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Tony Campolo book sale

Just got back from spending a few days selling books with a wonderful group of UCC pastors, friends who have allowed us to be a part of their convocation to set up books, chat about books, stand up and give mini-lessons on the books du jour. As evangelical churches become more theologically diverse and some mainline churches deepen their uniquely Christian practices, liturgy and desire for faithful witness, I find---as I always have, truth be told---that I truly enjoy our multi--denominational work. We set up tons of books, as always, and this good group of serious pastors teased me about my bad back and optimistic expectations. Bookselling Hearts & Minds style will never make us wealthy, but these events evoke a richness for which we are grateful.

A special perk of these long hours working away from home was the opportunity to hear Tony Campolo again, a bunch of times, in a fairly casual and small-crowd setting. We got to kibbitz a bit, I sat with him for a while and, yep, he bought some books from our display. When I shared with him some of our frustrations about being criticized for our ecumenical spirit, he encouraged me with a reminder of the extreme hatred he's encountered (including death threats!) Then he told me a funny story about he and President Bush when they were together off the record at the dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library. I guess all of us have to struggle with disapproval ratings sometimes, and if Tony and George W can laugh about it, I should too...

You may find it of interest that Tony remains ever faithful to his progressive politics and his evangelical roots. He is an evangelist at heart and here, among the most sidelined of the mainline churches, he invited them to do good evangelism, to have their public witness for peace and justice be rooted in spiritually vibrant congregational life, which, in turn, has to be truly animated by the Holy Spirit. One cannot sustain serious social action without a mature and authentic relationship with Jesus.

What other evangelical preacher can hang out with such mainline clergy women and men, sharing their passion for inclusion and open-heartedness, and yet call them firmly to Biblical authority, to Holy-Spirited prayerfulness, to old-school evangelism (yep, he even tutored them on how to do an invitation; I wondered if some of them have ever even heard an altar call, let alone given one)? It is surely God's job to do the converting, he assured them, but it is God's desire to use us, as we invite others to become disciples of Christ.

Although a Baptist preacher, he can talk their game: he peppers his talks not only with his breadth of KJV memory verses but with quotes of Tillich and Rudolph Otto, Buber and Karl Manheim; Niehbur and Albert Einstein, Julian of Norwich and Theresa of Avila. And, yes, he told of amazing Pentecostal encounters with faith-healing charismatics and civil disobedience with William Sloan Coffin to protest the latest round of Bush budget cuts.

My, my, this is great stuff, all delievered with good humor, tons of stories, and---as one who has known him a bit for decades---at great personal cost. Tony Campolo is a favorite public speaker for many and he is renowned for his entertaining talks. He is more than entertaining, though, he is important. We should pay attention to him. We commend his many books and remind you that they would make great graduation gifts. Scroll down a bit for our blog-site special deal.

HERE ARE THREE FAVORITES:

Carpe Diem--Seize the Day is all about "coming alive" in various aspects of life (work, home, school, in nature, in church, etc.) and would be particularly nice as an invitation to post-graduation purpose and passion ($12.95.)

His newest is called Speaking My Mind, which is now out in paperback ($13.95.) The subtitle (which he doesn't care for, by the way) is "The Radical Evangelical Prophet Tackles Tough Issues Christians Are Afraid To Face" and it is on his views on everything from war to gay marriage, Islam to science.

Also recently released in paperback is Adventures in Missing the Point where he co-writes with post-modern emergent leader, Brian McLaren. Here, they give and take back and forth on a variety of contemporary concerns, exposing how the middle class church has too often accomodated itself to secular modern culture and surely needs to emerge into something more relevant and more faithful and more Christ-like. There is a good study guide in the back, too ($16.99.)

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Tony Campolo books

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38 Comments

"One cannot sustain serious social action without a mature and authentic relationship with Jesus."Surely this is not true. Marx sustained serious social action. If we should pay attention to TC, it should only be in order to keep track of a dangerous mind.

Caleb,I posted something like this as soon as I saw your comment---it didn't appear, so I will try again:Ahh, you caught me. I should have said something about serious Christian social action, in the spirit of Christ, is hard to sustain without being rooted in a mature and deep relationship with Christ. I know people, maybe you do too, who have been lifelong social reformers but have grown hardened, smug and nasty. I know that there are exceptions, but I find that those who are able to sustain serious social action that is graceful and hopeful and remain involved and hopeful, are those with Godly piety. Do you recall Thomas Merton's warning that to fight the dragon we must be careful not to become like the dragon (or some words to that effect)? A confident walk with Christ will help keep us strong and kind. Do you disagree?Secondly, I wondered which books of Campolo's you've recently read, which of his thoughts you find dangerous and on what basis you think this. I find it difficult to imagine, to be honest, that you've actually read his stuff lately. Care to fill us in on what you think to be dangerous and to which teachings of his you object?Still, I appreciate your hanging in there with me, offering input from time to time. Thanks.

Campolo has denied the omnipotence of God. His position on homosexuality is deeply problematic. His socialism is wrongheaded. His demonization of everyone who disaagrees with him as "evil" is startling. He practices a dangerous form of inter-faith eccumenicism based on a social world-transformative message. He trends toward universalism and gnosticism. In short, there is a lot to be alarmed about. I would not recommend Campolo as reading to most. Especially not the college crowd you have such influence with. Guys like Campolo and McClarem are profoundly bad for young and immature Christians (and probably for old and mature ones too). I have not read his books, and I don't doubt he has some good things to say mixed in with all the rest. But I have read enough of his articles, speeches, interviews, etc., to know that he is bad news.That's how it looks from where I sit at any rate.ps. I will say that I appreciate his self described role as critic of the evangelical church. That role is needed, desperately. It's just that I believe his critiques arise out and accentuate the worst characteristics of evangelicalism. In other words, I think this--"exposing how the middle class church has too often accomodated itself to secular modern culture"--must be done. However I think we need to bring a more critical eye to the various proposals being offered in its place.

Ok, I did my own googling. Here's an article on the convention talk I referenced:http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=16205He also says it is evil that the federal government doesn't provide universal health care. I don't really mind being called evil, but I do mind his position on health care, which is just flat out wrong. He's dangerous as a political agitator and dangerous as a Christian leader.

