Bleeding Hearts and Propaganda:
Intellectual and spiritual growth requires us continually to cast to the left and right along the biblical trail. Those who are too legalistic become inflexible and sourisolated from the world they want to reach for Christ. On the other hand, those who allow their love for sinners and their respect for the truth which pagans sometimes discover, risk losing the sanity which can only be maintained through continual exposure to Revelation. One Christian wit observed, "I wake up a little-bit pagan every morning."
We who love the people of the world enough to minister to them risk being taken in by the world system. The late Dr. Martin Luther King, who many people (mistakenly) think epitomizes Christian Liberalism, spoke eloquently about the danger inherent in a too liberal and optimistic view of mankind:
Having been raised in a rather strict fundamentalist tradition, I was occasionally shocked when my intellectual journey carried me through new and sometimes complex doctrinal lands. . . .I became so enamored of the insights of liberalism that I almost fell into the trap of accepting uncritically everything it encompassed. I was absolutely convinced of the natural goodness of man and the natural power of human reason. . . .But I (eventually) came to question the liberal doctrine of man. The more I observed the tragedies of history and mans shameful inclination to choose the low road, the more I came to see the depths and strength of sin. . . .I realized that liberalism had been all too sentimental concerning human nature and that it leaned toward a false idealism.
I also came to see the superficial optimism of liberalism concerning human nature overlooked the fact that reason is darkened by sin.
An Evangelical who has slipped into the icy waters of Liberalism is one of my favorite authors and lecturers, Tony Campolo. After reading Campolos books I am convinced that he is committed to Christ and dedicated to evangelism and human welfare. Nevertheless, I believe Campolo buys the rhetoric of the homosexual lobby. We can learn much from him, but not about homosexuality.
Before we examine Campolos theology on homosexuality, lets look at how he has come to espouse one of the most liberal positions on homosexuality within the Evangelical camp.
Although Campolo considers himself a conservative Evangelical Christian, he often finds himself in trouble. One reason is that he too often shoots from the hiphe is not careful in his public pronouncements. However, the most important factor in his estrangement from Evangelicalism is the company he keeps. A sociology professor at Eastern College in Pennsylvania, Campolo seems excessively attracted to radical social thinking.
It is this propensity to Liberalism which leads him to make some of the same mistakes as Bishop Spong about homosexuality.
GOING WITH THE LIBERAL FLOW
Although Campolo variously characterizes himself as a "conservative evangelical if not a fundamentalist," he also describes himself as "one of the many evangelicals who identify with the political left." He served as chairman of Evangelicals for Social Action, an organization which he says is made up of "thousands of evangelical leaders across the country who identify with a host of positions many might consider liberal."
Campolo finds himself in hot water with other Evangelicals so often that you begin to wonder if he enjoys it. He displays his controversial style in the titles of his books: Twenty Hot Potatoes Christians are Afraid to Touch, The Kingdom of God is a Party, Everything Youve Heard is Wrong. In 1985 Campolo was banned from speaking at a national convention called Youth Congress 85 because of statements in his 1983 book, A Reasonable Faith.
Youth Congress 85 was organized by Campus Crusade for Christ. After several Illinois pastors from the Evangelical Free Church protested Campolos inclusion in the conference, Bill Bright, head of Campus Crusade for Christ, canceled Campolo as a speaker. Bright said scholars at Campus Crusades International School of Theology convinced him that there was enough objectionable material in the book to justify the move.
Campolos reaction to the cancellation was to say he was a victim of a "wave of religious McCarthyism." The controversy centered on statements Campolo made in A Reasonable Faith about the "mystical presence of Christ" which Campolo saw in all people, saved and unsaved. Kenneth Kantzer, a senior editor at Christianity Today, evaluated Campolo, his book, and his overall theology in an article entitled "A Man of Zeal and Contradiction." Kantzers opening sentence was, "A theologian, Tony Campolo is not."
