Tony Campolo, the godfather of the so-called “Red Letter Christians,” seems to be a little confused on the subject of same-sex marriage.

Last month, I first addressed the progressive evangelist’s manifesto, complete with an endorsement by Bill Clinton. My work on this subject seems to be growing into an ongoing series.

Be sure to see “A Bible study on poverty” and “A Bible study on environmentalism.”

Before writing critically about Campolo, I posed several written questions to him. Just this week, I received his reply. Of primary interest was his response to my challenge to him on the topic of same-sex marriage – which he seemed to condone in his book.

Here’s Campolo’s answer: “Your last question was disturbing because, if you have read my book, you would know that I do not approve of same-sex marriages. I believe that gay couples are entitled to the same civil rights as everyone else, but that does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that I am legitimating such relationships as biblically ordained marriages. That must be made abundantly clear. It is one thing to demand that people have equal rights, and it is quite another to give religious legitimation (sic) to arrangements that one believes are contrary to biblical teachings. As far as polygamy is concerned, I think that the Bible makes clear that a person who marries is supposed to embrace his or her mate and, in the words of the Bible, ‘forsake all others’ and maintain fidelity in the relationship. This would preclude polygamy and I am sure you would agree. Let me again emphasize that you imputed to me, by your question, that I support religiously ordained marriages for gays and lesbians. I want them to have the rights that go with civil unions, and that is far different.”

I must say I was surprised by that answer. I have pretty good reader comprehension and an above-average memory. I was sure Campolo had condoned religiously ordained same-sex marriages in his book. So I went back to check. Here’s what he wrote in “Red Letter Christians.” You be the judge.

“Allow me to suggest a way out of this conflict and the difficult questions being raised these days about whether our country should approve of homosexual marriages,” he writes. “I propose that the government should get out of the business of marrying people and, instead, only give legal status to civil unions. The government should do this for both gay couples and straight couples, and leave marriage in the hands of the Church and other religious entities. That’s the way it works in Holland: If a couple wants to be united in the eyes of the law, whether gay or straight, they go down to city hall and legally register, securing all the rights and privileges a couple has under Dutch law. Then, if the couple wants their relationship blessed – to be married – they go to a church, synagogue or other house of worship.

“Marriage should be viewed as an institution ordained by God and should be out of the control of the state. Of course, homosexual couples could go to churches that welcome and affirm gay marriage and get their unions blessed there, but isn’t that the way it should be in a nation that guarantees people the right to promotion religion according to their personal convictions?”

I have read these paragraphs at least a dozen times to see what I am missing.

And I can’t find it.

In his letter to me, Campolo seems to be saying that he does not support religiously ordained same-sex marriage. In his book, he seems to be promoting it as the very best solution to the controversy.

What am I missing?

Is this an effort by Campolo to have his same-sex wedding cake and eat it, too? Is there some mysterious Clintonesque parsing of words going on here that only progressives can comprehend? Or is Campolo trying to say he is personally opposed to same-sex marriage but wouldn’t discourage others from partaking of this sin? Am I missing some important nuance?

I admit it. I’m confused.

Are we to believe Campolo’s book or his personal letter to me?

I eagerly await further clarification from the red-letter gang.

Related special offers:

“God’s Got a Problem”

“Male and Female He Made Them”

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.