Joel Belz, publisher of World magazine, has published in that magazine's latest issue a blistering attack on our November editorial on dominant-issue politics. In speaking with Belz this morning, he clarified that it was intended as a broad shot at a larger point of view shared by many people, but he made it clear that our editorial remains in the center of his complaint.
Even with clarifying comments from Belz, as well as a gracious demeanor throughout the conversation, we at Christianity Today remain troubled by the column.
We are charged with "condescending arrogance" because we "assert that abortion, homosexuality, and marriage are not just not the black-and-white issues some of us would like to suggest they are." It's difficult to find that "assertion" in our November editorial or in any other. The reason: We do see them as black-and-white (or better yet, right-and-wrong) issues.
Belz's column says our editorial is based on "the assumption that those of us who harp on abortion, homosexuality, and marriage have never given thought to issues like poverty and economic justice, to racism and minority rights, to war and international fairness, to healthcare and environmental issues."
Baloney. The only thing one can logically construe from our editorial is that the Christian public policy agenda is comprehensive. Nothing more, nothing less.
Finally, Belz decries our caution about single-issue politics, and then repeatedly lists three issues (abortion, homosexuality, and traditional marriage) of ultimate concern. It's clear that all three arise out one main issue: the sexual revolution begun in the 1960s, but it's hard to see how these three issues are today one issue politically. And it's worth noting that many politicians agree with us on one or two of these issues, but disagree about the other one or two.
Which brings us back to what we were saying in our editorial: Despite the fact that abortion, homosexuality, and traditional marriage are qualitatively different than many other issues, there remain a host of prudential decisions about how to move the nation toward a more pro-life and traditional-family values. Incremental advances or all-or-nothing politics? Agreeing to civil unions to preserve the definition of marriage, or not? Federal marriage amendment, or leave it to the states? And so on. Even strongly conservative Christians disagree about many of these prudential matters.
Thus, even when one is adamantly pro-life, as CT is (to quote from our editorial: "Abortion is the wrongful taking of human life and a grave sin"), there are many things to consider when one is deciding to vote for a particular candidate.
We are hardly inerrant, and need to hear from a variety of viewpoints to refine and even correct our arguments. But it would help if critics would read and respond to what we actually wrote. Responding to what we've never said doesn't help us, nor does it help the larger Christian world.
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