The boundary-crossing maverick Campolo speaks to the next generation of evangelical Christians.
What led you write this book as letters to young evangelicals?
The opportunity to communicate to a new generation the pitfalls that have been tragic for older evangelicals. Evangelicalism is in a precarious position. On the one hand, it is doctrinally strong, [and] emphasizes a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ. On the other hand, over the last couple of decades, evangelicalism has been seduced into the politics of the religious Right. Young evangelicals need to know that there is a positive way to live out faith that addresses the needs of the poor, the environment, and that is compassionate to gays.
While you share your views on many controversial issues, you also express the views of Christians who disagree with you, and encourage young evangelicals to make up their own minds. What led you to this approach?
Young people do not want to be preached at or told what to believe. They want to be free to make their own decisions, led by reason and led by the Holy Spirit. When talking to such an individualistic generation, this is the only approach I could take.
You encourage young evangelicals to identify with the poor and fight for justice. How might they go about this?
When you live in Africa, 30 cents out of every dollar you spend is used to pay interest on debts to the World Bank and wealthy nations. Christians can work toward the cancellation of Third World debts. Another thing we can do is work for fair trade. There's a difference between free trade and fair trade. American farmers are subsidized so that they can sell their products at a price that is much lower than Third World farmers can ask, and we are driving them out of business because they cannot compete. Poor countries should be able to establish tariffs that keep low-price, subsidized products out of their countries.
You describe yourself and others, such as Jim Wallis and Ron Sider, as Red Letter Christians. What does the name mean?
A secular, Jewish, country-western DJ gave us this name when he realized that we focus on the teachings of Jesus, which are printed in red letters in many editions of the Bible. We are not part of the Right or the Left. Whenever anyone asks us whether we are Democrats or Republicans, we say, "name the issue."