Kantzer praised Campolos heart for evangelism and he noted that "In his affirmation of orthodoxy, Tony Campolo is second to none." But he continued:
The book is not written in careful language. Intemperate statements abound, their most natural interpretations raising serious questions about Tonys orthodoxy and his competence as a trusted thought leader.
Kantzer also criticized Campolos seeming lack of evangelistic emphasis. He said Campolo carelessness in this book made him appear less interested in the individual sinners need for a right relationship to God than in the sinners "need for deliverance from life as a consumer."
Kantzer, while recognizing Campolos virtues, cannot ignore his tendency towards Liberalism. He writes. "Tony has a deep distrust of laissez-faire capitalism " However, Kantzer says, "Tony is not a Marxist."
Campolo doubtless isnt a Marxist, though some of his statements and positions make him look extremely liberal. One reviewer of Campolos Partly Right: Christianity Responds to Its Critics says that Campolo seems to think the only alternative to Marxism is totalitarianism. The same reviewer, in Christian Century, says Campolo attempts to defend some of his friends from the charge that they are Communists. That reviewer said Campolo wants to convince Evangelicals that neo-Evangelicals such as Jim Wallis, Tom Sine, and Ron Sider are "not closet communists," but rather much-needed prophets. (Sider and Sine are discussed in subsequent chapters in this book.)
CAMPOLO AND THE PLIGHT OF THE HOMOSEXUAL
Campolo is genuinely concerned about the plight of homosexuals. An example is a story he included in his book, 20 Hot Potatoes Christians are Afraid to Touch. He relates a poignant experience of one of his pastor friends. The pastor had been asked by a local funeral home to do the funeral service for a young man who had died of AIDS. At the funeral parlor he found about twenty-five young men who were obviously gay friends of the deceased.
The pastor told Campolo, "I read some Scripture and said some prayers. I made the kind of remarks that ministers are supposed to make when they really dont know the dead person." Then they rode through the Holland tunnel to a cemetery near Hoboken, New Jersey. Not a word had been spoken throughout the funeral by any of the twenty-five mourners. As he turned to leave, one of the men spoke:
What he said surprised me, [Campolos pastor friend said]. He asked me to read the Twenty-third Psalm. He said, "When I got up this morning to come to this funeral, I was looking forward to somebody reading the Twenty-third Psalm to me. I really like that psalm, and I figured that they always read the Twenty-third Psalm at funerals. You didnt read the Twenty-third Psalm."
I read the Twenty-third Psalm for those men When I finished, a second man spoke, and he asked me to read another passage of Scripture. He wanted to hear that part of the Bible where it says that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. So I read from the eighth chapter of Romans where Paul tells us that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.
When I read to those men that nothing could separate them from the love of God, I saw some signs of emotion on their faces for the first time. Then, one after the other, they made special requests for me to read favorite passages of Scripture. I stood there for almost an hour reading Scripture to those homosexual men before we went to our cars and headed back to Brooklyn.
Campolo said, "When I heard that story, I almost cried. Something down deep inside of me hurt. Something in my heart ached with sadness."
I, too, feel the hurt of these men trapped in a lifestyle which isolates them from society and likely will sentence them to an early grave. I want to comfort them. But to really comfort them, we need to offer them more than maudlin platitudes.
I am not suggesting the pastor should have confronted them about their lifestyle at the funeral. That would probably have served nothing. He probably handled it right. I am only suggesting that as Christians we have more to give them than sympathy alone.
GIVING IN TO BAD COMPANY
In the story Campolos pastor friend related, the homosexuals wanted "to hear that part of the Bible where it says there is nothing [presumably including homosexual acts] which can separate us from the love of God." The pastor responded by reading from Romans chapter eight, which was the right thing to do. However, this is the same passage that Bishop Spong misinterpreted. Remember, he wrote:
[Nothing] means nothing. What we do or do not believe cant separate us from God. Nothing in our conduct can separate us from God, including whatever sexual conduct we engage in.
