Minutes after it hit the internet, a friend sent me this link. Sadly, it seems that the pressure of the QUILTBAG assault on society has cracked the moral resistance of another evangelical leader: Tony Campolo. I’ll admit something though. When I found out about Campolo, I was surprised. I wasn’t surprised because he, like a rapidly growing number of professing evangelicals, had buckled on the issue of Christians and homosexuality. Instead, I was surprised because I thought he already had.
I guess I was confused. I was partly confused due to various previous news about Campolo, like when his son decided that he was an atheist (technically he became an agnostic…as if God respects our rhetorical distinctions). During that event,Tony Campolo expressed his lack of concern for his son’s eternal destiny since “the God I believe in doesn’t send people to hell for eternity for having the wrong theology.” Tony Campolo essentially admits that he doesn’t worship the God of the Bible but instead has created a silly caricature of “god” who amazingly agrees with Tony Campolo on matters of theology (as if that sort of idolatry is anything new). I just assumed that the other “unpopular” ideas (i.e. the biblical teaching on homosexuality) had already been jettisoned by Campolo. Also, considering that the homosexual issue was part of what drove Bart Campolo away from the faith, and seeing that Tony Campolo’s wife has been an LGBT advocate since at least 2003, I think my suspicions were justified. For those that are interested, Tony and Peggy actually spoke on the issue of homosexuality in 2003. Here’s the audio:
Tony wasn’t exactly strong on the issue back then, so I guess I foolishly made the assumption that he had buckled on the issue by now. Apparently, on June 8 2015, some 12+ years later, he finally admitted that he held the position I thought he had already held. In some rather convenient timing with regard to the acceptability of his position, Campolo posted a letter on his website. I’d like to interact with that letter, since it has spawned no shortage of questions. I’ll post it in it’s entirety on here, and I’ll interact in red (as well as in a few memes). Let’s look at Campolo’s statement, shall we?
As a young man I surrendered my life to Jesus and trusted in Him for my salvation, and I have been a staunch evangelical ever since. I rely on the doctrines of the Apostles Creed. I believe the Bible to have been written by men inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit (aka – the Bible isn’t inspired, hence Tony doesn’t really have a problem with tossing certain parts of it out the window). I place my highest priority on the words of Jesus, emphasizing the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus makes clear that on Judgment Day the defining question will be how each of us responded to those he calls “the least of these” (Not only is he a “red letter” Christian, but he selects specific red letters that he prioritizes over the other ones. No reason really…he just willfully admits that he’s making Jesus into the social activist that he wants Jesus to be. Also, it’s quite convenient that Jesus isn’t addressing marriage or sexuality in Matthew 25. Well, I’m guessing that Campolo ignores 25:1-13 where Jesus talks about a wedding. Those letters probably aren’t nearly as red as 25:31-45…except for the talk about “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” in 25:41 and “eternal punishment” in 25:46. Those letters are likely a light shade of taupe. Not red at all. This whole “selective red letter” thing must be exhausting…).
From this foundation I have done my best to preach the Gospel (he said “the Gospel” but he meant “the gospel of Matthew 25:35-40”), care for the poor and oppressed, and earnestly motivate others to do the same (and sadly, many people think that Romans 16:17-18 is a hypothetical warning). Because of my open concern for social justice, in recent years I have been asked the same question over and over again: Are you ready to fully accept into the Church those gay Christian couples who have made a lifetime commitment to one another? (which he hasn’t answered firmly and publicly until now…when Matthew Vines and other similar ψευδάδελφος are now selling lots of books. Convenient timing, no?)
While I have always tried to communicate grace and understanding to people on both sides of the issue, my answer to that question has always been somewhat ambiguous (see previous comment). One reason for that ambiguity was that I felt I could do more good for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters by serving as a bridge person, encouraging the rest of the Church to reach out in love and truly get to know them (aka -he admits that he’s been openly and maliciously manipulating the church to accept the gay agenda). The other reason was that, like so many other Christians, I was deeply uncertain about what was right (and by “right”, he means “a position on the issue that won’t hurt my book sales”).
It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church (in other words, he saw what happened to Jennifer Knapp, Ray Boltz, etc. and decided to keep his trap shut until Christian culture was more apostate).