C:I still think you over-reach, but appreciate your reply. I'll read the link. I very much appreciated and enjoyed your observation that some things need to be handled, explosive as they may be, with great care. Thanks for clarifying that understanding of dangerous.I still am unsure whether you are correct in calling him a socialist, wrong-headed or not. And I am not sure what is so wrong-headed about things that big government can do well. I'm sure glad for nation-wide "command and control" for bridge building standards, say, and for regulations of medicines and, well, I could go on, which may mean I'm a socialist. I firmly favor increase in many social service provisions, think that cutting programs that have proven themselves helpful for the poor--assistance in transportation to help to work, food stamps, other TANF sutff--is not just wrong-headed, but wrong. (Not to say that those that disagree are evil, but I think to advocate policies that can hurt hungry kids, without adequate sure-footed alternatives, is very, very dangerous!) I wonder if you are appropriate in insinuating that he says certain things "to score points." He may, but I have little way of knowing that and I'd guess you'd have even less. One of the little points in my blog post was that he wouldn't have had to go into territory that these pastors may have not appreciated, but he did. He could have scored more points, so to speak, and done so well, if he just wouldn't have preached all his cards. But he did. God bless him for that!Hey, Father Jape: about that foundational Protestant narrative that can dangerously become schismatic and appear gnostic. Count me in on that, too. Sorry.Thanks.Byron

Sorry you feel I didn't address enough (I felt like that with your reply, too, that you skipped a few of my complaints from the first time.) But we can only say so much, here.But here is a quick attempt:1. Your reply about the Katrina article was fair. I don't know the piece you refer to and you clarified that he got it nearly right, but it is dangerous, and another Christian leader said it better. Fine.2. You believe Campolo is correct to call homosexual behavior a sin. You say his call for fair treatment "ill-defined, as if he makes some vague appeal to "public justice" which is wrong. I am not sure how he defines justice, or how you would. This may get us far afield, and I would invite any readers who are interested to follow your work at tNP.I don't think it is bad to say that gay couples who have cared for one another a lifetime should have legitimate public rights---to visit in the hospital of their dying loved one, insurance stuff, etc. Campolo thinks the church ought not bless "gay marriages" since he doesn't believe such a thing exists, or those that do, are not normative marriages. But he also thinks that in public life we ought to treat citizens fairly, and I am not sure that is a vague principle. His chapter on this is spelled out pretty clearly and I have read arguements on both sides. To the extent such legal protections for gay couples erodes the meaning of marriage, I am concerned. I do not think it does that, though: heterosexual divorce, however, does considerably more damage. I know this is a slight switch in topic (one ought not come down on a policiy on one issue because of a frustration about bad practices on another topic.) But I agree with Tony when he says that these are related, and that the important goal of strengthening marriage and family life is not hurt by helping gay lovers be treated decently by the law. Much is said about Campolo's views on this, and I trust I don't have to tell you that we ought not confuse his wife's outspoken views with his own. Falwell said, stupidly, that Campolo ought not be an evangelist since he cannot control his wife. At least we should be clear what his views are (not those of his wife) before rejecting them.3. I understand that you don't think that calling him a socialist is all that bad. I thought I had asked, though, what constitutes being a socialist and if that is fair. You know, surely, that to many, this would be worse than calling him an aethist, and is a farily nasty thing to be called in evangelical circles. I have a variety of readers, I suppose, and most probably don't know Tony's work. But it seemed like a cheap shot. But your clarification did not carry a tone that implied anything mean, so I just asked for yet further clarification. I am not sure that you replied well about my insistence that many of the social services that the current administration, like most, wants to cut, are, in fact, helpful, and in some cases, life-saving. To say the welfare state has created a spirit-killing dependecy preaches well. Are you in favor of cutting food stamps or no? Is it socialistic to favor such things as the current TANF provisions? Am I socialist for supporting, say Bread for the World's political agenda of increasing cost-effective and proven anti-poverty programs? I presume that calling stuff like this "wrong-headed" means that there are "right-headed" ways to go. Can you tell us what these might be? (I still haven't gotten through the Crunchy Cons book, but perhaps some of this is spelled out there?)By the way, you say that it isn't uncommon to call him a socialist. That to be is beside the point, whoever wrote the Wikipedia entry (which I will read shortly) may have it wrong, too.Ron Sider has dealt with this mean-spirited accusation against him repeatedly (even though his Rich Christian book, esp in recent editions, has been called conservative by real socialists.) I know that coming from you, given your fluency in social movements and political philosophies, you don't use the phrase lightly, but it still grates me...3. (your second 3) Yes, Campolo sometimes has spoken passionately and used language that is one-sided on the woman's issue. You seemed to suggest he routinely does this, and is in the habit of demonizing others. I would ask that you grant him some grace on this; he may not be as generous as he ought to be on this one, and it is fair to bring it up. I don't think it is typcial of his approach nor a common attitude or approach. I've heard him often concede that folks can "agree to disagree" on things and as one who pokes around a lot of controversial stuff, he's pretty good about that in my experience.4. In ecuemnical affairs we all skirt all kinds of dangerous stuff. You are correct. Beats talking to yourself.5. I addressed this, hopefully with a bit of dumb humor. I'm a Protestant and am not sure how that is gnostic, but your worries about Dan Brown seem right. McLaren doesn't strike me as gnostic much, but I haven't read him with that worry. Hmmm. Any more input from you on that would be fascinating I'm sure, and may be the most important, and least clear, of your concerns.Hope this helps a bit.

Byron and Brian, a few responses.On Katrina, here is Campolo's article:http://www.beliefnet.com/story/174/story_17423_1.htmlExcerpt:"Perhaps we would do well to listen to the likes of Rabbi Harold Kushner, who contends that God is not really as powerful as we have claimed. Nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures does it say that God is omnipotent. Kushner points out that omnipotence is a Greek philosophical concept, but it is not in his Bible."I can't find the whole text of the BXVI statement, but here is part, with some commentary from Communion & Liberation:"Pope Benedict XVIÕs calm and simple words go directly to the heart of what happened. 'In these days, we are all saddened by the disaster provoked by a hurricane in the United States of America, particularly in New Orleans. I would like to assure you of my prayers for the deceased and their families, for the wounded and the homeless, for the sick, the children and the elderly; I bestow a blessing on those who are engaged in the difficult work of aid and rebuilding. I have given the President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, the task of bringing to the afflicted populations the witness of my solidarity.' In front of death, in a person whoÑwithout forgetting social concernsÑfirst of all bears in mind the human condition, the first sentiment to well up is sorrow. When man is truly himself and perceives his religious sense without becoming ideological, he discovers his original dependence, his not being omnipotent, his being at the mercy of natural catastrophes, diseases, mistakes and the evil which he himself can commit, as the lootings and violence after the hurricane show. ItÕs exactly this perception of his limit that makes man aware of a need for liberation beyond the means of any exclusively human project. For this reason, it is reasonable that our tradition springs from the announcement of SomeoneÑas the PopeÕs words demonstrateÑ who does not try to explain evil or find the guilty, but prays and invokes the Father to defeat this evil and give new hope."The Pope is not just another Christian leader and these two statements, while TRYING to express the same sentiment end up saying exactly the opposite. Campolo is forced to cite some Rabbi to the effect that God is not omnipotent ('cause it ain't in the Bible! -- neither is the trinity) while the allegedly Bible disrespecting Catholics (who would never make such a simplistic argument btw) come to the Biblical conclusion that it is WE who are not omnipotent. Surely you must see the dangers here.On socialism, Brian handles that one well, and I don't need to comment much more other than to say that I don't regard the word as an insult to be flung, just a true statement. We have several self-described socialists and even one marxist on our editorial board at tNP, so I can hardly be blamed for demonizing and ostrasizing them.Regarding alternatives, the Crunchy book may not be a great place to start, but this is:http://www.newpantagruel.com/issues/2.3/alternatives.phpOn Gnosticism, see McClaren's latest book titled "The Secret Message of Jesus."Question is, is Campolo good or bad for the church; will he lead people into a deep life-long pursuit of holiness and the truth or not? In my experience, the answer is "not." Instead he leads in an increasingly liberalizing, secular direction exemplified by his friend William Sloan Coffin, to pick one name. Insofar as any of this is an argument, that is my argument.On Kauffman's book, see this:www.reactionaryradicals.comCaleb

"I may harbor concerns about the danger of critics who don't do much other than gripe."No, no offense. That is certainly a good and fair warning.

