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Rev Julian Mann: Teenage suicides cannot be blamed on orthodox Christian teaching


Why has Premier Christian Radio given such a soft interview to Tony Campolo, the prominent American preacher who was once spiritual adviser to Bill Clinton, supports Mrs Clinton for the Presidency and has now embraced the cause of same-sex ‘marriage’?

The interview broadcast on November 5th has been published in Premier’s magazine, Christianity.

Mr Campolo opined: ‘Suicide is the second major cause of death among teenagers in America, second only to automobile accidents. Almost three-quarters of those suicides are by Christian young people who cannot reconcile their sexual orientation with what they’re hearing from the pulpit. I don’t know what the Church is about, but if it’s about driving kids to suicide it’s not doing the right thing.’

Why did the interviewer not challenge Mr Campolo to cite the source of his statistics or to explain their significance more fully? Is it not the case that headline statistics in and of themselves can never properly account for the complex psycho-emotional factors involved in the heart-breaking tragedy of increasing teenage suicides in Western countries? Why did the interviewer not probe this?

Would Premier have left unchallenged statistical claims about the success of reparative therapy, which a growing number of evangelical churches globally are using to help young people experiencing same-sex attraction?

Furthermore, why did the interviewer not challenge Mr Campolo’s dogmatic attempt to blame the historic teaching of the Church for these suicides?

It is sadly possible that in some cases vulnerable young people in churches are being failed by aggressive preaching on sexual morals cut off from the spiritual roots of Christian ethics in the saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Loving pastoral care, not polemics, should be given to young people in these circumstances. But Tony Campolo’s argument, taken to its logical conclusion, surely could be used to blame the Church for taking a clear moral stand on any matter against the inclinations of individuals.

Although the interviewer did put it to Mr Campolo that conservative Christians would argue that ‘in the same way that you or I would have sinful desires, we would resist those’, why was he not asked how he would respond if a young Trump supporter were to commit suicide because, reportedly, they felt they were not being affirmed by Clinton-supporting preachers like him?

In the absence of thorough journalistic scrutiny, will Premier now allow an orthodox Christian response to Mr Campolo’s superficial polemics on its airwaves and in its magazine?

Meanwhile, the Collect for St Matthias’s Day in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer seems particularly appropriate:

‘O Almighty God, who into the place of the traitor Judas didst choose thy faithful servant Matthias to be of the number of the twelve Apostles: Grant that thy Church, being alway preserved from false Apostles, may be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord.’

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Julian Mann
Julian Mann
Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Heysham, Lancashire.

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