Tony Campolo has been speaking his mind for so long and with such candor that a good many evangelicals have questioned his continued identification with their camp. After all, his "liberal" opinions on provocative issues like the Islamic faith, social justice, gays and lesbians, female clergy, and even salvation don't exactly square with contemporary evangelical thought. Or do they?
Campolo describes himself as "someone who works hard at trying to ferret out the truth about what God is doing in the church and in the world, and the part we have in that work...I have not finished thinking about the topics addressed in this book. I expect to wrestle with some of them as long as I live and am able to think." Frankly, I think many evangelicals today could describe themselves in a similar way, but they lack the courage to admit that their thinking on these issues has led them to the same path Campolo is on. They fear losing peer respect or ministry support, and so they quietly allow the Tony Campolos to take the heat for the opinions of a silent evangelical minority.
To try to distill Campolo's views on the highly charged matters he writes about would do him an injustice, because throughout the book we glimpse a mind at work rather than a mind made up. He examines each issue as if it was an immensely intriguing object he is seeing for the first time, turning it this way and that, analyzing it from above and below, regarding it from inside and out. And yet it's clear that he has spent years, if not a lifetime, considering many of the issues that threaten to split the evangelical camp in two.
One thing about Campolo, though, is that he's careful not to write, or speak his mind, from a dogmatic perspective. Rather than maintaining that his is the final word on a matter, you get the impression that he sees himself as a pilgrim on a journey he has taken so many times before that he believes it's his responsibility to assist fellow pilgrims who are still struggling to find their way. There's no pontificating here, none of the self-assured arrogance frequently found among fundamentalists --- a group Campolo believes has commandeered evangelicalism and created an atmosphere of anxiety that keeps some Christians from speaking their own minds.
"What I have to say," he writes, "should not be taken as some kind of summa theologica, but rather as a challenge to my sisters and brothers to be willing, for the sake of eternal truth, to endure the heat that will come from those in our evangelical community who think the most important thing in life is to play it safe." Ultimately, that's what sets Campolo apart --- his willingness to take risks by thinking outside the evangelical box and having the guts to express those thoughts publicly.
SPEAKING MY MIND offers a challenge to progressive evangelicals who recognize the need to be pliable and teachable, to maintain an open mind, and to allow God to be as big as God is. That challenge is to thoroughly analyze each controversial and divisive issue with a sense of wonder at the grace of a loving and forgiving God who cannot be owned or claimed or appropriated by any one group --- including evangelicals.