I could deal with faith-based initiatives as a solution (albeit perhaps just as a short-term measure to strengthen local groups), but given our current political and cultural climate, such a program won't happen without Christians giving over significant ground to the Left in terms of abortion, gay marriage, and ultimately religious expression. I think we have become conditioned, in this age of rapid news cycles, to think globally before we think locally. Many people know more about what is happening in Africa than in their own community. There is a third way between individualism and Statism--it lies in the re-growth of communities, where people have staked a claim on that place, and care about it and the people they share it with. And really, isn't this what Christ calls us, as individuals and a community in the Church, to do? You are right, Byron--some situations seem beyond us as individuals, families, communities, and churches. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be trying. To trot a quote Caleb likes from Andras Visky: "The situation is very good, it is hopeless."

Thanks for the reply.I don't know anybody that knows more about Africa than their own hometown.I mean that people often know the problems of small African nations better than the condition of their neighbors. This is obviously a generalization, but I think it's true more often than not. I'm not saying it's a Bad Thing to be concerned about genocide in Darfur, but should that be more important than your neighbors or members of your congregation--a situation where you CAN make a difference?I have no idea what you mean that to be involved in faith-based iniatives evangelicals would have to yield to pro abortion views, or whatever.Again, I'm generalizing. I'm not saying that Christians can't work independently of the government, or even receive government assistance for their work (in fact, I'm arguing for such a situation, and I've been involved in such programs locally). But I think we have to think through the ramifications of associations we make. I can talk for days with non-Christian, liberal friends about what do about the poor, both locally and nationally. But if the conversation veers toward behavior (curbing sexual libertinism, for example), suddenly I've viewed as a Bible-thumping fundamentalist who wants to tell people how to live. And shortly thereafter, the conversation stops. Too often we have to keep our mouths shut about our beliefs. I'm just not sure it's right to do that in the context of helping someone, especially when what we believe could truly make a difference in their lives.Related to this, recently, Maggie Gallagher examined the potential legal ramifications that legalizing gay marriage might have on traditional religions. Of course, Ms. Gallagher is biased on the subject, but even those on the other side of the debate admit that the civil acceptance of gay marriage will affect the comings and goings of the Church.You are right--our neighbors may live in another country. And thanks to globalism, our actions as consumers can and will affect them. We must be aware of that. But don't sell short the effect of communities that re-orient their thinking toward being communities. I can try to change U.S. foreign policy, or I can help the family down the street. Of course, that need not be a binary thing--why not do both (as it seems you are doing, Byron)? But, there is a danger, I think, when our theological discussions veer too much toward government and policy--it's easy to forget about the people down the street, or the community a mile over. I believe that if the Church is to become more relevant in our society, we have to start locally. Perhaps some churches could broaden their horizons, but by and large it should be churches doing the dirty work in their communities (like the churches you mentioned). I can't fault you (or anyone else, really) for thinking big. But if we all think big, who is going to feed the hungry, or care for the family who's husband just lost his job?

I am glad Brian brought up Gallagher's piece, because these kinds of discussions really need to get specific before they begin to have any traction. Getting specific, it is my view that the social phenomena causing some of the most destruction ("injustice," if you prefer that term) are the demise of the family wage, the onset of dual income families (driven by the entrance of women en mass into the work force), both in conjunction with no fault divorce laws. This social movement is directly in the interests of corporate-socialism, which is the dominant group in late liberal/modernity and has boosters on the big market right and big government left. They hold hands under the table to exploit local, family, and rooted resources and this arrangement has caused untold destruction, far beyond the lack of universal health care or after school programs.Now, Campolo is a part of this system whether he wants to be or not in his support for the centralized coporate beauracratic theraputic state. So for all his godliness and good intentions (I am not questioning your personal assessment of the man, Byron), he and other "social justice" Christians are a menace in the big picture. Now here is a very specific reaction to a very specific article that was published in a prominent Christian magazine:http://www.newpantagruel.com/issues/2.1/a_continuing_survey_of_the_far.php?page=6(the formating appears messed up, and you may want to read the pages preceding and following)It is worth asking what Campolo would say about Barnhill?Caleb

The New York Times ran this brief piece about the Religious Left, with some mention of Mr. Campolo.