Campolo writes that he finds some validity in the arguments of people (like Spong) who say that Paul, in that passage, is only condemning homosexual acts practiced by people who are really heterosexuals by nature. But in Romans eight, the Apostle Paul is not telling us we cant separate ourselves from God through sin, he is saying only that we dont have to worry about external forces separating us from God:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35 & 38-39 NIV)
Surely Paul is not here suggesting that sin cant separate us from God! Sin is the only thing that can separate us. And the Bible calls homosexuality sin.
Campolo Campolo is engaging in the same kind of wrong-headedness as Spong. Allthough he is careful to qualify his statements, he nevetheless writes of Romons one:
There are many who argue that this passage does not condemn those with homosexual orientations. They say rather that it condemns those whose natural desires are heterosexual but who, by giving unrestrained vent to their lusts, become debased and decadent. They contend that Paul is condemning those who choose to get into homosexual behavior as a means to get new or "kinky" sexual thrills. Some homosexuals I know believe this passage refers to heterosexuals who adopt homosexuality as perversion rather than those who are born with a homosexual orientation.
I think there may be some validity to this argument but personally I hold to a belief that homosexual behavior is wrong, regardless of what motivates it.
The minute Campolo begins to see validity in the tortured interpretation of scripture, he begins a Liberals descent into the murky waters of subjectivity. As we will see, once begun, this descent carries him deep into the Liberal camp in the ethics of homosexuality. He eventually will decide it is fine to be homosexual as long as you dont engage in homosexual acts.
He departs from scriptural honesty in another Pauline passage from First Corinthians and from First Timothy. In those passages, Paul writes:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders. (I Cor 6:9 NIV)
[F]or adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurersand for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine. (I Tim 1.10 NIV)
Campolo chooses to side with Liberal scholars who read the phrases "male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders" and "adulterers and perverts" to refer specifically to pederastrythe sexual union between an adult male and a young boy. He says:
[The] practice of pederasty was abhorrent to the apostle Paul. He took great offense at all forms of sexual exploitation, and this hideous form, so common in ancient Greece, was particularly a target of his ire. To compare pederasty to a relationship chosen in love is considered by [some Bible scholars] to be a serious mistake.
Such sophistry is nothing more than an attempt to bend the Bible passage into the shape of the predilections of homosexuals. Campolo shamelessly signs up for this nonsense.
True Christian ministers must condemn homosexual sin, just as they do heterosexual sin. That doesnt mean, however, they need to be ungracious. Let me give you an example from my own experience.
During my nine-year pastorate, I had a couple in my church who were living in adultery. Both were divorced and had suffered in their previous marriages. When they found each other, they were not Christians. Later they were both saved and began attending my church.
When I became aware they were living together, I did not immediately go to them about it but first developed a relationship with them. However, I did, in the normal course of preaching, declare that adultery and fornication were sin and that those guilty of such sin need to repent.
Eventually, I did speak to them about it. As you might have guessed, God had already convicted them about their illicit relationship. I explained that the time would come when they would need to either marry or break up. I told them that I was willing to counsel with them while they made a decision. In the mean time they were welcome to continue coming to church.
Before too long, God brought them to a crisis point. In spite of their fear of making another mistake, they were married. Fifteen years later they are still married and have started a second family. (They each brought children with them to the marriage.)
This same kind of tough, persistent love can be transferred into our pastoral care of homosexuals. A decision is called for, repentance is called for, but grace is extended. I really believe that attitude attends most Evangelical pastors. Campolo, however, disagrees.
Campolo misunderstands Evangelicals who do not fully embrace practicing homosexuals. Christians, he thinks, are simply reacting with disgust to a lifestyle they look down their noses on:
Oh, I know there are exceptions, and here and there we can find church people who have overcome their homophobia (fear of homosexuals) and have reached out to the gay community with Christian love, but they are few and far between. For the most part, the reaction of Christian people to homosexuals has been unmitigated horror and disgust.
