Friday, October 10, 2008

Tony Campolo at USD

Yesterday, Tony Campolo spoke, actually mostly shouted, at USD. He is definitely a Baptist preacher. His talk was amazing, so please do read on. (Note: Words in parentheses are mine; the rest are from Tony. This is a summary of what he said. Comments in quotations are his exact words.)

On Living Like Christians:
• Growing up, church for him (and me) was all about getting people into heaven. That shouldn’t be what it’s all about. It should be about transforming the world, which must start by helping the poor and oppressed in society.
• “Jesus said, ‘If you want a relationship with me, you’re going to have to have a relationship with them. As you encounter them, you encounter me.’”
• People accuse Tony of not focusing on grace enough, but Jesus says you can only be transformed through having relations with the poor and oppressed.

On the Economy:
• The economic mess was created because highly educated people focused only on profits not on values. As Christians we are called to something higher than this.

On the Iraq War:
• This war is costing $250,000 per minute.
• What should the U.S. do? Three years ago the Arab League offered to replace U.S. and British soldiers because the Arab League said they could take care of it themselves. The U.S. should empower the Arab League and let them do this, not try to control the situation to promote our power.

On Abortion:
• Tony is pro-life.
• However, he doesn’t agree with Christians voting for Republicans just because they are supposedly pro-life. Republicans controlled all three branches of the government for the first 6 years of Bush’s presidency and did not even try to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
• In addition, 70% of women who have abortions do so for economic reasons, so rather than focusing on trying to overturn a law, people who are pro-life should focus on eradicating the poverty that leads to abortions.
• Political rhetoric around this issue is useless if there is still economic deprivation.
• So which party addresses issues of economic disparity? (The answer is the Democrats.)

Where is the Church in all of this?
• The Church needs to start living sacrificially for the poor and oppressed if it once again wants to have authority. Until it does that, it won’t.
• The Bible clearly says don’t build temples, but we do.
• Would Jesus prefer a stained glass window or the money going to feed the poor in Tijuana? (The answer is he would prefer the money going to feed the poor.)
• He quoted someone who said, “The Church is a whore, but she is my mother.” What this meant to him was that although the church has been unfaithful, it has been a place that has provided and cared for people.
• The Church is too concerned with power, and in that, they have relinquished their authority.

Some of the things Tony said would be very controversial to many people. I am curious to hear your opinions on any of this.


  1. Sounds like a great talk. Those are some pretty admirable words.

  2. You posted: "People accuse Tony of not focusing on grace enough, but Jesus says you can only be transformed through having relations with the poor and oppressed." I have been racking my brain to come up with a passage in the Bible where Jesus said this. He said things about dying to self, taking up your cross, etc., but not anything about being transformed by having relations with thep oor and the oppressed.

    Having said that, I just got back from the Dominican Republic and I would agree that being with the poor is transformational. It makes you look at what you have and compare it to what they have and it shows how extremely wealthy we are in this country! But it is not the governments job to do this, it is our job. We, as individuals, must make choices that impact others in postitive ways. We are far too selfish.

  3. Hi Dave,
    That is a good point. What Tony was referring to when he said that was Matthew 25, when Jesus said that all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will divide them into people who took care of the "least of these" and those who did not. Those who did take care of those people in society will be welcomed into the kingdom and those who have not reached out to the "least of these" will be punished. Tony uses this verse to say that we will be judged by how we have treated the poor, hungry, thirsty, etc., and that it is in those relations that we will really find salvation.

    Thanks for sharing about the DR. I agree that in my experience as well, being with the poor is transformational and we usually end up learning more from them than we have to offer. I also agree that it should be our job and not the government's, but unfortunately, we often suck at this, and so sometimes the government is needed to care of these people through programs like unemployment or welfare or other things.