Seminar Series #4:I walked in on Tony as he was sharing about a church in Texas he had heard about through its pastor. The guy said something to Tony to the effect of, “Our people are pretty simple… good old fashioned rednecks.” Tony noted how he made a quick judgment about how they were most likely not very academic and a little bit behind the times. As the conversation went on, though, the pastor shared about how there were 52 families in the church and each was wrestling over how to make a difference in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It was decided among each family that they would each take in a misplaced Katrina family and care for them… one whole family taking in another. When Tony asked for how long, the pastor replied, “Well, most folks will probably settle into our community… we’d welcome that. Even though we’re an all-white church, we’re ironically all taking in African-American families.” This left Tony flabbergasted, to then ask, “Why? Why would you do this?” Out of the pastor’s heart came the answer – “We just figured it’s like the Christian thing to do.” Tony chastised himself for his earlier stereotyping, noting, “How quickly we judge.”
I share that story because whatever you think about Tony Campolo (and all of his controversial statements) you have to be open to whatever surprises God might have for you through this man. On that note, here are some notes on his seminar "Christians And Politics":
- In light of all that's happening in our world, "You don't have to go to the Third World to go to the 'Third World' anymore."
- When people say that God was out to destroy the sin of New Orleans through Katrina then they have to confess that He has lousy aim. The hurricane's worst damage involved the 9th District... not to mention New Orleans Baptist Seminary. Meanwhile, the French Quarter (one of the most "sinful" places) was one of the least harmed sections in the city.
- We are expected to speak truth to those power and call them to responsibility. The phrase "principalities and powers" in Scripture does refer to demonic evil, but it ALSO refers to social institutions that influence human behavior.
- The Good Samaritan takes care of someone he finds battered and beaten on the side of the road. Imagine if the next day he came by and found another person... and the next day, another... and so on. At a particular point you need to say, "Not only do I pick up the battered and beaten I need to do what I can to make the road safer by fixing the system."
- The reason so many of us are supportive of the War in Iraq is because we don't have to pay for it. "Does anyone know who is paying for the War in Iraq? (long silence) Anyone? (another long pause) The People's Republic of China. Read the news, people... 1.5 million a week... we know that China is bootlegging our movies but no one will do anything about it because the minute we say something about it they will shut us down... Wake up! It's about time that people in the church read the paper for more than the sports section. We're mortgaging the future of the church and our kids"
- The conflict is not between Christianity and science... science is no longer on the throne.
- When it comes to war... Jesus told us that He gave us a new command - that we are to be the type of people who love and give mercy. "I don't know if mercy is realistic, but God demands it... and so we have to give it."
- Quoting Augustine: "The church is a whore but she is my mother."
- I find that the absence of outrage in the Church over social issues is in itself an outrage. Jesus doesn't call us into individualism but into community.
- We are all hypocrites. In fact, "I do not claim to be anything but a hypocrite, but I am pressing towards the mark." Early on in your ministry, though, decide what limits your hypocrisy will entail. If you don't, it'll swallow you up. And if you think in some way you aren't a hypocrite, then you're on an ego trip.
- So many times we present salvation to teens by making them fear hell and desire heaven. We need to offer them something hopeful on this side of heaven, though. We need to tell them, "Look at the world and the mess it's in. God wants to change the world and is looking for men and women that want that change to start in them."
- You've probably heard me share the statement before... it's one of my classics. "Do you know that 35,000 children died last night while you slept? And the worst part is that you people don't give a sh_t. But the worst part is that you are all more upset that I said 'sh_t' in chapel than that 35,000 children died last night while you slept." You see - this is what is wrong in our ministries... we spend all this time teaching kids not to say bad words.
- On one occasion the vice-president of MTV was interviewed and asked, "To what extent do you think MTV has influenced teens?" His response was, "We don't influence them, we own them."
- There's this Left Behind theology that's messing up the church. We all have this idea that one day we'll leave this mess of a world so why worry about it now? By the way - this theology - the idea of a rapture - didn't exist in our minds until 1820 when a guy named John Darby claimed it.
- If a vote passes, Iraq will become a "Muslim nation" - this is the fruit of our liberation. Now, if a "Christian nation" invades a "Muslim nation," how will this be interpreted by them?
- Did anyone ever ask what the Iraq war will do to missionary work?
- Does anyone here know that Christians are being persecuted in Iraq? For the first time in the country's history Christians are being hunted down and beheaded.
- No Jewish mother should worry about her son being blown up on a bus on the way to school by an Arab.
- As I look at the President, I think he's a good guy even though I don't like his policies. The man loves Jesus... and I won't deny that. But as far as policies go, that's why we have elections. If you don't like a President's policies every four years you cast a vote... and then you get behind whichever guy wins.
- When it comes to finding ways to justify war, I quote Eric Hoffer's book "The True Believer": "Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil."
- The Democratic party is spiritually bankrupt... no question about it. The Republican party is socially bankrupt. (LATER: After the seminar was over, Tony added that his hero was Jimmy Carter because of his character and policies - "even though he was a democratic." He also added a quote from Bill Clinton about how liberals and conservatives need each other... conservatives keep us from crossing over lines that shouldn't ever be crossed... liberals keep us from drawing lines that should never have existed in the first place.)
- If we are conditioned by our past, we are more influenced by what we anticipate in the future
- People talk about how homosexuality is going to ruin the American family. "The American family is falling apart because heterosexuals are getting divorced."
- I hear people say all the time, "Love the sinner and hate the sin." Jesus never said to love the sinner and hate the sin. He said to love the sinner, hate your own sin,, then when you deal with your own sin go help others deal with theirs. We need to deal with our own heterosexual sins of pornography and divorce before casting stones at homosexuals.
- You can't get rid of abortion without getting rid of poverty.
- Does the value of life begin in the womb and end once the kid is born?
- No one in this room can deny the reality of how the consequences of "white collar crime" differ from "blue collar crime."
After the seminar was over, I waited to ask Tony a question I've been wanting to ask for a number of years... only this strange guy totally cut in front of me. (What the heck happened to the basic etiquette of forming a line and staying in it? It's in times like this that I want to be more of a jerk... but I want to honor Christ even more, so... I let him get away with it.)
Anyway - after biting my tongue, I did manage to sneak my question in before the General Session started: "Which do you think is better - to have a President in office who is a Christian but not a great politician or to have one who is a great Politician but not a Christian?" Tony thoughtfully answered that he would prefer the Christian between the two, but would want one with at least some sense of policies. If pressed, though, he'd rather have a politician who reflected Christian policies whether or not the man actually was a Christian.
One last thing... all of the thoughts expressed in this seminar do not necessarily reflect my own. But... well, maybe they should.