Doubtless many immature Christians have behaved in this way. But it is not characteristic of the Evangelical Church. If anything, there is a danger that Evangelical pastors have gone soft on all sexual sin. When was the last time you heard your pastor mention adultery, fornication, or homosexuality in a negative way?
I think I know where Campolo gets this misconception of the average Christians reaction to homosexualshe gets it from the gay lobby. The gay lobby attempts to demonize anyone who thinks homosexual practice is wrong. Many homosexuals do not hate those who disagree with their sexual preference, but the gay lobbyin generaldoes.
The real hatred in this debate is directed from the gay lobby to Christians (and others) who oppose homosexual practice. For example, when Colorado voters voted in favor of Amendment 2 in 1992, the state became a target for gay rights activists. The voters of Colorado passed a constitutional amendment which would refuse homosexuals an unfair advantage before the law. It would not deprive homosexuals of any constitutionally guaranteed rights. However, after passing this amendment, gay activists immediately labeled Colorado the "State of Hate." Torie Osborn, head of the national Gay and Lesbian Task Force, visited Colorado Springs, hailing it as "the epicenter of hate."
FROM BAD SCIENCE TO BAD THEOLOGY
Campolo, like Spong, has chosen to believe homosexuality is genetic. In 20 Hot Potatoes, he writes:
I think many of the despicable attitudes towards homosexuals stem from an ignorance of what science is discovering there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that most homosexuals have the orientation that they do through no choice of their own nor any failure on the part of their parents in a great number of cases, if not in an overwhelming majority, homosexual orientation is inborn.
When you start from that perspectivethat homosexuality is genetic, an act of Godyou invariably conclude that homosexual practice cannot be sin. Nevertheless, the Bible does call it sin. For Spong that means the Bible is wrong. He believes the Apostle Paul was an ignorant homophobe. But Campolo, as an avowed Evangelical, cannot bring himself to say that either the Bible, or Paul, is wrong. He is forced to conclude that homosexual practice must be wrong. Yet, when he seemingly agrees with Spong that Paul is not condemning homosexuality for homosexuals, Campolo must resort to tortured logic.
Campolo seems to be on both sides of the fence at the same time. He appaerntly believes the Bible condemns homosexual practice; yet he thinks maybe Paul isnt saying that in Romans one; on the other hand he thinks God made homosexuals the way they are and they should be free to live in homosexual non-sexual relationships (an oxymoron if ever there was one)! Campolo is caught in the complex web which results from failing to tell the truthGod loves homosexuals, but hates homosexuality.
He argues that other passages many Evangelicals believe clearly condemn homosexuality probably refer rather to pederasty (sex between an adult male and a boy).
And he suggests we make entirely too much fuss about homosexuality:
I find it interesting to note that the New Testament does not give as much space or attention to this sin as it does to others, such as neglect of the poor or lack of love for others. Actually, Jesus never alludes to homosexuality in His teachings. The fact that homosexuality has become such an overriding concern for many contemporary preachers may be more a reflection of the homophobia of the church than it is the result of an emphasis of scripture.
But Campolo must know that an argument from silence is the weakest of all arguments. Just because Jesus didnt address homosexuality does not mean He approved of it. He may have failed to address it because it would have been ludicrous for a Jewish rabbi to discuss the pros and cons of homosexuality. The entire Jewish community of Jesus day clearly understood what Campolo and Spong do notthat homosexuality is repugnant. Every Jewish scholar was well aware of the Old Testament denunciation of the sin.
Jews considered all practice of sex outside marriage to be abominable before God. They would never have thought of attempting to find some way around the clear teaching of the Bible. It would have as been absurd for Jesus to enter into a discussion about whether two men should have sex as it would have been for Him to have had a doctrinal discussion about whether fornication and adultery were lawful.
Campolo chooses to say the Bible, while it may condemn homosexual acts, doesnt forbid us to be romantically inclined toward members of the same sex. And Campolo says we shouldnt suggest that homosexual lovers cannot live in such a relationship without becoming sexually involved. To do so, he says, is to make "a value judgment about the moral strength and integrity of other Christians."
