Saturday, February 16, 2008

Red Letter Christians

Let me start by saying that I generally like Tony Campolo. He spoke at chapel back in the days that I attended John Brown University and I enjoyed listening to him a lot. I even have a few of his books that I enjoy reading. But today, I ran across a column by him posted at the Huffington post about "Red Letter Christians". Now, the first part about defining Biblical Christianity is something I can heartily agree with in most respects. Certainly when it comes to the core of Christianity as the belief that Jesus is God's Son and the only means of salvation and right standing before God, I have no arguments. My problem comes in the application of that to the political realm. His main complaint is with the religious right and their attempts to politicize evangelical views. In an effort to correct this perceived wrong, he and his fellow Red Letter Christians are seeking to take the opposite end of the spectrum and make it the politically correct fold for "true" Christianity.
Seemingly it has never occurred to either of them that Jesus never sought to forge a political party or alliances. In fact, the idea of taking over the government to use its power to "make things right" is foreign to Christ's teaching. Remember it was Christ who said in John 18:36: "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." The emphasis that Campolo places on trying to create this kingdom in the now is not what Christ had intended. We as Christians should work within government to change things for the better when we can. But we shouldn't do this by bringing to bear the force of government to make everyone be charitable. It is wrong to take other's money to help those in need if we do it by force. He cites the example of Bergen, NJ and the deplorable conditions there, but I would be willing to guess that the conditions have been created by many of the things he is advocating. Simply giving people anything and everything they can possibly need does not make people better. Indeed, a lack of ownership by those same people tends to lead them in the opposite direction. If you want to see what government taking care of every need can do, simply visit a couple of the Reservations our government has set up for Native Americans.
The real truth is that our nation is now invested in taking more and more of the God-given liberty that our founders espoused from the people. The call for universal health care sounds benevolent and good, but it is simply a means to give the government more control over each individual in its sphere of power. Instead of all good things coming from our Creator, the new call is for all good things to come from a kind and generous government. I have a better question for Tony and all of those who agree with him about using the government to usher in the "Kingdom of God" here on earth. What if we took our government back to its original purpose? What if we stopped allowing the government to take 1/3 or more of what most people earn and gave them the ability instead to use that money to personally help others. Once upon a time, hospitals and charities and nursing homes were indeed the province of the church and the Christian community. We have lost our way, by allowing, expecting, or even encouraging the government to take over our responsibility to love our neighbor as ourselves. This call from Christ cannot be fulfilled by a big government solution. It can only be fulfilled by Christians who are determined to personally live out their beliefs working together. The strong arm of government is not the one that God desires to use for His Kingdom work. In an ironic twist, those who I am certain would decry legalism in our Christian life are entirely in favor of "legalism" as a solution to our national woes. He says in the article:
We Red Letter Christians consider ignoring the necessity of legislation to address such careless disregard as more than a disgrace: We call it sinful.
If Christians elect to use the government to solve all of these issues that Campolo addresses, then it would be government that would get the glory, if it were to actually succeed(which is doubtful). God doesn't share His glory with anyone or anything. Jesus is not a Republican. Nor is He a Democrat. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

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