A letter to Tony Campolo.

Author:Hylden, Jordan
Position:Viewpoint essay

Dear Reverend Campolo,

A lot of my friends are big fans of yours, so I picked up your book Letters to a Young Evangelical with great interest. I knew I'd probably wind up disagreeing with you, but I thought I'd learn something all the same. Back during college, a good number of my evangelical friends were liberals, and we spent countless hours arguing about politics. Sometimes it was frustrating, but more often I learned a great deal--like, for instance, how important it is for Christians to fight against poverty and racism. So I expected that reading your book would be much the same. At the least, I thought, I would be challenged to see things differently.

That's why I'm so disappointed. You start off by accusing conservative Christians of uncritically baptizing the Republican agenda, and you claim to offer a biblical outlook that "transcends party politics." But then you turn around and support nearly every plank in the Democratic party's platform. I tried to keep track: You make an argument (liberally peppered with Bible verses) for the Democratic position on abortion, gay marriage, tax cuts, trade policy, Iraq, nuclear disarmament, school vouchers, racial profiling, the closing of Guantanamo Bay, capital punishment, and global warming.

I have no problem with politically liberal Christians, but why do you claim to be beyond party politics when you so clearly aren't? Do you really expect us to believe that Jesus just happens to have the same politics as Nancy Pelosi?

But maybe I could give you a pass on that. Like I said, I learned a lot from my liberal Christian friends at school, and I'm glad to be challenged in my beliefs. Or, I should say, I would have been if you had taken more trouble to actually challenge them. Too often you simply dismiss the conservative position as "chauvinist," "homophobic," "militaristic," "appalling," "sexist," and "hypernationalist." You know well that most young evangelicals are politically conservative. Do you think that means we aren't worth engaging in discussion?

I'm generalizing, I know. So let me give you some examples. "Looking at the 2006 federal budget," you write, "you would have to conclude that the folks currently in Washington do not have much of a heart for the poor." This, you say, is in part because the federal government has made "dramatic reductions in expenditures for medical care and prescription drugs for the poor and elderly, along with draconian cuts in spending on after-school...

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