Campolo praises the example of two homosexual men who chose to make a life time commitment of fidelity to each other while simultaneously pledging to remain celibate. Campolo calls this a homosexual "covenant." In reality it is a tortured existence. Here are two men who are convinced God made them homosexual and then forbade them to be homosexual. Surely something is wrong with this reasoning. Would it not be better to suggest that their inclinations represent something gone wrong within themselves; that God has something better for them; that God has the power to help them become more than crippled lovers?
Living in a romantic relationship with someone and stopping short of the actual sex act certainly cannot be viewed as healthy. We would not view it as healthy for heterosexuals. How can we suggest it is healthy for homosexuals? The answer is, we cant. The answer is Campolo can tap-dance all he wants, but he cannot come up with a way to make God happy about homosexuality.
Campolo represents a prime example of someone who has allowed his compassion to overrule reason and scripture. In his passion to protect the feelings of men and women who arefor whatever reasonin violation of scriptural command, he has abandoned reality for a never-never-land where homosexuality is natural. "We are hard pressed," he says, "to find any biblical basis for condemning deep love commitments between homosexual Christians, as long as those commitments are not expressed in sexual intercourse."
Campolo ends his chapter on homosexuality, in 20 Hot Potatoes, by saying, "There must be good news for homosexuals."
There is. The tragedy is that Tony doesnt seem to know what it is.
HOPELESS IS HELPLESS
Campolo doesnt offer hope to homosexuals, because he has almost no hope that God can change them. Cornerstone Magazine interviewed Campolo and Dr. Elizabeth Moberly. Moberly is very optimistic about the chances for homosexuals, through counseling, to be healed from the homosexual disorder. In the Cornerstone interview she had this exchange with Campolo:
CAMPOLO: Dr. Moberly, do you believe that every person who has a homosexual orientation canwith proper counseling, proper motivation, even add spiritual motivationexpect to be delivered?
MOBERLY: Yes, if they are truly motivated and if they could get the right counseling I think it is possible for a person to go as far as they are motivated toward complete wholeness.
CAMPOLO: Well, Ive talked to too many people whove willed to change, prayed to change, leaned on the Spirit to change, and they have not been delivered. This is setting someone up for despair, even suicide.
Once Campolo has committed himself to the proposition that homosexuals cannot help themselves, he moves on to adopt other equally imprudent positions. He supports, for example, the concept of gay teachers in public schools.
"We should keep an eye on all teachers," he says, "but there is no reason to believe that homosexuals pose a special threat for our children."" He says he is "furious" at people who suggest that students might be seduced by homosexual teachers. People who worry about that, Campolo says, are "homophobics." Is it possible that Campolo innocently believes the gay agenda does not include indoctrinating young people into fully accepting homosexuality at all levels?
Rolling Stone Magazine ran an article entitled "In Schools Across the Country, Gay Studies Coming on Strong." The lead sentence of this article is not repeatable. But let me give you the gist of it:
The subject is fist-_______. Martin Duberman, Distinguished Professor of History at the City University of New York Graduate Center, author of fifteen books, recipient of numerous scholarly awards and prizes and looking every inch the relaxed, silver-haired senior scholar he is, wants to make sure everyone in his Wednesday-night seminar, "Reclaiming Gay/Lesbian History, Politics and Culture, is comfortable with his overall topicwhat he terms "extreme sex" (fist-_______, man-boy love and sado-masochism.)"
The article goes on to describe similar academic "studies" in other universities.
Perhaps Campolo is ignorant of the move by secondary level educators to make students accept the "full normalcy" of homosexuality, and to have students ask themselves if they might be gay but inhibited. Perhaps he doesnt realize the National Education Association teachers union passed a resolution condemning "sexual orientation bias."
The evidence of militant gay activism at the high-school level came home to me during my frequent "surfing" of the Internet. In one evening, I found bulletin boards and letters galore from young homosexuals organizing and recruiting for their gay clubs. Here are some of the postings:
Announcement of the formation of The Gay Youth Project, Corpus Christi, Texas.
