should be too.”
Let’s be a single-minded people who are bold for truth, who uphold all the weighty matters of God’s law, and who call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to pursue justice for all.
Stephen Spinnenweber is the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Florida.
"A Matter of Life and Death" by Amy Mantravadi
"He Won't Be Silent Forever" by Nick Batzig
"After Outrage, What?" by Scott Oliphint
Life, Bioethics, Christianity by C. Everett Koop
Man, Marriage, and the Mad Sexual Revolution by Jonathan Gibson and Richard Phillips