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The Case for One-Issue Voting

Updated: May 2

In 1995, John Piper wrote an article titled "One-Issue Politics, One-Issue Marriage, and the Human Society," in which he argues:

No endorsement of any single issue qualifies a person to hold public office. . . . [But] Everybody knows a single issue that for them would disqualify a candidate for office. . . . I believe that the endorsement of the right to kill unborn children disqualifies a person from any position of public office. . . . These reflections have confirmed my conviction never to vote for a person who endorses such an evil—even if he could balance the budget tomorrow and end all taxation.

I wholeheartedly agree with Piper. Before I move forward, I must make my presuppositions clear:


  • I affirm the Reformational principle of sola Scriptura, that the Bible is God’s inspired word, inerrant, trustworthy, the highest supreme authority, and the perfect standard for judging all other knowledge.

  • The Bible states that humans are made by God in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) and prohibits the killing of innocent people (Exod. 20:13).

  • I believe there are two types of political issues: straight-line and jagged line. Straight-line political issues are issues that have a direct line between a biblical text and its policy application. For example, abortion is a straight-line political issue since murder is sinful and abortion is a form of murder. Jagged-line political issues are issues that have a multistep process from a biblical principle to a policy position and application. For example, immigration is a jagged-line issue. Consider the following argument: “We should love our neighbor as ourselves,” therefore “we should allow anyone and everyone to cross our borders.” Well, it’s not that simple. There’s a multistep process before we get to that conclusion.

  • I believe some injustices are worse than others.


With this in mind, I think it’s extremely unwise to vote for a pro-choice politician, especially at the highest level of government, if there’s another candidate who is pro-life. Or, to put it positively, I believe it is wise for Christians to be one-issue voters for straightforward political issues. I use the language of wise and unwise because this is a matter of wisdom. Political judgment requires wisdom. Wisdom is a combination of honor and love for God and skillful living in His world that results in justice and flourishing. It is rightly applying principles based on Scripture, and there’s a space between our biblical and theological principles and our specific political judgment. Two Christians may agree on the same biblical and theological principle, yet their application (i.e., policy and method) of that principle may differ.


Difficult Life Versus Dead Life


It’s unwise to vote for a pro-choice candidate if there’s another candidate who is pro-life. Being pro-choice in today’s political landscape is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat. The Democratic Party unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and has doubled down on their position for the “right” to terminate pregnancies in the womb during the third trimester. Is it possible to be a Democrat and be against abortion? Yes. For example, there’s the Democrats for Life of America organization that seeks to encourage the Democratic party to oppose abortion. However, these members are very few. The overwhelming majority of those in the current Democratic Party strongly support and celebrate abortion.


To be clear, voting Democrat or Republican does not make one a Christian, nor does endorsing pro-life make one qualified to hold office. Christians are united by the gospel in accordance with Scripture. Furthermore, Christians should be in agreement that abortion is murder, which Scripture forbids. But Christians may differ on political tactics for overcoming abortion. Abortion, as a policy, is a straightforward issue, but voting for a pro-choice candidate (I think) is a jagged-line issue since there are different voting strategies and philosophies. People either vote for the least worst candidate who has the best chance of winning or vote for the best candidate even if that person has no chance of winning. There isn’t a prescribed voting strategy. In a similar fashion, it is right for pastors to preach that abortion is sin, yet it is not right for a pastor to bind the conscience of his people that they must adopt a particular strategy on combating abortion.


But then comes the question: “What if the candidate at the head of the party is a racist and pro-life? Would you still vote for this candidate?” My response is threefold: “(1) There will never be a party or politician that I fully align with because every person is a sinner (including myself) and sinners are imperfect. I do not believe that there’s a political party that’s a perfect fit for Christians. (2) If there is no other viable candidate that is pro-life, then my answer is a sad ‘yes.’ (3) There are many injustices in society, such as racism, but none of them are as worse as abortion. Both sins are an affront to God. Racism results in difficult life. But abortion always results in a dead life.” Therefore, I believe it’s wise for Christians to consider being a one-issue voter and to not vote for a candidate that strongly supports the “right” to terminate pregnancies when there’s another candidate that’s pro-life.

 

Tuezong Xiong (BS, University of Northwestern–St. Paul) received his bachelors degree in Pastoral Ministry and Bible at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul. He is currently studying at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, MN for his Masters of Divinity. He is the husband of Pa Kou. He also blogs at www.tuezongxiong.wordpress.com.


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