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When Cowardice Meets Passion

Why I admire but sometimes don't follow single-issue activists.

I recently attended a meeting of evangelicals concerned about nuclear arms proliferation. It felt odd, since this hadn't been a topic of conversation since 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell. That event signaled the end of the cold war and supposedly the end of mutual nuclear destruction by the great superpowers. Thousands of nuclear warheads have been destroyed since, yet enough remain to destroy the planet many times over. And here we were, thinking about the unthinkable again.

As the meeting moved to a close, the organizers pressed home their case that this, more than any issue today, was the cause we should give ourselves to. After all, smuggling a nuclear bomb into the U.S. via a suitcase is no longer a fabulous plotline in an imaginative thriller; it is a reasonable scenario in the real world. The fewer nuclear weapons on the planet, the less likely that scenario, went the argument. And if we don't bring that number down significantly, sooner or later, it's going to be Armageddon.

Such logic is hard to refute. A similar logic, though, is used by devout activists of many stripes.

HIV/AIDS activists have told us for years that unless we make disease prevention a priority, we will see entire generations and nations wiped out.

Gay marriage opponents argue that legalizing homosexual marriage will signal the end of the family, the bedrock of civilization.

Creation care advocates tell us that if we don't reverse global warming soon, a planetary catastrophe awaits us.

Pro-lifers remind us not only of the sheer volume of annual abortions, but also that such casual treatment of human life, if left unchecked, will dehumanize our society to the point of barbarism.

In each case, the argument is simple: If this particular problem gets out ...

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SoulWork
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today and author, most recently, of Karl Barth: An Introductory Biography for Evangelicals.
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