Sunday, June 10, 2007

My Non-Romantic Crush on Tony Campolo

There was a time in my life when I was becoming very disillusioned with American Christianity--a Christianity increasingly becoming more and more tainted by the pretenses of image, the compromises of politics (from both the Democratic and Republican parties), the making of homosexuals and other easy targets the scapegoats for everything that is wrong in the world, attempting to moralize the world instead reaching the world, and utilizing our power to rule instead of utilizing our power to serve.

Unfortunately, whether prominent voices arise from the political sphere, the entertainment sphere, or even the religious sphere, the most extreme and kookiest voices are always the loudest.

I held onto a memory of a sermon I heard that sparked something in me, a dim light vaguely revealing a path that I couldn't quite yet identify. I didn't know the name of the preacher who delivered the sermon. His words were controversial, but his point struck me as unabashedly true.

The message was given at the annual Creation Festival, which is like a Christian Woodstock-four days camping out, listening to bands and preachers from all over America. But behind all the music, messages, and outdoor activities, lies the real purpose of the gathering of thousands of believers--to give believers the opportunity to minister to the poor and oppressed through a magnificent organization, Compassion International.

That particular year, while Scripture-clad t-shirts, wrist bands, and Christian CDs were selling like hot-cakes, the Compassion International tent was the LEAST visited tent. The last night of the festival the preacher opened his message with these statements:

"Last night while you were sleeping, over 30,000 children died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition," the preacher said. The usual murmurs and rustling of a crowd composed of thousands of people could still be heard.

"This happens every single day," he went on. "And what makes me angry is that most of us, just don't give a shit." The crowd immediately fell silent.

"That's what makes me angry, but you know what makes God angry? The fact that most of you are more upset with the fact that I just said the word 'shit' than that 30,000 kids died last night."

Never in my life had I heard anything so uncomfortable, which is probably why it rang so true. Some chalked his statement up to nothing more than an attempt for shock value, but I knew this was not the case. If we as Christians cannot embrace the Jesus that is waiting to be loved in the least, the lost, and the last of this world, then we have missed the point. We can buy the WWJD bracelets, cover our virgin ears when a word like shit (that isn't even considered a curse in certain parts of the country)is spoken, plaster scripture all over our clothing, listen to only "Christian" music, believe all the right theology and still completely miss the point. I had missed the point, but it was at that moment it began to dawn on me.

Years later I started reading books by Tony Campolo and instantly fell in love with his words, ministry, and heart for the poor, the oppressed, and the underdogs in this world. He doesn't claim to have all the answers; he doesn't claim to be able to perform miracles; He doesn't convulse "in the spirit" or do any of the other showy stuff that seems to get preachers accolades: but he preaches the gospel and admonishes the church to start loving one another despite our differences and to live out God's will on earth, as it is heaven.

I continued listening to his sermons and reading his books, completely clueless that this was the man all those years ago who spoke at the Creation Festival. God used this man to guide my heart to the Jesus of the Scriptures--not Jesus the Hippie, not Jesus the Republican, but the Jesus of the Scriptures.

So, I wanted to post these video excerpts from his recent TV appearances on the Canadian broadcast "The Hour" and a sermon about a Christian's response to homosexuals.


Jeff D. said...

Tony Campolo is a false teacher--he is lover of gays--to apply any "understanding" to a something has disgusting as fags is not Christian. He should spend less time defending them and more time washing his mouth out with soap.

Tia Lynn said...

Wow. You worked the word "fag" and "Christian" into the same sentence, you must be an Ann Coulter fan. If you would have listened to the video I posted, you would know that Tony Campolo does not approve of homosexual behavior, but disapproves of unfair treatment and vast generalizations applied to them. Jesus is a lover of gays, too. He will never stop loving them, and the Church needs that reminder when SEGMENTS of it have forgotten how to love and EFFECTIVELY reach out to any group of hurting people. I would recommend you read about the life of Henri Nouwen, a truly Christ-like brother who struggled with homosexuality. Lose the hate speech, get some perspective, and stop perpetuating the stereotype of the of the loveless, narrow-minded, gay-hating Christian. It makes you and everyone associated with your TITLE as a Christian look like the antithesis of Christ's teachings.

William said...

Funny thing is i used to believe Tony Campolo was evil and should be locked up that is until I listened to him for myself and found that he is filled with the love of God unlike the ones who criticize him.

Justin said...

Tony Campolo is a rare gem-preaching the unadulterated gospel without playing on people's fears or catering to people's desires for flashy displays of "miracles" on demand.