'Evangelical Christianity Has Been Hijacked': An Interview with Tony Campolo
Speaking out on gays, women and more, a progressive evangelical says 'We ought to get out of the judging business.'
BY: Interview by Laura Sheahen
In short, I think that evangelicals are so concerned with the unborn-as we should be-that we have failed to pay enough attention to the born-to those children who do live and who are being left behind by a system that has gone in favor of corporate interests and big money.
So as an evangelical, I find myself very torn, because I am a pro-life person. I understand evangelicals who say there comes a time when one issue is so overpowering that we have to vote for the candidate that espouses a pro-life position, even if we disagree with him on a lot of other issues.
My response to that is OK, the Republican party and George Bush know that they have the evangelical community in its pocket-[but] they can't win the election without us. Given this position, shouldn't we be using our incredible position of influence to get the president and his party to address a whole host of other issues which we think are being neglected?
Like what you just said-poverty, or our foreign policy?
Exactly. And we would also point out that the evangelical community has become so pro-Israel that it is forgotten that God loves Palestinians every bit as much. And that a significant proportion of the Palestinian community is Christian. We're turning our back on our own Christian brothers and sisters in an effort to maintain a pro-Zionist mindset that I don't think most Jewish people support. For instance, most Jewish people really support a two-state solution to the Palestinian crisis. Interestingly enough, George Bush supports a two-state solution.
He's the first president to actually say that the Palestinians should have a state of their own with their own government. However, he's received tremendous opposition from evangelicals on that very point.
Evangelicals need to take a good look at what their issues are. Are they really being faithful to Jesus? Are they being faithful to the Bible? Are they adhering to the kinds of teachings that Christ made clear?
In the book, I take issue, for instance, with the increasing tendency in the evangelical community to bar women from key leadership roles in the church. Over the last few years, the Southern Baptist Convention has taken away the right of women to be ordained to ministry. There were women that were ordained to ministry-their ordinations have been negated and women are told that this is not a place for them. They are not to be pastors.
They point to certain passages in the Book of Timothy to make their case, but tend to ignore that there are other passages in the Bible that would raise very serious questions about that position and which, in fact, would legitimate women being in leadership positions in the church. In Galatians, it says that in Christ there's neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, all are one in Christ Jesus. In the Book of Acts, the Bible is very clear that when the Holy Spirit comes upon the Church that both men and women begin to prophesy, that preaching now belongs to both men and women. Phillip had four daughters, all of whom prophesied, which we know means preaching in biblical language. I'd like to point out that in the 16th chapter of Romans, the seventh verse, we have reference to Junia. Junia was a woman and she held the high office of apostle in the early Church. What is frightening to me is that in the New International Translation of the Scriptures, the word Junia was deliberately changed to Junius to make it male.
I'm saying, let's be faithful to the Bible. You can make your point, but there are those of us equally committed to Scripture who make a very strong case that women should be in key leaderships in the Church. We don't want to communicate the idea that to believe the Bible is to necessarily be opposed to women in key roles of leadership in the life of early Christendom.
What position do you wish American evangelicals would take on homosexuality?
As an evangelical who takes the Bible very seriously, I come to the first chapter of Romans and feel there is sufficient evidence there to say that same-gender eroticism is not a Christian lifestyle. That's my position.
So you mean homosexual activity?
That's right. What I think the evangelical community has to face up to, however, is what almost every social scientist knows, and I'm one of them, and that is that people do not choose to be gay. I don't know what causes homosexuality, I have no idea. Neither does anybody else. There isn't enough evidence to support those who would say it's an inborn theory. There isn't enough evidence to support those who say it's because of socialization.
I'm upset because the general theme in the evangelical community, propagated from one end of this country to the other--especially on religious radio--is that people become gay because the male does not have a strong father image with which to identify. That puts the burden of people becoming homosexual on parents.
Most parents who have homosexual children are upset because of the suffering their children have to go through living in a homophobic world. What they don't need is for the Church to come along and to lay a guilt trip on top of them and say "And your children are homosexual because of you. If you would have been the right kind of parent, this would have never happened." That kind of thinking is common in the evangelical Church and the book attacks on solid sociological, psychological, biological grounds.