'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

 

Continued from page 4

And not only that. It's necessary to know Jesus in an intimate and personal way. That's what it means to be an evangelical. I don't think it means evangelicals are necessarily in favor of capital punishment. I'm one evangelical that is opposed to capital punishment. I do not believe being an evangelical means women should be debarred from pastoral ministry. I believe women do have a right to be in ministry. It doesn't mean evangelicals are supportive of the Republican party in all respects, because here's one evangelical who says "I think the Republican party has been the party of the rich, and has forgotten many ethnic groups and many poor people."

I am an evangelical who holds to those three positions [Creed, Bible, personal relationship with Jesus] and is a strong environmentalist. I am an evangelical who raises very specific questions about war in general, but specifically the war in Iraq. The evangelical community has been far too supportive of militarism.

You were criticized when you counseled Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. Are you still in touch with Clinton?

Yes, and very much in the way I was before: trying to be a faithful follower of Jesus. I think it's the task of Christians to speak truth to power.

The president of the United States called upon me to help him and nurture him into some kind of relationship with God. He obviously had strayed away from what he knew was right, and he called me one day and said can you help me?

I don't know what you're supposed to say to that: "I'm sorry, but evangelicals only pray with Republicans?"

I was appalled that evangelical leaders wrote me nasty letters and said you should have no time for this man after what he's done to this country, to Monica Lewinsky, to his family. I can't understand that mentality. We're talking about being the follower of a Jesus who would

never

turn his back on any person seeking help.

If you're an evangelical, you should believe that every person, no matter how low or high, is capable of being converted, of repentance.

If John Kerry or George W. Bush were to call you up and ask for your guidance on issues facing America today, what would you tell each of them in turn?

To Kerry, I think my major issue would be "Do you understand us? Do you understand evangelicals and why we're so upset about the pro-life issue? Do you understand why we believe all life is sacred?" I'd encourage him to do justice and to do righteousness.

To George Bush, I'd say "The God of scripture is a God who calls us to protect the environment. I don't think your administration has done that very well. The God of scripture calls us to be peacemakers. We follow a Jesus who said those who live by the sword will die by the sword, who called us to be agents of reconciliation."

I would point out to George Bush that the Christ that he follows says "blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy"-which doesn't go along with capital punishment.

I would say different things to each candidate, but I would respond instantaneously to the invitation to speak to each of them. All the way to the White House, I would be praying, "God, keep me from chickening out. Help me to not be so overawed by the high office of these people that I fail to recognize I answer to a higher authority."

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