Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tony Campolo on Laura Ingraham

On Friday, September 21, Laura Ingraham had the well-known academician, pastor and public speaker, Tony Campolo, on her show. Dr. Campolo is trying to start a new movement which he calls “Red Letter Christians.” Campolo says that the movement is meant to be a joining together of Christians to apply the teachings of Jesus to life and to both political parties. Campolo emphasizes that Jesus is not a Republican or a Democrat.

There was quite a struggle between Campolo and Ingram because each has a radically different vision of how Christianity applies to American politics. While they agree that Christians should help the poor and discourage abortion, they each advocated a different emphasis on how to accomplish those tasks. On the one hand, Laura Ingram tried to say that it is the obligation of individuals to aid the poor and to do acts of charity and the charity is less appropriate for government. By contrast, Campolo wanted government to raise the minimum wage and provide greater welfare benefits and better medical care for poor women as a way to discourage women from having abortions and encourage them to carry their children to term. Campolo is also in favor of the distribution of additional birth control in order to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Ingram emphasized that unwanted pregnancies occur in our society despite the widespread availability of birth control. She doubted whether there was any real difficulty in anyone obtaining adequate access to birth control. And indeed, a survey of the world would seem to back her up on this. Women in the poorest countries in the world are much more likely to have large families than women in wealthy societies. Overall, access to birth control may encourage women not to get pregnant, but it does not prevent pregnant women who are poor from choosing to carry their children to term. Instead, access to abortion and contraceptives allows wealthy women to avoid having children at all. If anything, abortion is certainly more expensive than contraceptives not only in cost to the user who may obtain it for free, but also in terms of opportunity cost, social cost and cost to conscience. I do believe that it is very appropriate for the church to do more to help women who are pregnant outside of marriage or poor women who are pregnant. The prevalence of crisis care centers in our society is wonderful, but they could use more support and more publicity.

Abortion, however, was not the main topic of the discussion. The main subject was marriage. Campolo thinks the state should be completely removed from the marriage business. Marriage is a divine institution ordained by God. Because marriage is a religious institution, Campolo argues that the state has no business being involved in it. He said that he thought it was odd that when he performs a wedding, he uses all sorts of religious language and talks about God and commitment, etc. but then concludes the marriage saying “by the powers vested in me by the state of ………” Campolo thinks that our current situation in marriage mixes church and state to too great a degree. He then prescribes that the state should have civil unions for any two people (would he agree to a civil union for a group of people?) who want to be committed to one another legally. By contrast, actual marriage would become purely religious and have no real effect in law.

Laura Ingram pointed out that the vast majority of Americans disagree with Campolo on this and see no problem in mixing the state and marriage.

Campolo’s argument is based upon a radically political liberal view of the relationship between church and state. Radical political liberalism includes the idea that the church’s activities are religious and based on faith, while the state’s activities are not religious, and are based on reason. Campolo apparently believes that it is improper for the state to be involved in enforcing rules that come from religion or morality or special revelation, while at the same time the state is required to base its activities upon rigid utilitarian and egalitarian principles. In other words, the state must do what makes the most people think they are happy and treat everybody the same way regardless of morality or faith. Radical Political Liberalism assumes virtue and morality are either not what make people happy, or are so unknowable and contentious that the population of a country cannot agree on what is virtuous and moral and what is not.

Campolo indicated that he thought that one of the practical problems with the current view of marriage is that since marriage is limited to men and women, homosexual couples are being deprived of their “civil rights.” Does Campolo assume that under a proper view of government, homosexuals have a right to the life style they want? Campolo seems to be saying government must treat homosexuals exactly like heterosexuals or it is in some way violating their civil rights. Nay, government, under his conception must treat them as more than equal because the heterosexuals and homosexuals are both already allowed to marry a person of the opposite sex. Campolo wants to add to this that everyone should be allowed to marry someone of their own sex because some people want to marry someone of their own sex. In other words, government must allow us to all have what we want whether it is moral or not.

There are many problems with Campolo’s view. It may seem attractive to some people because of its radical separation of church and state. But the truth is that such a radical separation is in no way practical, nor biblical.

To begin with, all actions of the state really are based upon some kind of moral principles. Even if you believe that radical egalitarianism or utilitarianism should be the basis of the state, that is in reality a choice of a motivating moral principle for government. There is no overriding divine law or inherent principle that says that government must be based upon materialistic, utilitarian or radical egalitarian principles. If we are to look at divine principles, the Bible clearly teaches that the purpose of government is to reward good and punish evil (as I have pointed out many, many times in this blog). This means that the business of government is very much enforcing certain principles of morality. While it is true that because we are all sinners, government cannot enforce all morality and must always compromise in what moral principles it enforces and how, it is still the business of government to reward what is good and to punish what is evil. It mustn’t do the opposite. So if Campolo believes that homosexual activity is not biblical and is sinful, it is an option for him to argue that government should not outlaw it, but it is not really a viable option to argue that government should reward it, sponsor it or promote it. To do so would be to reward evil. And since government will have to use its coercive power to force people to treat homosexuals like everyone else, they will, in effect, be discouraging and punishing good as well as rewarding evil. It is in this way that Campolo is turning the purpose of government on its head and choosing the immoral morality of radical libertarianism over the application of actual moral principles by government.

(to be continued)

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