Caleb & Brian,You honor me by continuing to talk about this, and I want you to know that even though I think I disagree with you on much of what you say, I am appreciative, and want to be seen as allies in the work of GodÕs righteousness. Our efforts for social reform---and I know you both are in the fray---are for GodÕs glory, so must be ordered in ways that are consistent with His character and with His creation. The reality of the nature of things counts. Of course we would agree (I hope) that one of the best ways to honor Christ is by, simply put, loving our neighbors. If anybody else is still following this thread of conversation, I hope they know that we all agree with this. I believe you want to propose that we order life (our own, and our churches proclamation and embodied practices, firstly) for the sake of a Godly charity and justice. You took some jabs at Campolo for the vague and lefty sounding call to Òsocial justiceÓ by I know that you know Micah 6:8, Jeremiah 22, Is 58, Luke 4, etc. So I want to affirm our fundamental agreements, at least for those couple of friends I know that donÕt understand how you can be a decent Christian (heck, a decent human being) and not generally be for the policies that Tony pushes for---helping the poor, saving the Earth, helping the inner cities, reaching out in evangelism, being a peacemaker. And I trust that these are your ÒgoalsÓ as well.(Ahh, though, as I try to craft this bridge-building and irenic prologue, I find that I am catching myself: does Caleb agree with this? Dare I put these words in his mouth? I hope you donÕt mind me inferring that we have much in common.)Hey: how about Campolo getting criticized at that conference for speaking of the Bible. You gotta love a guy like that. IÕve been at places like that and sometimes the hostility is thick. Pray for him as he has gotten himself into a very unique position. (He took Rabbi Lerner out and shared the gospel with him, which is pretty amazing, actually. I wonder if the Christian right evangelists ever really talk about Jesus with their big-shot friends at the National Security Council and Enron and such?)Still, I want to ask: why the reluctance to affirm good stuff that liberal Christians do? I suppose, Caleb, I understand that you think that they unleash a host of unintended consequences (and I am aware that you have substantive disagreements with their theology, as I do as well.) You said Campolo is unleashing a Òbeast from a cageÓ and I suppose this ÒbeastÓ is this corporate/therapeutic state on mentioned. I just donÕt see that as so beastly, I guess. IÕm just not that concerned against that as most serious (old school) conservatives are. The feds sometimes build good roads, help keep standards in drug manufacturing, regulate factory safty, sometimes help poor people, throw bad guys in jail, sometimes protect land in National Parks. I wish theyÕd do a whole lot more of all of this! Of course some stuff is over-regulated, but to call Campolo and his ilk (which would be me, I guess) a ÒmenaceÓ since we allow this dangerous corporate government to---I donÕt know what, hurt people? ---I just donÕt get that. I am pondering the old adage (forgive the militarism of the rhetoric) ÒThe enemy of my enemy is my friend.Ó Granted, it is way too simplistic. And I have a fundamental solidarity with all those who name the name of Christ, so I ought not talk about enemies so glibly. But, my point is this: liberal and mainline and ecumenical Christians have in recent years offered proper (Biblically speaking, I believe) critique to the free-market escapades of the Christian right, have denounced the militarism of the ungodly hawks (you know my feelings about the idolatry seen in trust of the military) and the hard-heartedness of those who would cut back essential services for the very poor and elderly. I know very few peopleÑand BrianÕs significant experiences with the urban poor may help us here---who actually know poor people and want to seriously cut social spending. Once middle class people of Christian heart and mind get to know some needy folks, they find that they depend on food stamps, need legal aid, benefit from tax credits on use of cars to get to (low-paying) jobs. Few people that I know get deeply involved in service to the hurting---crisis pregnancy centers, child nutrition education programs, anti-racism coalitions in the inner cities, tutoring in poor schools, stuff IÕve all done in one place or another---and come away thinking Òmy, my, IÕve got to work to stop welfare for these lazy folk.Ó Those who rail against the left usually have little specific care for real poor people. (So I hear your concern, Caleb, about avoiding abstractions; and yours, Brian, about care for next-door folks.) What makes social service spending to help elderly people gets medicine or provide for insulation on poor peopleÕs homes, or invest in programs that help create mass transit, say, so bad, so menacing?(By the way, Brian, I appreciate your care about helping out the next door unemployed person. Just this week my family took a meal to a rural familyÑnot under any economic duress, either---whose mom feel and ended up hospitalized. People have done that for us more than weÕve done it for others (IÕm ashamed to say.) So I get your person-to-person hopes and you are right. I just nearly see this as a different issue. Caring for the Sudan need not (and in my experience does not) preclude caring for near-by neighbors. Desiring appropriate public policiesÑjust funding for good schools, leading to the very unsexy topic of tax reform and zoning and all kinds of boring stuff---doesnÕt mean we should stop our after school tutoring program at our church. It must always be both/ and and your good heart and deep experience makes me trust you on this. BUT, you should know that it is my experience that many who make that argument care little for Africa or their poorer neighbors. They have little intention to do anything local, and resent those who care for Òoutsiders.Ó I say do both. I think you do too. Please donÕt give the impression---and I doubt you intended to---that starving AfricanÕs must wait till I get my backyard grill working better and treat my own real neighbors a bit more hospitably. Surely the poor wages of the malnourished cane-cutters in the Dominican Republic cry out as an affront to God and without pressure on the multi-national corporations to provide fair wages and fair trade, etc---letÕs hear it for Bono, here, now!---God Himself is anguished. Sure I should take meals to my near-by shut ins and support small local farmers at the regional co-op, but this normative lifestyle must also include a care for the cane-cutters. Always, both/and. And, I suppose I need not lecture you two about this: some days we go to the co-op or Market and buy local, and some days I write to Congress on behalf of foreign pollicies that would allow for greater democracy in third world countries. Military aid to many third world regimes only helps repress those who want to start farmerÕs markets in their own locales. So my public policy advocacyÑinformed and motivated by Campolo, to bring him in again---is a piece of my choices to shop at the right kind of places. Most days, though, I shop at a larger grocery chain, and look to support their good projects---fair trade coffee and organics, say. And most days, I donÕt write to congress about anything at all.And, of course, Campolo spends a whole lot more time advocating for young people (or others) to do pretty typical ministry among the needyÑlive in poor neighborhoods, mentor kids, tutor children, bring meals to the sick, paint peopleÕs houses. Nothing all that liberal about that, politically, theologically or philosophically, is it? And he is all about starting small mico-enterprises (job-training and such) in both US urban places and in Latin America and the Caribbean. What is my point? IÕm not sure, now. I think that many of the practices of fidelity that we try very feebly to live out are things you do, too (or should be trying too, IÕd say, if your not.) And then comes along a liberal Christian who has some poor theology, but affirms all this stuff, and reminds the public that the Christian right isnÕt the only option out there. I am more generally glad for their call to action, their care for the right stuff most of the time, and want to work to dislodge the shallowness of Joel Osteen, say, or the militarism of Falwell or the sentimentality of Lucado or the corruptness of Robertson. And some of the progressive evangelicals (Campolo and Sider) do that pretty well. Some of the more obvious liberals (Coffin, say) also do. I am not excited about the so-called Christian left and am glad for those who break the mold and truly are working for a Òthird wayÓ (as opposed to the religious left of Lerner and Coffin et al)---Hauerwas sometimes, Sider, of course, and, mostly, the Dutch neo-Calvinists who say explicitly that they do not want to be right or left (or a combination, even, like Ron or Tony imply.) They want to think things through from the ground up and construe a view of the state, and a view of the public order, that is in keeping with what we know about reality from GodÕs viewpoint. You may have disagreements with that projectÑsay, Jim Skillen, or Bob Goudzewaard, or Richard Mouw, or Nicholas Woltersdorff, and of course guys like Gideon Strauss, who clearly is not a leftist in any way at all--and it is clear that these theologically orthodox and politically ÒreformationalÓ advocates are not the same as the true Christian left (like, say, the Robin Meyers book you mentioned, a book that I am reading and donÕt find quite as simplistically left and nasty as your quick summary implies, by the way.) But the voices like Campolo are, in my view, much, much closer to where I am. Not enough, but a big step away from the uninvolved pietists, the self-indulgant charismatics, and the far right, a step towards relating Bible to policy in a way that makes much of the care for the poorest of the poor, for non-military solutions, for a dream of human dignity. I donÕt think you should be so hard on Ôem.I was listening the other day to some old coal miner songs, militant about unions and such (recorded by Jay Farrar, of SonVolt fame. Hat tip to Scott Calgaro,) my grandfather was a miner, died of black lung. These songs brought to mind the struggle for human rights and fair wages and decent housing and such that the unions brought to the coalfields against the brutes and robber barons. (YouÕve most likely seen the powerful film Mattewan, about the massacre in Mattewan WV, as poor folks united against their oppression by the big businesses of the day. Almost enough to make a liberation theologian outta me.)Do you think these kinds of traditions, where people organized for decent wages were wrong? What about Amnesty International, which strives to get tortured people out of jail? You may know that I had friends in El Salvador, pacifists who at least sympathized with the peasant revolts, and sided with the passionate preaching of Oscar Romero. How about the valiant efforts of those who brought down apartheid? These are left-leaning people of faith who led the way in very dangerous settings, and got no support from evangelicals, but did get support from Bill Coffin. Dare you say they were wrong? When I think of the suffering endured by people in South Africa who created a new government there, with Desmond Tutu finally voting for the first time in his life in his Ô60Õs, I am amazed that such re-formation can happen in our lifetime? Do you intend to critique these movements? Ought we not just be amazed, and try to learn from them? Or did they unleash a beast, too? I would not say that everything has turned out well in South Africa, and certainly not in the more obviously Marxist regimes (like Nicaragua, that some of us naively had hopes for.) But, still: if you turned back the clock a decade or so would you (as Brian implies) not be involved in the anti-apartheid boycotts and campaigning, and demonstrations? OR would you, as Caleb implies, critique them because they are unleashing something worse in their removing their chains?As to the article on civil unions and homosexuality, I will read it and comment later. I find your concern, Caleb, about women in the work force, to be opening another can of worms, as they say, and I better cool it for now. I will read the articles you sent, though.Thanks.

