taking the words of Jesus seriously

We Red Letter Christians have strong allies, and none is more prominent and significant than our kinship with a movement called Reclaiming Jesus, initiated by a group of well-established Christian leaders who refer to themselves as “The Elders.” This group includes such notables as Bishop Michael Curry (made world famous by his homily at the Royal Wedding); Barbara Williams-Skinner, executive director of the Black Caucus of the U.S. Congress; Ron Sider, the founder of Evangelicals For Social Action; Richard Rohr, Catholic author and leader of the Center for Action and Contemplation; Walter Brueggemann, acclaimed Hebrew Bible scholar; several denominational leaders such as Will Willimon and Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, as well as a few self-identified Evangelicals such as John Perkins and Joel Hunter. I include myself among the Evangelicals.

The Elders, under the organizational leadership of Jim Wallis of Sojourners, recently rallied as many as 2,500 clergy and laypersons at the National Christian Church in Washington for a time of worship and witness. This gathering was called to make a confession of faith in a time of national crisis.

The confession declared that “we are living in perilous and polarizing times, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of government and in our churches.” The Elders issued the declaration to call for a rejection of white supremacy and racism; authoritarian political leadership; the misogyny and assault on women so prevalent in our society; the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees; the neglect of low-income families; xenophobic and ethnic nationalism; and, though not mentioned explicitly, a condemnation of discrimination against our LGTBQ brothers and sisters. In the midst of our concerns, we called for an end of the pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life.

Following the rally, the congregation conducted a candlelit march to the White House where there was a prayer vigil for the soul of the nation. We hope President Trump got our message.

To have the support of such Elders makes us aware there is a movement in motion among the American Church that offers an alternative to toxic Christianity and challenges those who have joined the political Alt-Right.

Personally, my role as one of The Elders was especially meaningful. I was able to ensure that the values and convictions of RLC were incorporated into the published declaration. I am grateful for the input and critiques from this group of long experienced Christian leaders who, in many ways, have blazed the path that RLC is treading these days in our commitment to Jesus and justice.

As we declared in the confession: “It is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else—nationality, political party, race, ethnicity, gender, geography—our identity in Christ precedes every other identity. We pray that our nation will see Jesus’ words in us. ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:35).”

Bishop Michael Curry said it best during the worship service: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Oh, that’s why we’re here, love your neighbor, love the neighbor you like and the neighbor you don’t like, love the neighbor you agree with and the neighbor you don’t agree with, love your Democrat neighbor, love your Republican neighbor, your black neighbor, your white neighbor, your Latino neighbor, your LGBT neighbor.”

It’s time for all like-minded followers of Jesus to do so. Join the movement. You’re invited to become a Red Letter Christian by signing our pledge, finding community, and becoming a donor. And be sure to check out our blog, podcast, revivals, devotionals, and more to learn how to love God and others more deeply.

About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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