CHICAGO – An advocate of expanding the Christian agenda to encompass social issues described the current dispute between Christians over the top issues in society as a silent "holy war."
"Many people believe we are engaged in a holy war. And we are," contended Roland Martin, a talk-show host on Chicago's WVON-AM, in a recent CNN commentary. "But it's not with Muslims. The real war – the silent war – is being engaged among Christians, and that's what we must set our sights on."
Debate is quickly escalating among Christians over whether abortion and homosexuality should really be the top concerns of believers or if they are overemphasized and drawing too much attention away from poverty and other social and economic justice issues.
"When did it come to the point that being a Christian meant caring about only two issues, abortion and homosexuality?" questioned Martin.
"Ask the nonreligious what being a Christian today means, and based on what we see and read, it's a good bet they will say that followers of Jesus Christ are preoccupied with those two points."
More recently, however, a new generation of evangelical believers has been trying to broaden the movement's focus from the familiar wars about sex to include social issues such as global warming, immigration reform, and HIV/AIDS.
While such developments have been welcomed by more liberal Christians, whose concerns tend to center on social issues, more conservative believers have protested the shifted focus from what they feel are the most urgent issues.
Last month, a group of prominent and influential conservative evangelical leaders criticized a high official of the National Association of Evangelicals for his outspoken stance on global warming.
The leaders – which included James C. Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family; Gary L. Bauer, president of Coalitions for America; and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council – were opposed to the Rev. Richard Cizik, NAE vice president of governmental affairs, diverting attention away from more important moral issues such as abortion and homosexuality with his promotion of global warming.
However, the NAE board defended Cizik and affirmed "creation care" as an important moral issue. It also adopted a statement against torture during its board meeting last month.
The Southern Baptist Convention – one of the most conservative Christian denominations in America – also recently surprised some people when it joined with evangelical Hispanic leaders to garner support for a new comprehensive immigration reform bill.
In the past, issues relating to immigration reforms that would allow illegal immigrants legal status were predominantly taken up by Christian groups deemed more liberal.
In his commentary last Friday, WVON-AM's Martin made note of the little attention given to other issues – aside from homosexuality and abortion – that require the commitment of Christians such as poverty, homelessness, and divorce.
"The divorce rate of Christians mirrors the national average," he pointed out.
The CNN contributor concluded by stating: "If abortion and gay marriage are part of the Christian agenda, I have no issue with that. Those are moral issues that should be of importance to people of the faith, but the agenda should be much, much broader."
He said he looked forward to the day when "Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Joyce Meyer, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, James Kennedy, Rod Parsley, 'Patriot Pastors' and Rick Warren will sit at the same table as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Cynthia Hale, Eddie L. Long, James Meek, Fred Price, Emmanuel Cleaver and Floyd Flake to establish a call to arms on racism, AIDS, police brutality, a national health care policy, [and] our sorry education system."
Christian Post reporter Eric Young in Washington contributed to this report.