Caleb,We just got that book in the shop and I ordered one for myself, so I will read it before too long...Quick question: when Campolo insists that sugar cane workers should be given fair wages, or advocated for land reform in the Dominican Republic, or when I call for policies that are "just" (that is, do not fail to neglect the duty of the state to manage public affairs so that all citizens are treated fairly and that each given it's due, which may mean for some social welfare programs) why do you see that as part of the modernist dream of emancipation from limits.I understand that "freedom" ground motif as a driving force of secularized, automous humanism (as Dooyeweerd suggested) and am aware of the spirit of the French Revolution alive in some ideologues on the left, but am truly perplexed why the call to order society with justice is seen as necessarily a part of that, esp when spoken of by folks who quote the Old Testament prophets and prooftext a desire for this kind of justice, thereby infusing it with specifically Biblical meaning. (Examples, say, may be that it is wrong to have laws that discriminate against certain races, it is not just to treat some citizens more fairly than others, it is unjust for social policy--instance, say, taxation biased in favor of the rich, it is not just to allow a corporation to despoil the common air we all breath, etc.) Good discussion, and I again appreciate that you aren't implying that liberal Christains or social activists are doing necessarily bad things with their works of mercy, and that you are properly asking quesitons about the "phiolsophy of" and the style and logic of their public arguement for their views. So I take no offense.But I do think that you've caricatured and the meaning implied (of their implied definition of justice) and the logic and apologetic (that they themselves give) of this movement. I've never, ever heard Campolo or Wallis or John Perkins or Ron Sider or, within mainline circles, William Sloan Coffin or Robert McAfee Brown or the Catholic Bishops or Dan Berrigan or Bill Stringellow or anybody like that say that the reason we order society justly and use Christian motivation to please God by loving neighbor is so we can be free from constraints of law or norms.(Ahh, they do--especially the existentialist Catholic liberation theologians---sometimes talk about self-actualization and the way the gospel helps us be authentically free human beings; Romero even said that, and he was assinated during Mass, which says something about how the principalities and powers understood that call. But I do see that, rather Romanticist vibe, coming from some quarters. But not from the evangelical left. Do you?)I would even suggest (but I keep avoiding this because it is so complex and I'm not sure what to say) that the "progressive" Christians who favor full legitimization of homosexuality do so, usually, with helpful efforts to read the Biblical text properly. (The new book by Jack Rogers, does this, for instance.) There is a libertarian/freedom motif in some of those writers--"what right does anyone have to tell me what to do with my life" which is anti-authority and utterly individualistic. I don't see that in Campolo or the progressive Christian left that we've been discussion. And I sure don't see it in Gideon, Mouw, or Skillen. Me? Well, if the shoes fits I'll wear it, but I invite you to tell me where I come across sounding like that...btw, the very phrase "progressive" itself betrays some humanistic spirit and a caputulation to the projects and faith of modernity. I still come back to Goudzewaard's Capitialsim and Progress, a book I cite as one of my all time top influences. I should read that again, too. Have you?Thanks again.Hugs to your family. Pet the sheep for me.Byron

I can appreciate the work that Jim Skillen and the CPJ do. They have articulated a Christian position that is well-grounded in Scripture (that's not say I agree with every one of their policy positions), and, more importantly, they have clearly taken a stand on particular issues where many on the Christian Left have, at least publically, remained wishy-washy--abortion, gay marriage, and the importance of the family. I suppoose a Christian could themselves on the horns of this dilemma--do I subvert particular facets of my faith (the sanctity of life or the sanctity of marriage, for example) for the work of caring for the poor? Is one more important than the other? I don't advocate cutting social spending. I'm with you Byron, regarding the military. Our country's priorities are desperately confused. I do believe our government could do a far more effective job in helping people if it distributed money to organizations on the ground rather than attempt to manage everything itself. Here, of course, is the rub (and something that is brought to light in the Gallagher article)--what happens when the beliefs of a particular organization don't mesh well with the greater pluralism? Should the Catholic Church minimize its belief in a Scripturally grounded family structure in order to maintain its ability to provide adoption services? As for the movements you enumerated above, I say there should be more of them. Communities are capable of fairly amazing things when they work (and think) together. Personally, I believe the greatest opportunity for change will come from communities re-orienting themselves (and this, I think, is something that Caleb and the rest of tNP advocates) toward their place and their people. I also agree that Christians must be more aware of the power of their pocketbooks. We as a culture are often too obsessed with cheap prices that we don't realize the effect such prices have the lives of those involved in production (which is a primary critique of capitalism levelled by traditionalists). Sadly, we're in an age when it could be nearly impossible to only buy locally (as we're all taking part in this discussion thanks to computers made overseas). We certainly can be concerned consumers, and we can affect change.

Related, Ruth Marcus wrote this in yesterday's WaPo.

It would have been more accurate for me to have said, above, that school consolidation and busing which arose out of the progressive post-WWII ideology (culminating in things like Brown v. Board) made war on both rural america and on urban neighborhoods which had previously been self-sufficient. Neither came directly out of the civil rights movement per se I suppose.

A few random comments (and I'm sure I'm beating Caleb to the punch on a few things):Regarding women in the workplace. I've got no problem with women working. I do, however, think it's problematic when mothers continue to work to maintainn a particular economic status (i.e. the family purchased a house pre-children that a single wage-earner couldn't afford). As a culture, we've consigned the rather important task of raising our children to other people. Parents that spend a less than a few hours a day has damaged the institution of the family in our country. Career has become more important than family. My wife and I have friends who put their kids in day care at six weeks old. Six weeks! And these aren't people who necessarily need more money (most of the time a large portion of the second income goes toward child care)--they do it because they don't want to sacrifice their vocation. I say child-rearing is vocation! If you don't want to care for your kids, don't have them. If my wife had better wage earning potential than I did, I would be perfectly happy to never work again. Personally, I've done everything I can to join my wife at home with the kids as much as possible, including finding a job where 8 hour days and telecommuting are the norm. Ideally, within five years, my office will be the home and I can have an even greater role in the raising of our children.Also, worth noting--the Democrats, in the early part of 20th century, fought for a proper wage for families with only one wage-earner (this at the time when the Republicans placed themselves in the back pocket of big business). I don't see that plank in the Democratic platform these days.It's worth reading this post regarding gay marriage (and the logic could be applied to many other cultural issues, I think). Galt doesn't take sides, but the arguments presented, especially against, are quite compelling.Regarding my comments about the dilemma we face at the polls. I don't mean to simply say liberals face this dilemma--conservative Christians face it too. Do you vote for the anti-abortion candidate? If so, you'll likely also support big business (which we all can agree has done its part to destroy family and community). Or do you vote based on social justice issues. Yes, that candidate may care for the poor, but they may not care about the life of the unborn. Personally, I tend to favor the "politics" of Day or Jacques Ellul--that is, government is part of the problem and not necessarily the solution. Let me tackle the problem one person at a time. Yeah, it'll take awhile, but I'm more hopeful that way.

