Let me make it clear, Jesus is not a Republican. However, it is obvious that many Democrats are foreign to Biblical politics as can be.
Campolo's first problem is the claim to be a Red-Letter Christian. The very claim makes me want to vomit. The very thought of wanting to isolate only the words of Jesus and claiming to be orthodox is ludicrous. What about the other black letters? Are they not inspired too? They would say yes, but that is not the point. By calling themselves this, they elevated themselves to pseudo-bigotry as if to say, we're not like those other Christians who stand in the way. Such a notion is essentially snobbery of the rankest sort.
But, let's take them at their word. Campolo and company want us to return to the teachings of Christ (as if he, McLaren, and other Emergents, after 2000 years, have finally figured them out) and apply them to culture and politics. The problem with that is that Christ wasn't setting up democracy, theocracy, or combating the Roman government. He was rather declaring the Kingdom of God, which is both a present and future reality. Currently, the Kingdom of God is seen in the preaching of the gospel, the converting of sinners, and the sanctification of God's image bearers. Therefore, many of the verses he uses do not accurately apply to the political issues he raises.
For example, Campolo is very much against the death penalty. I disagree vehemently. Why? Because the black letters repeatedly support it and virtually command it. Campolo argues that if we are going to be consistently pro-life, we must also be against capital punishment. To see my argument where I deal with these issues, click here.
But some of the verses that Campolo uses include the Jesus' Sermon on the Mount where he exhorts us to forgive, be peacemakers, and be merciful. All of these ideas are inspired, God-breathed, and are to be practiced by every believer worldwide. But they do not apply to politics. Romans 13 applies to politics! His dismissal of Romans 13 is rather pathetic.
Therefore, Campolo's biggest problem isn't with Jesus, but rather his Biblical hermeneutic.
Furthermore, Campolo, though claiming to be orthodox and against abortion and homosexuality, is taking his eye off the ball. He sees abortion as secondary to poverty. How funny. Pro-deathers couldn't agree more. In fact, much of the argument for abortion is grounded in their understanding of poverty. Children are aborted and mothers are encouraged to kill their own child because they might be born into poverty. Campolo finds poverty more pressing than murder.
Do not misunderstand me or Campolo. Both of us affirm the atrocity of abortion as murder and see poverty as a serious problem. But lets be honest, is poverty that huge of an issue in America? I have done a series of post on this very subject (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). The truth is, poverty in America is not that bad. Now, I must explain myself, I am not suggesting that there aren't true poor people in America. However, what I am arguing that compared to the rest of the world, America is doing very well. Those considered poor in this country, like my wife and I, are living better than many of the rich in other countries.
But Campolo's campaign to fight poverty goes beyond that. He doesn't limit this fight just to the United States, but also to the rest of the world. Campolo wants to eliminate poverty worldwide. This is a grand ambition, and I applaud him for it. But apparently he skipped some of the red letters in his Bible. After Judas ridiculed one of the women for anointing his feet with perfume arguing that it could have been sold and given to the poor (just like what Campolo argues we should have done with the money we have spent on the war), Jesus rebukes Judas saying, "For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me" (John 12:8)
The implication is clear, poverty is not the primary issue here, worshiping God is. Jesus is rebuking Judas for taking his eyes off the ball. Worship, the gospel, and life are essentials. They rank above social concerns. This is one of my biggest complaint against the Emerging Church, it is nothing more than an updated version of the Social Gospel (click here and here to see my argument).
Yes they are equally appalled by abortion. Yes they see fighting poverty as part of their pro-life stance. But as a result of overemphasizing poverty, they simply allow murder happen untouched.
Campolo also seems blind to the failings of social liberalism whenever it comes to solving poverty. One must wonder why the poor in this country is better off than the rich in other countries? The answer isn't big government, social programs, minimum wage, and welfare, rather it's Capitalism and a free market. We did not get here by listening to Karl Marx. We got here by listening to Adam Smith. Campolo is more than willing to rail against the evils of Capitalism, but is silent on the failures of socialism and liberalism. Campolo's solution to poverty is no solution at all. If we are to limit the severity of poverty in the world, the answer isn't throwing money at it, as he suggests, but rather allow freedom to reign and allow the American economic experiment to be exercised in other countries. The answer isn't tyrannical economical system of big government, it is freedom.
Campolo's solution to abortion is also clear: limit the number of abortions before making it illegal. I like this proposal, but it too is impractical. His idea of siding with many Democrats is false. Democrats, as a whole, are more than willing to talk about limiting abortions, but they will never conceded to eliminating it. If you limit abortions, great, but the problem remains unsolved. Democrats and liberals likely favor limiting abortions. They tell us everyday we need for contraceptives and education on safe sex. They have given us condoms and birth control pills in school. And so why wouldn't they want to limit abortions?
The answer to the abortion issue, though limiting them is a start, is to ban it. But that isn't even going to solve it. What we need is a culture to understand that murder is wrong in all cases. Campolo seems hesitant to even go that far. He raises the issue of abortion in cases of rape and incest (which are very rare), but never answers it. The best he gives is, some Red-Letter Christians disagree on this issue. Enter the postmodern influence!
One other issue that burns me in this book is the emphasis on global warming and the environment. Let me first of all, answer the first critical response: I am all for saving the planet and preventing it from being harmed. However, it is dangerous to solve a problem that doesn't exist. Campolo is in the tank for the Al Gore climate change business. He believes it is real and a current danger we face. Campolo, however, couldn't be more mistaken.
First of all, Campolo finds it necessary to attack the Southern Baptist Convention for passing a resolution doubting the threat of global warming because science hasn't proven it. I believe they are right and the science continues to prove it.
If Campolo were smart, he would quickly realize (despite what he claims) that the whole hoax of global warming will only kill our economy. Sure, going green might create some jobs, but how many jobs does it kill due to higher taxes to those companies that aren't limiting their carbon footprint? Talk about going overseas! Campolo seems to want us to agree to Kyoto, but that will kill our economy and destroy this nation. I would like to see Campolo care as much for his own countrymen and the poor as he does the environment.
Falling for a hoax is never good policy.
I do not have time to deal with the issues he raises about the war and similar topics. It is clear that Campolo is mistaken on many fronts. Though he does make some good points and does direct us to think about important issues that are at times overlooked, he fails miserably to give practical helps that actually works and fails to take the insight from Jesus (and the rest of Scripture) and accurately apply them as they were meant.
The Emerging Church is dangerous and Scripture repeatedly warns us about false teachers. Therefore, I am sounding the alarm on them. I picked up this book in a Christian bookstore. Many, including the company I work for now, have placed many such books in their own section labeled as Emerging Church. But this book was not placed there. It was placed with books that discussed issues of ethics, culture, and politics. And it is a book that many could fall trap to and think that it is Biblical, orthodox, and the answer to our problems. Many, I fear, will find this book to be an answer to the question "What Would Jesus Do?" as they pull the lever every November, when in fact, it doesn't. Rather, it is the same liberal policies that have failed this country regurgitated with just enough Jesus thrown in.