|Tony Campolo. Sociologist, Pastor, Author|
Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
More than twenty years ago, I was part of a small gathering at Community Baptist Church in Manchester, Connecticut, listening to Tony Campolo talk about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. He was and is a compelling speaker: bold, enthusiastic, insightful, inspiring, and honest. He spoke in conversational tones, but his energy filled the room.
When it was time for questions, someone asked him what he thought about homosexuality.
This was long before there was any serious thought about equal marriage. At that time, most Protestant churches were still grappling with the basic idea of gay and lesbian civil rights.
Campolo paused. He looked directly at the questioner. “Well,” he asked slowly, “What did Jesus say about it?”
And then, with increased energy, he answered his own question. “Jesus didn’t say anything about it.”
“So,” he said, “My question for you is, ‘Why is this so important to you?’”
I have thought about that exchange often over the years. I had already been committed to gay and lesbian civil rights for a long time. In terms of philosophical and theological ethics, it seemed obvious. But twenty something years ago, the biblical piece had not yet become clear to me and I found his response very helpful.
A few weeks ago, when Tony Campolo unsettled many evangelicals by “coming out” in support of the full inclusion of gays and lesbians within the church, I was not surprised. I doubt that it was a great change in his perspective. I think he was just finally admitting to the world (and possibly to himself) what he had believed for a long time.
Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansiing, Michigan published a blog post titled, “40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags,” that has been widely shared on social media. Some of the questions might prompt reflection, others are obvious, and some are accusatory, but the overall thrust is to suggest that supporting equal marriage is unbiblical. Many others have answered those questions in a variety of ways, and some of the answering is probably necessary. If only to prove that those of us waving the rainbow flags have also read the Bible.
My first response was to think of all the questions I have for those who think that the advent of equal marriage is the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it. I thought of writing something called “400 Questions for Christians Opposed to Equal Marriage.”
But in the end, all of my questions boiled down to the one Tony Campolo asked two decades ago.
Why is this so important to you?
Why aren’t you more concerned, as Jesus was, about income inequality, about social and economic justice? Why aren’t you more concerned about war?
When the Hebrew prophets pronounced God’s judgment, the issue was justice, not sexuality. If you are looking for signs of the end, why aren’t you looking there?
How can you possibly be so invested in denying rights to people? And how can you believe that is what Jesus would want you to do?