Last night I attended a banquet of the Baptist World Alliance, to which our church belongs and contributes. Up until last night, although the BWA is reliably left-of-center, these banquets had as their themes salvation through Christ, and Christ alone, and baptizing all the nations. Oh, and while we’re about that, do some good.
Which is to say, from a Protestant point of view, they got it right: salvation through faith alone, and that faith in Christ will cause you to perform good works.
Unfortunately for this point of view, our keynote speaker was Tony Campolo. Not being familiar with the man, I listened intently to what he had to say. Five minutes in, it became obvious that he was nothing more than a social gospel retread, full of compassion for the poor, but blaming America for many things. Oh, and, by the way, he threw in, he believes in Jesus, but thinks we must live as Jesus would have. Which bears a striking resemblance to “community organizer.”
Some of his points were good; it’s impossible to deny that, as our Savior said, the poor shall be with us always. There are and always will be unmet needs, and tragedy. But we as Americans needn’t have to become perfect before we can use our power to improve the world (as Campolo insisted). And his bombastic emphasis on the “Palestinians” and the American-Israeli “oppression” of Gaza and the West Bank was odd, to say the least.
Then there was the statement about how Iraq had become too dangerous for Christians, and that some large numbers of Christians had emigrated since the war. Left unsaid, as it was absolutely implied, was the statement that Christians fared better under Saddam.
This may have been true, but what a sad commentary: it took a brutal, genocidal dictator to provide relative safety for Christians. This presumably means that it was just fine and dandy for Saddam to have massacred Shiites and Kurds; they’re not Christians, after all.
But it was all just a swipe at America and our attempt to export democracy into the Arab Middle East.
Campolo’s talk was, in summary, a political one, all gussied up in Gospel clothing yet bearing only limited relationship to the actual Gospel.