What Are Red Letter Christians?

There’s a movement afoot to seduce evangelical Christians into anti-biblical, socialist, tyrannical politics — the kind currently energizing Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

I know this because I just read a new book by the self-proclaimed godfather of the movement: Tony Campolo. Yeah, you remember him as Bill Clinton’s spiritual guru.

The book is a manifesto of sorts, called "Red Letter Christians." Red Letter Christians are those, we learn in Campolo’s book, who heed the words spoken by Jesus and recorded in the New Testament — sometimes in red letters.

I’ll summarize the book for you: Christians have been paying enough attention to issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, homosexual indoctrination in schools, etc. But, says Campolo, they need to start paying attention to what the Bible teaches to do about poverty, the environment, global warming and social injustice. And in response, we have to empower government through political activism to shoulder our biblical responsibilities.

It’s a stunning treatise — breathtaking in its self-indulgent and willful corruption of clear biblical principles and its naivete.

I’ve debated Campolo. We’ve exchanged heated correspondence. But this book stands Scripture on its head, substituting collective responsibility for personal accountability to God. It presupposes that government is actually good at solving problems. It suggests we need to usher in the kingdom of God on Earth through the power of big government.

Let me give you a rundown on what Red Letter Christians believe:

 — Capital punishment is wrong, despite the clear, unequivocal biblical commandments to take life for life.

 — Most Christians are too warlike and are guilty of not loving their enemies.

 — Universal health care should be provided by government.

 — Poverty should be eliminated by the U.S. government, not just in the U.S. but throughout the world.

 — The minimum wage should be increased significantly.

 — The U.S. should sign the Kyoto Protocol as a step toward solving the phantom crisis of global warming.

 — The U.S. should pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan and address the real problem of terrorism by creating a Palestinian state and addressing the root cause: poverty.

 — We should make condoms available throughout the Third World to fight AIDS.

 — We should address the same-sex marriage issue by getting government out of the marriage business altogether, leaving it to churches and other religious institutions to decide who should be married and who shouldn’t. (No mention of children in this chapter or the ramifications such unions might have on them.)

 — We should promote tougher gun laws.

 — We should spend more on government schools.

 — Christians should be offering sanctuary to all illegal immigrants.

 — The U.S. should cut the military budget and expand wealth-redistribution programs.
Interestingly, according to Campolo, there is no litmus test for Red Letter Christians on the issue of abortion. Some are for it; others are against it. (It’s a big tent on this issue alone.)

All this, by the way, from someone who describes his younger self as "the kind of political conservative Rush Limbaugh would have loved." How did Campolo get this way?

This sentence summarizes the answer pretty well: "The significant changes in my thinking began to occur during the ’60s and ’70s, when I moved from the pastorate to academia."

Only the most superficial scriptural references — red or black — are provided to justify Campolo’s predictably leeward stands.

At one point, Campolo makes the statement that "you can only understand the rest of the Bible when you read it from the perspective provided by Christ." Given that Jesus is, as most Christians believe, the living Word — the God who spoke all of the Bible into the hearts and minds of those who faithfully transcribed its 66 books — this is somewhat disturbing. In other words, Christ’s perspective pervades the entire Bible, not just the red letters. Further, there is nothing in the red letters that is at odds with the rest of the Bible.
There is no contradiction between the red letters and the black letters.

The whole sickening neo-Marxian, materialistic, utopian diatribe left me wondering what work might be left for Jesus when he returns. I even e-mailed Campolo’s publisher with that question and a few others. I’m still awaiting a response that is unlikely to come before the millennium.

Maybe you can ask Campolo when, inevitably, he or some other so-called Red Letter Christian comes to speak in your church, spreading not the good news of sacrifice, repentance, forgiveness of sin, personal accountability, spiritual renewal and rebirth but the bad old news of collectivism, faith in government and moral relativism.