Byron, your sarcasm doesn't help this discussion along much.Ok, food stamps. I am generally ambivalent about food stamps in particular. I think they are some of the more benign parts of our federal social welfare policy which I think overall is not benign at all. I am not downplaying all the complexities involved, etc., and I also recognize that once a welfare policy is in place it may cause even more destruction (for a while) to take it away (which is part of the evil genius of welfare programs). That said, it is clear to me that it is in the combined interests of the mainstream politicos in both parties and their collusion with monied corporate interests to maintain a large underclass which is entirely dependent on their largess. Furthermore, I think it is absolutely clear what has happened to communities most consumptive of welfare goods: it has been to their complete ruination. To simplify: government welfare displaces male providership which leads to crime, poverty, and dependence on a massive scale.This http://www.southcentralfarmers.com is a zillion times better than food stamps.Re: women in the workforce, my concern is with dual-income families, not with who works and who stays home per se. History, biology, and sociology all say that healthy single-earner homes are by and large structured by and through male providership. There are exceptions of course.Byron, it would be helpful to hear your response to the Jape-on-Barnhill cited above.

"The line in a previous blog about us getting tired from trying to destroy the family was supposed to be a joke."Yeah, that, and the bit about being tender towards friends ... but I was probably being overly testy.

Oh man, I was utterly sincere about that. Crap, I really was. I am sorry to even hint otherwise.I had that dumb winking thingie by the "joke" to make sure it wasn't misread, but the close-out was a sincere note of appreciation that you are a good friend and family man. Maybe a hard one to debate, and too harsh on your opponents, but that is a different matter.Just read an old speech by the late Neil Postman, a graduation speech he never was asked to deliever. IT compares those from Athens and the Visigoths. Wonderful. It was posted on my friend Dick Cleary's blog, Viewpoint,http://www.wscleary.com/pov/home I thought of you...and THAT is a compliment. I met Postman before he died and we both talked about our dads as we walked around for more than an hour. My dad had just died, and his was about too, apparantly. A good man in many ways...

Caleb,I haven't lost interest in this conversation, although I fear anyone reading along may have...I can't, and doubt that you would want me to, document that various advantages of the sorts of provision that are in TANF legislation. We use the shorthand "welfare" and I suppose ought to debate the bad effects you claim and name these effects based on which benefit you oppose.I think the data on foot stamps is nearly non-negotiably good--at least in was when I was involved in an advocacy campaign to stop the cuts. The "urban legends" about food stamps (and, I believe, perhaps to a lesser extent, the broad claims about welfare, generally---has ruined the black community, caused an underclass, etc) are too often unsubstantiated, and come from armshair critics who wouldn't know how to find their local WIC office, if they even knew what it was!The garden blog you sent me is a movement I've followed a bit---unbelievable that they wanted to shut these good folks down, although it isn't uncommon, apparantly, in other big cities, too, where squatters have "redeemed" ruined blocks and turned them into veggy gardens (albeit illegally) and then landlords kick 'em out. Still, as good of a campaign as that is, and the broader movement of CSA, you can't possibly think it can keep up with the needs of hungry children in America, do you? Are you against school lunch subsidies, too? The only specific piece of "safty net" legislation you've specifically criticised is school consolidation, which, as I've said (but you didn't refute) was not (as far as I know, but I honestly don't know for sure)part of the civil rights movement. I've been a member of oodles of legilsative update services and lobbying groups over the years-think of Bread for the World--and I have never, ever heard any socially concerned, justice seeking, anti-poverty activist lobby for school consolidation as a guiding principle. You insist that the anti-poverty program is part of the corporate collusion with parties left and right that wants an underclass. I don't know how much conversation you've had with congressional leaders, or their aides and staff, but, I must admit, as propehtic as this jeremiad sounds, I can't, then, explain, why so many of them oppose welfare, and why we have to fight to even get a tiny bit of increase in the impeccably effective and cost-effective food stamps programs. It seems a much more plausible explanation--what's that Okham's Razor dictum, or something like that---that most elected people don't give a crap about the poor, and know that poor people don't vote so they only worry about the upper middle class vote who would rather cut taxes so they can have their nice homes and suburban lawns. I'm so tired of hearing the statistics about poverty in America, and knowing that simple little things like food stamps can help, and having to convince congressmen that it matters, only to have somebody (like yourself, say) who ostensibly cares about the needy, suggest that a little urban garden can solve the problem--a zillion times better. It may be, for the 15 families that can benenit.If you truly think that this is a Biblical view of the State, perhaps we should discuss our respective views of Bible verses that deliniate the task of government. I suppose we could get into "proof-text poker" which wouldn't be helpful, but I am baffled why you think that Kauffman's tremendously interesting book represents a "Christian" approach.I loved the book, by the way, and hope to feature it in my monthly book review column this month. Pray I don't butcher my essay too badly...I will link readers to your tNP articles on this, too. Thanks to you and Brian for making me think...Brian: you had a link in your last comment about a post; when I clicked on it, ironically, it said "you are not allowed." What was that about?


