taking the words of Jesus seriously

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece adds to a conversation consisting of recent pieces written by Red Letter leadership engaging in varying views regarding abortion: Shane Claiborne’s “Will the Real Pro-Life Party Please Stand Up” and Elaina Ramsey’s “Dialoging Across Difference: Abortion and Big Tent Theology.”

There may be latent reasons for why white Evangelicals are as committed to Donald Trump and the Republican Party but their rhetoric almost always brings up the abortion issue. Without apologies, they often admit that they are “one issue voters”, even after efforts are made to point out other urgent issues that warrant their strong concern and political consideration. They should consider the following. 

Research, according to the Guttmacher Institute, shows that 72% of all women who have had abortions this last few years have felt driven to have them because of economic reasons. Consider a pregnant single woman whose job pays her a minimum wage; has no medical coverage so that paying a hospital bill seems out of reach; who’s afraid of losing her job if she takes off a couple of weeks to have her baby; has no child care for her infant when she goes back to work and doesn’t consider adoption as a viable alternative. It’s easy to understand why she might consider having an abortion. Yet those same politicians who often vote for the pro-life agenda go on to vote against raising the minimum wage; oppose providing universal health care and vote against needed day care programs.

There was a time when pro-life Republicans controlled the White House, both houses of Congress and had pro-life Supreme Court judges but, nevertheless, failed to pass the legislation to ban the abortions as they promised they would. These same politicians who claim to be pro-life have usually had no problem voting against reasonable gun regulations, expanding government spending for killing instruments of war, and failing to do much about the life-threatening pollution of the environment, all of which might be considered pro-life concerns.

I am not minimizing the abortion issue when I argue that there are other issues that Christians also should consider this coming November. For instance, they also should think about whether their votes are going to candidates who will refrain from overtly racist language, and who oppose sexism, homophobia, and Islamophobia. 

Some of my Christian friends tell me to remember those political advisors of Bill Clinton who said, “It’s the economy, stupid!” They tell me that I should give attention to an economy that is booming and has reduced African-American unemployment to its lowest level ever and has done much the same for Hispanic people. But if that booming economy has come by removing needed regulations on industrial polluters, giving tax breaks for the richest Americans while taking social benefits from the poorest sector of society to pay for those tax breaks, I think that my Christians friends should be asking, “Are such things right?”

While seeking a booming economy is very important, Christians have to ask themselves if they are willing to make seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33) is even more important? While many Evangelicals chant “America First!” there are many followers of Jesus who claim that God’s kingdom comes first and that life is more than gaining the material things of this world, such as “what we shall eat, and what we drink, and where with all we shall be clothed” (Matt. 6:31). 

Red Letter Christians (many Bibles have the words of Jesus highlighted with red letters) believe that the teachings of Jesus, rather than those slogans of politicians, should determine their voting. Spread that message and help our Red Letter Christians movement to spread that message! You can sign on as a Red Letter Christian and you can help the rest of us by giving financially to undergird what we’re doing.

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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