What’s a ‘Red-Letter Christian’?

Based on my post yesterday on a clever ‘red-letter Bible’ comment, I came across this by Tony Campolo a “Progressive Evangelical”

Believing that Jesus is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, we want to unite Christians who are concerned about what is happening in America. We are evangelicals who are troubled by what is happening to poor people in America; who are disturbed over environmental policies that are contributing to global warming; who are dismayed over the increasing arrogance of power shown in our country’s militarism; who are outraged because government funding is being reduced for schools where students, often from impoverished and dysfunctional homes, are testing poorly; who are upset with the fact that of the 22 industrialized nations America is next to last in the proportion of its national budget (less than two-tenths of 1 percent) that is designated to help the poor of third-world countries; and who are broken-hearted over discrimination against women, people of color, and those who suffer because of their sexual orientation…

So then I went to check out if there was more info out there:

Here’s a short bio.

Here’s a blog that features many active Red-Letter Christian leaders.

I’m not putting these links up because I support this organization. I’m promoting education and dialog. In general here are my summary thoughts about this group:

PROS:

  1. There are people committed to Christianity and not necessarily Republican. I’m not Republican or Democrat at this point. I think that presently those camps have conflicts of interest and therefore, having to choose between party politics and the mediatorial kingship of Christ, they will not keep the commands of King Jesus.
  2. This para-church group provides another venue for the Church to have candid conversations about how the Bible is to direct politics, how Christians are to engage political issues, and which candidates we can really support.
  3. I will be challenged in my political views so that I can come out a more balanced Christian.

CONS:

  1. I am not only suspicious, but against religious organizations that are ecumenical to the degree of compromising the Gospel and ministry of the Church. (Roman Catholics and Evangelicals? Women pastors? Pastors who attack the inerrency of Scripture? People who teach that there are other ways to god or heaven apart from faith in Christ? I don’t think so!)
  2. Just as I don’t have much confidence (humanly speaking) in a group that is doctrinally heavy, yet lacks much in practice, I also don’t have confidence in a group that is action heavy, lacking much sound doctrine. Where is the balance?
  3. Any group that elevates the Red Letters above the rest of Scripture misses the point of what is said in the Red Letter’s, ie “Search the Scriptures” John 5:39!

Finally, while I don’t agree with everything Derek Webb says about politics, (specifically concerning, authority necessarily corrupting the Civil Magistrate, therefore Christians can’t legitimately serve in that capacity – but perhaps he was speaking contextually?) I do appreciate his ability to bring the tensions that I feel as well to the surface regarding Christianity and politics. Check it out, and feel free to give some feedback.

The way that the Church is engaging politically, in my opinion, is not right. I think it’s inappropriate. And somebody needs to bring it up. I think somebody needs to get a more nuanced political conversation going. And somebody needs to at least challenge the political status quo of the ‘Christian sub-culture’ in America right now, because it’s really kind of going unchecked…the way that the Church tries to oversimplify the issues; and doesn’t spiritualize all of the social issues that are being dealt with in any one candidates campaign. Like we seem to say, ‘There are only a couple of issues that really connect with our Christianity. The other issues just don’t”. And that’s just not true. You know, if you’re going to use Christianity as a grid by which you look at the world, you suddenly find that all things have spiritual content and weight. And the weight of glory is all around us. Everything from the condition of our environment, to the condition of the living situation of the poorest of our neighbors. I mean it’s everywhere. It’s all around you. It’s not just these few explicit spiritual issues, or whatever; [it's not just] the issues that seem to touch our morality the deepest. But those are important issues, they are, but we have to put those in with everything else. And we have to look at all of it. And maybe even transcend the political grid a little bit. And not feel like we have to, as Christians, fit into the political grid, and fit Jesus into a particular party, compromising Him completely to get Him there. ‘Cause even though the conservative party might be closer on kind of the surface He still doesn’t fit there. He doesn’t. And neither do we, therefore, if we are little versions of Him, if we are His little ambassadors in the world. We shouldn’t fit there any easier than He does, and He doesn’t. And that’s what bothered me, is that it seemed to be so easy for us just to walk a certain line, and to say, “Well, but, this party just clearly represents our interest”. Well, no they don’t!

-Derek Webb, interview (part II) with Tony Kummer, Aug, ’07

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Wow… now there is a battle starter. I am not sure how much you and I do agree with politics, but I am sure that you will be under attack to some degree here in ‘red’ Grand Rapids (red not being commie or red letter; but red blooded republican) as either a theocrat or a democrat!

    There is a balance with caring for the widow, fatherless, poor, and stranger that includes some sort of government control, but without giving them too much power. The government in Israel enforced the fields being left for gleaning for the poor- and if a landowner did not do it- he was charged with stealing from the poor. Where is the balance? I am not prepared to give a full defense, but look at this Bahnsen article called: Feeding the Poor Without Feeding the Beast.

    http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pe086.htm

    Reply

  2. This is definitely an area that we need to study carefully. I completely agree that we need to challenge the Republican/Democrat dichotomy, but it does seem that a lot in the church who do so follow a social gospel of sorts.

    I think what we need to do is examine these issues Biblically and be willing to go against the party line if need be. Unfortunately, we all too often go to the Bible to buttress our position instead of taking a comprehensive look.

    Reply

  3. You may want to listen to the following sermon preached by Reverend Aasman of the Canadian Reformed Church in contrast to some of Tony Campolo’s statement. It is entitled
    “The Dragon Raises the Second Beast or Accomplice as his propogandist” and can be found at the following website – http://www.edmontonimmanuel.ca/sermons_view.php . You will want to fast forward to the sermon probably and ignore the Bible translation used, but the sermon meat is well worth the listen.

    Reply

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