For me, the most important part of that process was answering a more fundamental question: What is the point of marriage in the first place? For some Christians (not Campolo, but some…somewhere…), in a tradition that traces back to St. Augustine, the sole purpose of marriage is procreation, which obviously negates the legitimacy of same-sex unions (and when he says “St. Augustine,” he means “some Catholic theologian I read decades ago whose name escapes me…”). Others of us, however, recognize a more spiritual dimension of marriage, which is of supreme importance (though he’s not thinking of scripture that directly addresses the idea…). We believe that God intends married partners to help actualize in each other the “fruits of the spirit,” which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, often citing the Apostle Paul’s comparison of marriage to Christ’s sanctifying relationship with the Church (Eckhart Tolle is currently talking to his lawyer to see Campolo has committed any actionable plagiarism). This doesn’t mean that unmarried people cannot achieve the highest levels of spiritual actualization (that’s why Jesus died on the cross: to help facilitate our “spiritual actualization”) – our Savior himself was single, after all – but only that the institution of marriage should always be primarily about spiritual growth.
In my own life, my wife Peggy has been easily the greatest encourager of my relationship with Jesus. She has been my prayer partner and, more than anyone else, she has discerned my shortcomings and helped me try to overcome them (like manning up and admitting his support of full QUILTBAG inclusion into the church). Her loving example, constant support, and wise counsel have enabled me to accomplish Kingdom work that I would have not even attempted without her, and I trust she would say the same about my role in her life. Each of us has been God’s gift to the other and our marriage has been a mutually edifying relationship (“actualized edification of spiritual fruit” is the foundation of every convoluted relationship).
One reason I am changing my position on this issue is that, through Peggy, I have come to know so many gay Christian couples whose relationships work in much the same way as our own (His totally irrational assumptions about how sinners couldn’t be nice, believe it or not, were unable to stand up to the test of reality). Our friendships with these couples have helped me understand how important it is for the exclusion and disapproval of their unions by the Christian community to end (the fact that his friends were hurt by his unbiblical bigotry now means that other people, who have convictions derived from actually reading the Bible, need to change). We in the Church should actively support such families. Furthermore, we should be doing all we can to reach, comfort and include all those precious children of God who have been wrongly led to believe that they are mistakes or just not good enough for God, simply because they are not straight (the shame people feel cannot possibly have something to do with the sin that defines their existence or their own conscience that testifies against them continually).
As a social scientist, I have concluded that sexual orientation is almost never a choice (not that social science could ever actually prove that) and I have seen how damaging it can be to try to “cure” someone from being gay (amazingly, overcoming sin by human effort is impossible…it’s not like Jesus didn’t address that repeatedly. Oh wait. That’s not in Matthew 25. Never mind…). As a Christian, my responsibility is not to condemn or reject gay people, but rather to love and embrace them, and to endeavor to draw them into the fellowship of the Church (where it’s Tony’s job, as a Christian, to inform them that Christ will condemn them for their willful rebellion against him…no wait. He doesn’t do that either…). When we sing the old invitation hymn, “Just As I Am”, I want us to mean it, and I want my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to know it is true for them too (because serious Christians build their theology based on church music, not Scripture, right?).
Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage (not that his reasons for abandoning the biblical teaching show a hint of familiarity with it), including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University . Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues (Episcopalians, United Methodists, PCUSA, United Church, etc. No wait! They all just admittedly ignore it too!), and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one (but seriously, not really. I’m Tony Campolo BABY!).
However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church (which he didn’t realize was actually a debate about the biblical office of “elder”), and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture (cause “shunning” and “excommunication” are the way the Bible commands one to deal with marital unfaithfulness right?). Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery (Tony couldn’t tell you who these apparent Christians were, nor could he tell you why they were unquestionably exegetically defeated by Christian theologians and pastors, nor even articulate the most basic differences between American slavery or ancient Jewish slavery…). Many of those people were sincere believers (which makes their biblical positions equally weighty), but most of us now agree that they were wrong (again, he doesn’t know anyone who still is pro-slavery, but just sayin…). I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out (and given the trajectory I’ve just outlined, in 200 years we’ll realize that we were wrong about the deity of Christ, the resurrection, the Trinity, Heaven, Hell, and who knows what else!).
I hope (in the face of all reason) what I have written here will help my fellow Christians to lovingly welcome all of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into the Church (without ever giving them the gospel. My message is the same as Jesus’ message: “Come as you are, however wretched and depraved, and stay that way.”).
So there we have it.
A weak-sauce social-gospel activist with basic theological confusion who tossed the Bible out the window has continued down the trajectory he started on a long time ago.
What’s sad is how many people will see this as some sort of example to follow, simply because he’s Tony Campolo and he’s already done their thinking for them.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Ad Scriptura” Unger