Ken Connor

It is clear that the Lord has raised up leaders to focus on certain injustices, like abortion. However, those who have one calling should not try to cut off the voices of others who may have different callings. Chuck Colson has a calling to be a leader in prison reform. Rick Warren has a calling to draw attention to the African AIDS crisis. Mother Theresa had a calling to serve the "poorest of the poor." Perhaps Richard Cizik has a calling to help Christians think in a principled way about how we ought to treat the environment. Whether or not Global Warming is a fact, and whether or not it is a man-made phenomenon, the theological arguments in favor of "creation care" are strong, and they are very much a part of the tradition of evangelical thought (see the works of Francis Schaeffer, for example).

Of course, there is nothing to prevent evangelicals from criticizing the arguments of those who advocate controversial solutions to problems like global warming or poverty. We can all agree on the morality of protecting the environment and aiding the poor while disagreeing on specific policy solutions. A vigorous exchange of ideas is healthy for the church, so long as it is done charitably. What is less healthy is for some leaders to limit conversation on topics that are clearly appropriate for Christians to discuss.

Some evangelical leaders are concerned that to expand the "issue set" beyond abortion and gay marriage will harm the pro-life, pro-family cause. This is not necessarily true. In fact, the pro-life witness of the Christian Church may be strengthened when men and women are free to pursue their calling. For example, Mother Teresa was respected around the world for her heroic care for the world's poorest citizens. Therefore, is there any doubt that she had a profound effect when, in her 1979 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, she said, "I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing — direct murder by the mother herself." Is there any doubt that Chuck Colson's pro-life and pro-marriage witness is strengthened, rather than weakened, by his compassionate work on behalf of prisoners? Similarly, is it not possible that Richard Cizik's concern for those who are hurt by environmental destruction might only draw more Americans into the pro-life movement?

Christians, therefore, should work to encourage a healthy pluralism of concerns within the body of Christ. When each individual is obedient to God's calling, the body as a whole is strengthened. Because abortion is a true crisis, it is no surprise that the Lord has raised up thousands of men and women to direct their full attention to this one issue. Some of these men and women address the issue from a political perspective; others start crisis pregnancy centers to limit abortion in their own community. At the very same time, the Lord has called thousands of other faithful Christians to combat other, sometimes related, issues. Some work to reduce the divorce rate, others promote laws that protect marriage. Some put their efforts into ending modern-day slavery, or bringing corporate wrongdoers to justice, or reforming the local school system's curriculum. Some fight nursing home abuse, or immorality in the popular culture, or diseases in the third world. When each Christian is doing what he or she is called to do, the entire body is healthier, and everyone has a better chance at being effective. It is foolish to amputate healthy limbs and remove working organs. Therefore, all evangelical leaders, regardless of their personal callings, should embrace the fact that there are many callings within the church, and that these diverse callings will often inspire political action. In the final analysis, this is a sign of vitality, and it should be encouraged.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.