A posting that begins, "Im a member of the Mass. Governor's Commission on Gay & Lesbian Youth
A announcement for The National Coalition for Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Youth (NCGLBY) which "has just gone on-line with QueerAmerica(tm)."
An announcement of the formation of the Fountain Valley, California "Support Group for Gay Teens" (With the blessing of their principal, teachers and classmates).
And the following from The National Coalition for Gay & Lesbian Youth:
Serving Gay YouthThe Nineties, more than any decade previously, finally seem to hold the promise of integration for gay men and lesbians into the broader community. And with this confluence of changing attitudes, newly-won political power and evolving sense of community responsibility, a new set of priorities will be recognized, foremost of which must be our youth.
Now is the time to take on an increased level of responsibility in assisting our younger counterparts-gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning youth-on their journey of self-realization, self-acceptance and coming out.
Campolo, in his attempt to elevate homosexuality to an equal plane with heterosexual relationships, fails to understand that, as with all sex outside of marriage, homosexual sex is driven by lust, not love. Is he unaware thatno matter how strongly gay rights activists deny itthe evidence shows that gay men are highly promiscuous. The National Centers for Disease Control and the Kinsey Institute have reported gay men frequently have as many as sixty different partners in a year and as many as 500-1,000 partners in a lifetime.
Homosexuality is condemned by the Bible and has stressed the American health care system. Misguided compassion and psychobabble will not rescue homosexuals from the clutches of this tragic error anymore than such half-baked solutions will rescue drug addicts or compulsive gamblers. The tragedy of Campolo and his like-minded ministers is they fail to offer the homosexual hope. They preach the gospel message of salvation but they rob it of its power to deliver homosexuals from bondage. Instead of bravely offering real help, they tell them they are OK, when they are not OK.
I see this approach all the time in evangelism. I minister to the cults. Much of my ministry is to Mormons in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. I know from experience that Mormonism causes tremendous suffering to those who are caught in its complex doctrinal web. However, people who live in Mormondom seem often to be looking for ways to avoid confronting Mormonism. They vainly hope that a "loving God" will take into consideration that Mormons "are very nice people" when He gets around to judging them. More often than not, they adopt this position because they either do not want to confront Mormonism or they are afraid they will be viewed as a "Mormon-basher."
To me, that kind of ministry is no ministry at all. A ministry which refuses to confront sin suggests that "if you just love people" they will come to their senses. People say, "I love them (whoever "them" may be) too much to confront them." But that doesnt make any sense. If you love someone who is in error, you confront him with the error. Less than that is like seeing your neighbors house on fire and saying "I love him too much to tell him." It is like a doctor who finds a tumor in his patient and doesnt tell him because he doesnt want him to go through the agonizing fear of confronting the implications of his illness.
Tough love requires us to be honest as well as loving. It has always been so. The great Christian thinker, G. K. Chesterton said:
There is a notion abroad that to win a man we must agree with him. Actually, the opposite is true. Each generation has had to be converted by the man who contradicted it most. The man who is going in a wrong direction will never be set right by the affable religionist who falls into step beside him and goes the same way. Someone must place himself across the path and insist that the straying man turn around and go in the right direction.
Commenting on Chesterton and others, historian Herbert Schlossberg writes:
Telling the truth is more fundamental than all other tasks. The Christian writers who have made the greatest impact on the pagan world of the twentieth centurypeople like Chesteron, Weil, Lewis, and Sayerswere more than intelligent, able, and learned. They were bold. Rather than begging the world to believe, they told it the truth. Like that of Christ, their speech was full of "hard sayings." In contrast [some defenders of the faith] worry that the world is no longer religious and think the solution is to change the gospel so that it is easier to believe. Instead they make it not worth believing. Apologetics should never be apologetic.
Campolo and other Liberal Evangelicals need to return to the gospel which convicts as well as covers, which calls to repentance as well as to acceptance.