DATE: 5/16/2006 02:44:00 PM
Caleb:I think this is worth discussing, and I hope at least a few folks are looking in.I understand your concerns, generally. I trust that you have read interviews and therefore aren't going by mere conjecture.I've read most of his books in their entirity, and skimmed some others, and heard him often. I will reply to your concerns, not with a definitive refutation, I suppose, since that would entail prooftexting his many speeches and interviews and books. And we all know he is an emotionally-powerful speaker and shoots from the hip. He may overstate and mis-speak in his many speeches, esp when he is tired from international travel. I wish I could edit this to be clearer what your lines are, but don't know how. So, readers: follow closely:"Campolo has denied the omnipotence of God." Where and howso? Perhaps you think that anyone that entertains questions about the mystery of God's ways of interacting with His cosmos, and questions of human freedom to be denying omnipotence. I don't know where he out and out denies this doctrine, although just last week I heard him say that that word wasn't in the Bible and may be more of a construct of modernity than a Hebrew approach. It made me cringe, and had I had a chance, would have pressed him to be clearer."His position on homosexuality is deeply problematic."He has said repeatedly and consistently that homosexual erotic behavior is sinful and he counsels gay Christians to live in celebacy. What is problematic about that? What do you advise that is wiser?"His socialism is wrongheaded."He guess he is a member of the democratic party and believes in the right of the State to tax citizens for the public good. Unless you are a liberatrian--which would be dangerous and unBiblical in my view--I suspect you agree with him. Talk about demonizing people; this is flamboyant rhetoric that seems unnecessary and unhelpful. I gather that tNP folks have an unusual take on citizenship and economics, although I don't really understand it. I suspect you believe that the state has legitimate roles to play in the formation of a public order that is just. Campolo critiques the free market. Does this make one a socialist? "His demonization of everyone who disagrees with him as "evil" is startling." That would be startling, but I cannot recall him doing this, although he is blunt in quoting what seems to be unequivical texts in the Bible (Matthew 25, say) and voicing his convictions. I do not recall him calling others "evil" (let alone "everyone who disagrees with him") and since you had that in quotes, I presume you've heard or seen that usage. Could you offer a citation? He dramatizes his point about Christian nonconformity by saying we ought not to buy into status symbols like BMW's. Do you disagree? Is this the same as saying that those who disagree with him are demonic? This past week he spent considerable time explaining to these generally liberal UCC pastors that we ought not demonize (his precise word) the Christian right, or our President. I found it Christ-like and kindly, a proper balanced of speaking his mind where he thought the President's policies to be wrong, without unfair jabs at Mr. Bush's character. I think this is a serious accusation and wonder what makes you put it so firmly?"He practices a dangerous form of inter-faith eccumenicism based on a social world-transformative message" I am not sure what you mean by inter-faith ecumenicism. Ecumenicism is generally the phrase used for inter-denominational cooperation and conversation within the Christian community, broadly understood. If that is what you mean you got that right. And I try to do it too! Beats "speaking to the choir" or being exclusively in-house. And it affords opportunities to have conversations about principles and first things, theology and strategy with folks who name the name of Christ and yet stand in a different tradition. It helps move towards the unity that Christ longs for within His body. The final apologetic and all that.If you literally mean inter-faith, I don't know where he stands on that. He has pondered the meaning of texts like "I have other flocks..." and suggests the possibility of positions like C.S. Lewis'---a Christ-centered, blood-bought widness to God's mercy. I don't know where he has come down on that in print, other than to speculate.I will admit that can be dangerous to orthodox thinking (see McLaren's last novel) but I am concerned that you overstate Campolo's position, here. Are you sure you've described him well, here?"(he tends towards)...gnosticism."What do you mean? I really don't see that, but am eager to hear more.Thanks. Byron


DATE: 5/16/2006 03:35:00 PM
Hi Byron, thanks for the good reply. Let me just say at the outset that you obviously know TC and his work better than I. I don't claim to be an expert, and I certainly don't claim to be "judging" his character, faith, whatever. He strikes me, for what I believe are good reasons, as a dangerous thinker. Which is not to say that he is always wrong. Wrong and dangerous are two different things. There are truths which ought to be handled like highly unstable/explosive compounds. It is one thing to think and write in a highly theoretical/philosophical way about the possibility of salvation outside the church, it is quite another to give speeches to college kids about it in order to score social justice points.I'll respond briefly to your other points:1) Campolo clearly denied the doctrine of omnipotence in a piece he wrote in the wake of Katrina. I believe that piece had the right idea, but as is often the case with popularizers, Campolo doesn't have deep wells to draw from so he ends up going off the reservation. Compare to Benedict XVI's remarks on the same subject.2) As I understand Campolo's position on homosexuality (could be wrong) he believes it is a sin (good) but advocates for some kind of ill-defined "public justice" for homosexuals. In my view this plays into the hands of the gay lobby and is positively harmful to family life in America.3) Calling his socialism wrongheaded is neither flamboyant nor demonizing. Nothing wrong with criticizing capitalism. I've been known to do that too. But I maintain that believing that social justice can be accomplished by extensive centralized/thereputic/progressive command and control is deeply wrongheaded and leads to totalitarianism and the death of the spirit.3) Campolo, at a baptist convention a few years ago, specifically said that anyone who opposed ordination of women was evil and in grievous sin (something to that effect). Googlers could probably provide actual quotes (and correct me if I am wrong!).4) By inter-faith eccumenicism I mean that he skirts the edge of a dangerous kind of universalism.5) By gnosticism I mean that he is susceptible to thinking/proclaiming that the church has gotten Jesus and his message wrong wrong wrong for thousands of years and that he and his cohorts have rediscovered the secrets of Jesus. This is the foundational Protestant narrative and has always been used by schismatics from Luther to Joseph Smith in one way or another to justify their split, but there are good and bad ways to use it. In my view, I am seeing a lot of the really bad forms of gnostic speculation going on these days, from Dan Brown to Brian McClaren to Garry Wills. Campolo's uneasy but fundamentally friendly relationship with this crowd (not Brown--although see McClaren's latest remarks on Brown in SoJo) makes him suspect in my view.


DATE: 5/17/2006 07:19:00 AM
Byron,I don't think it's about counting oneself in or out of history. Of course you're "in on it," and so am I and pretty much everyone else. Rather, it's about recognizing the real scars of history and taking honest and responsible stock of where they have left you; what can you reasonably/safely do and not do. And it is a relatively clear fact of recent history that progressively minded substantially liberalizing Protestants cannot reform the Church without destroying it.Where did I overreach? I was not hurling "socialism" as an insult by the way. Just an accurate description. No, support for any federal program does not make one a socialist. But support for universal health care is a socialist position to take. It is really not that controversial to call Campolo a socialist. See this for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_leftThe question is, is socialism good or bad, right or wrong.But his socialism is a minor concern in my mind compared to the other items which you did not address.


DATE: 5/17/2006 11:46:00 AM
I'll throw my hat into the ring. I haven't read much Campolo recently, but I've found this discussion fascinating. I considered myself a Christian Socialist for a long time. Then, after reading a variety of stuff, from Dorothy Day and other Catholic distributivists to various essays in the New Pantagruel, I came to realize the welfare state was little more than a band-aid (and ineffectual one, at that) for the problems of poverty and other social ills. I don't think Caleb's assessment ("a spirit-killing dependecy") is that far off. It fosters a sense that it is the government's responsible to care for the needy. One can feel content knowing they've "done their part" by paying taxes, instead of actually getting into the messy business of helping people (this is not, by the way, a judgement of you, Byron, nor of Campolo--one can certainly be for government assistance and an active contributor as well). We are, as a culture, being conditioned to expect the State to care for our cities, our neighborhoods, and even our families. As Christians, we've got to re-orient our thinking and place the expectation of caring for the needy on our own shoulders.Of course, that hangs us on the horns of a dilemma, no? Advocating the rollback of government assistance makes us look like those fundagelicals on the Right, especially if we don't back up our words with action. But this is where the Church must pick up the slack and do its part. Let's not, as believers, spend so much time developing a theology of the State. Instead, let's roll up our sleeves and do the work in our own communities.And regarding Crunchy Cons, I don't think Dreher outlines much a system for social justice (see Eric Miller's review in B&C, and Dreher's response. I think Bill Kauffman's latest book, "Look Homeward, America" perhaps has a better vision of an alternative.


