taking the words of Jesus seriously

Red Letter Christians claim to be nonpartisan, and yet, if you pay attention to what we say and write, it may appear that we are biased against the Republican Party. That may be because we are overly sensitive to certain injustices that are promoted by the Republicans who are largely in control of the Senate and White House these days. So many of those injustices seem opposed to what Jesus taught in the words of scripture that are highlighted with those red letters in many of the Bibles that are readily available throughout the United States.

The first thing we bring to your attention are the policies that the Republicans have established toward immigrants. The words of Jesus in Matthew 25: 35-40 tell us to treat the alien, or stranger, as though that person was Jesus himself. Given that biblical teaching, we are critical of the president and his Republican supporters who suggest with generalizations that we view those coming across our Southern border as possible rapists, murderers, and thieves.

When it comes to immigration, we Red Letter Christians react strongly when the president had his administration separate small children from the parents of those who crossed into the United States illegally. Many of those children have been severely traumatized, and we remember that Jesus once said, “Whosoever offends one of these little ones, it would be better for him that he had never been born (Mark 9:42).

A comprehensive immigration bill was passed by the U.S. Senate, but when the bill got to the House of Representatives, the Republican Speaker of the House refused to allow it to come up for a vote.

The tax policies of the Republicans also have us upset. Whereas the Jesus we read about in the gospel of Luke wants us to lift up the poor, we find that the Republican agenda presented over the last two years supports and justifies a new tax code that gives huge tax breaks to the very rich while cutting all kinds of needed social services for those whom Jesus called, “the least of these” (Matthew 15:45).

Consider the Republican administration’s assaults on regulations that have protected the environment from harmful exploitation by commercial corporate groups and interests. Red Letter Christians are especially committed to saving the earth from degradation, and we believe that it is a biblical imperative, according to Romans 8, that we are to protect the earth and the atmosphere from pollution.

READ: How Christian Theology Lost Its Way

Another of our great concerns is the growing dishonesty coming out of Washington. When Jimmy Carter was elected president, he made a promise that he would never lie to us. So far as I know, he never did. That cannot be said about the Republican president who presently occupies the White House. Those who keep track of President Trump’s lies to date have figured that he has told more than 6,000 of them. When it comes to lying, we all know that this is not only a prerogative of Donald Trump and the Republicans. The Democrats have their own share of lying, nevertheless, there has never been anything to compare with the lying of Donald Trump.

Don’t get the idea that we Red Letter Christians are thrilled with the Democrat Party and its policies. If Hillary Clinton had become president, the Supreme Court would provide little hope for those of us who are pro-life when it comes to restraining abortions. And when it comes to the alleged extramarital affairs of President Trump, we readily call attention to the reality of the problems of President Clinton.

It should be noted that the free-trade policies which the United States initiated in 1994, when the Democrats were in power, enabled heavily subsidized American farmers to produce wheat, rice, and other commodities, which often were shipped to poorer countries like Mexico. In so doing, American products undersold these same farm products produced by indigenous farmers, driving huge numbers of them out of business. Our subsidized farm commodities were able to drive large numbers of people in Latin America into poverty. If the Republicans seem hard-hearted by wanting to build a wall to keep poor, unemployed farm families from crossing the Southern border, we must remember the farm policies of the Democrats in the 1990s that were responsible for impoverishing these people who are now banging at our nation’s door, begging entry from the very nation that helped cause their plight.

A further concern of Red Letter Christians has been the Republicans who have blocked the kinds of health plans that would provide care for all Americans. They are the ones who have worked hard to dismantle essential parts of the limited Obamacare health plan, which caused millions of our citizens to lose the health protection they very much needed. Republicans have even tried to limit health services to poor pregnant women by cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, even after this organization gave assurances that none of the funds would be used for abortions.

READ: Claiming to Follow God’s Guidance in Politics

What may be most reprehensible is that there is little question that it has been primarily Republican party leaders who have worked overtime to suppress the voting of poor people and minorities. It has been the Republicans who, for the most part, have put forth plans gerrymandering voting districts, keeping minority people and poor people from having their voices heard in the democratic process. In addition to ending the Voting Rights Act that protected so many Americans’ right to vote, Republicans have put into place voting restrictions that are specifically aimed at keeping poor and minority people from voting. The hard work that those of us who gave so much time and energy to support Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights movement seem to have come to naught. For instance, did you know that in some states where there are large numbers of Native Americans, people cannot vote unless they have specific home addresses for registration? That leaves many Native American Indians who live on reservations outside of the voting process.

Regardless of all I am telling you, we Red Letter Christians still claim to be nonpartisan. If it seems that our complaints are, for the most part, about Donald Trump and his party, it is because they are the ones that are now in control in Washington. Should the Democrats come to power in 2020, I believe that you will find that we will be just as critical of any of the ways that they may deviate from social justice policies implied in those red letters in the Bible.

I must confess, however, that right now we Red Letter Christians agree with the words of the late William Sloane Coffin who once said, “The heart is a little to the left.”

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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