Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Red Letter Christians?

In an interview with California's new Attorney General, Jerry Brown in Sunday's NYT's magazine section, he was asked to describe himself politically: "There's a great line from Friedrich Nietzsche: 'A thinking man can never be a party man.'" It's interesting how party affiliations and labels have soured genuine discussion on issues, turning them into lobbed hand grenades of sound-bite invective instead of dialogue towards resolution.
I mulled Brown's thoughts as I went off for lunch with some area youth pastors. One pastor told me how Tony Campolo began calling himself a "red letter" christian instead of evangelical, because the term "evangelical" has been hi-jacked by political groups. The very term "evangelical" is associated with that which is fundamentalistic, Republican, conservative, reactionary, militaristic, anti-intellectual, white and American, that it has lost some of its deepest value as "eu-aggelios" good news.
So Campollo says he is a "red-letter" christian in that he follows the red letters (versions of the Bible that highlight Jesus's words in red ink). Then, my friend said, but I could not verify, Bono and the Gap have created the HIV/AIDS campaign with RED clothing, an indirect allusion to red-letter christians.
I'm not sure what to think about it all; marketing, words of Jesus over actions, gospels over epistles, the Jesus only believers reacting against church structures. But, hey, it is interesting.


At 3:32 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the point is that evangelicalism has become bloated with stereotypes that many evangelicals are uncomfortable with. Therefore, we look for ways to peel back the layers of cultural, social, and theological bias and get back to the fundamentals of the faith. Being a "red-letter Christian" is one way of doing this, but does it really solve the probem?

At 3:51 PM , Blogger Dan said...

Never a dull moment, eh Donn?

At 5:51 PM , Blogger Rick said...

I am attracted to finding a word that hasn't been co-opted. The drawback to red-letter as explained is that is implicitly carries a disregard for Paul and the entire NT apart from the gospels. So I think I'll continue to hearken back to that wonderful and neglected term "pietist". I bet you'll join me in that Don.

At 6:44 AM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Rick; you know I like the term "pietist" a lot. The problem is that it needs a major historic definition once you use it. It's not such a familiar term in everyday English. But maybe that would be a good thing, having folks ask us to define what that word means. "Pietist Covenant Church"

At 6:13 PM , Blogger dorsey said...

Red-letter Christians are not the same as Jesus-only Christians. If you are familiar with Campolo, you know that he does not disregard the whole counsel of scripture. Too many churches have ignored the red letters either because they were too difficult to understand or because they demand too much for comfort. The idea of a Red-letter Christian sounds to me like a biblical restoration of balance to the gospel.

I like your site. Good issues.

PS, "Pietist" will definitely need some 'splaining, because it sounds awfully works-based to the average joe.

At 5:22 AM , Anonymous David Rupert said...

However, Campolo has a point. Too bad its a political point.
Jesus' words have impact. They have life. They bring both life to the believer and death to the unbeliever. They cut. They hurt. They heal.

Check out the redletterbeleivers blog, where we try to encourage people to live out their convictions in their home, their work, their community, their nation.
** David Rupert


At 1:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Great Commission reads "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." - Matthew 28:18-20.

Was Jesus a Red Letter Christian?

Also, check out RedLetterChurch.net.


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