Errant Evangelical? A Presidential Counselor in the Line of Fire

Tony Campolo

If anyone still had doubts that religion and politics, God and Caesar, were at the center of the national debate, President Clinton’s very public decision to seek pastoral counseling in the wake of the recent scandal must have stilled them. In seeking redemption in public, the president broadened a national argument that had been about sexual behavior and allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice to the vexing question of how a political leader uses—or in the eyes of critics, misuses—religion.

Alan Wolfe’s essay here reflects on this debate in a review of Judgment Day at the White House, a volume that grew out of the “Declaration concerning Religion, Ethics, and the Crisis in the Clinton Presidency.” The declaration, signed by theologians and religious leaders, argued that “serious misunderstandings of repentance and forgiveness are being exploited for political advantage.”

At the heart of this controversy is the Rev. Tony Campolo, a well-known evangelical leader selected by the president as one of his spiritual counselors. To shed light on this unusual intersection of the public and the private, we asked the Rev. Campolo to reflect on his experience.