DATE: 5/17/2006 11:55:00 PM
Thanks, guys.I still haven't seen the definition of socialism that you would use, but I suppose it isn't that importnat.Brian, you suggest that having welfare policies encourages us to think that it is the governments responsiblity to take care of the poor.. Well, I guess that is it: it IS the governement's job (among other groups and individuals as well) to take care of the poor. We could prooftext this Biblically, I think, but my understanding is simply that there are some jobs that big government can do best. Or, big government partnering with local, smaller agencies. (Like the orginal vision of the faith based iniatives.) Of course, this can be done well or it can be done poorly; it can empower and act prudently with just and effective aid or it can be deathly and disempowering. I just know that there are too many poor children and not enough private sector families around; local citizens cannot enact just assistance to massively complex problems of inequities in schooling, helath care, transportation and such. There has to be a third way between the individualism of the neo cons and the massive, poorly constructed welfare state. William Sloan Coffin. Hmmm. I met him once; heard him preach up a storm. Campolo told me how he, in working with Rabbi Lerner, a liberal Jewish leader, wanted to share the gospel with him, invite him to hear the call of Christ, honor His divinity, yes, accept Him into his heart and become Christ's disciple. He asked the good Rabbi if he could get it over with---otherwise, Campolo said, he'd be always wishing he could wrestle the conversation around to evangelism. Rabbi gave him the courtesy of a several hour conversation about Jesus. I do not think he has become a Christian.If this is Tony liberalizing the church---setting appointments with leftists he has come to know and inviting them to be born again--I hope for more of it.I don't know what tNP's view of evangelism is, or how much actual compassionate outreach the critics of Tony do themselves. I liked Caleb's expressed concern that Campolo's ideas can be dangerous (or flat out wrong, like this silly idea that the Old Testament doesn't express God's omnipotence) and therefore must be handled with care. Yes, this is true. But I'll take a dangerous "doer of the Word" over an armchair critic, no matter how precise....I don't think, in my heart, that this is necessarily a criticism of tNP authors or you, Caleb. I may harbor concerns about the danger of critics who don't do much other than gripe. Some of the critics of Campolo, Sider, and others are just that. Please don't take offense, though, since I'm aware of your attempts at a wholesome lifestyle and anti-modern witness.


DATE: 5/18/2006 09:08:00 AM
Brian,Thanks so much for your post. Good stuff. Except, for the sake of being ornery:1. I don't know anybody that knows more about Africa than their own hometown. I've been an advocate for localism and such, buying local, etc for thirty years---read Wendell Berry in 1979, I think---but I would love for one of my neighbors to care more about Africa than me. Not going to happen, I'm afraid. Most church folks, esp, care so very much more about their own congregation and building and programs than anybody in Chad or Ecuador. Except maybe those brave few who are super involved in world missions, or those rare global justice advocates (God bless 'em whereever they are.) Interstingly, though, it is my experience that those folks are also nicely involved in local stuff to. It was fun to see a local adovcate of global missions side by side in our campaign here to stop a new Wal Mart coming onto farmland. So, anyway, I'm not so sure about this commonly held adage.2. I have no idea what you mean that to be involved in faith-based iniatives evangelicals would have to yield to pro abortion views, or whatever. I know of those who work in distinctively Christian social service organizations who are happily funded on equal footing with other mediating-type structures (without being discriminated against because of their faith perspective) and they have to follow the law, of course (no explicit evangelism with federal monies given for social service) but they don't have to cede anything to anybody (that I know of.) From Pentecostal drug treatment centers to crisis pregnacy sexual-abstinance programs to the numerous wholistic churches documented in Ron Sider's latest Oxford University Press book on Philly area urban churches, I don't think anybody "in our culture" is forced to do what you suggest. They are forced to be serious about their ministry, and care for the poor or needy in a way that many don't want to. And--and please, this isn't directed at you at all!---many of the critics of that iniative aren't doing anything at all; they just like to pick at the evangelicals who are trying. Which is why I guess I get defensive about the critiques of Tony, a Godly man who has done so very much hands-on organizing and service.3. You ask, somewhat rhetorically: is that not what Christ asks us to do? Well, I don't know. Christ asks us to do justice, and to even care for the "neighbor" who---alas---may not seem like a neighbor and may not live next door.As you may have seen from my Golden Venture posts, we are fighting for the very lives of asylum seekers who are being endangered by national policiy. It necessitates learning about arcane and very non-local public policy and making trips to Washington and networking with others in immigration reform. A local community simply cannot set national policy and yet public policies effect the needy; the third world debt is similiarly grinding the starving poor and getting some global corporation to pay fair wages----even though the factory is in Viet Nam and the headquarters in some US city far from me---is a moral duty for those who care about our "neighbors" whose children will go to bed hungry tonight. I don't know what you think about the huge amount of tax monies going to the Pentagon, but it is a national policy and no amount of local care will solve that urgent reform. Christians must care, I believe, about those areas of national policy that effect our neighbors, here and abroad, and a romantic call to think small does not have the capacity to engage these geographically large problems.


DATE: 5/18/2006 03:34:00 PM
I am glad Brian brought up Gallagher's piece, because these kinds of discussions really need to get specific before they begin to have any traction. Getting specific, it is my view that the social phenomena causing some of the most destruction ("injustice," if you prefer that term) are the demise of the family wage, the onset of dual income families (driven by the entrance of women en mass into the work force), both in conjunction with no fault divorce laws. This social movement is directly in the interests of corporate-socialism, which is the dominant group in late liberal/modernity and has boosters on the big market right and big government left. They hold hands under the table to exploit local, family, and rooted resources and this arrangement has caused untold destruction, far beyond the lack of universal health care or after school programs.Now, Campolo is a part of this system whether he wants to be or not in his support for the centralized coporate beauracratic theraputic state. So for all his godliness and good intentions (I am not questioning your personal assessment of the man, Byron), he and other "social justice" Christians are a menace in the big picture. Now here is a very specific reaction to a very specific article that was published in a prominent Christian magazine:http://www.newpantagruel.com/issues/2.1/a_continuing_survey_of_the_far.php?page=6(the formating appears messed up, and you may want to read the pages preceding and following)It is worth asking what Campolo would say about Barnhill?Caleb


DATE: 5/22/2006 12:01:00 PM
Interestingly, I just got a review copy of a new book called "Why the Christian Right is Wrong."It's written by a pastor and is mostly a rant against GWB, and is blurbed quite favorably by Coffin, among others. It fully embraces uinversalism, homosexuality, socialist economic policy, says that all the druids and witches etc. out there wounded by organized Christianity are the true congregation of God because they care about "justice," and calls the appointment of John Roberts the work of Christian Facism.A lot of the Christian left that remains within the bounds of orthodoxy (and I do think people like Campolo and Wallis are there) would reject a lot of this book (while praising a lot of it), but the problem is that this is the direction their "third way" thinking leads. Even if they don't want it to lead there, and even if they try to place restraints on things, the let a beast they can't control out of the cage. Witness the comment made to Campolo in the article cited above.


DATE: 5/23/2006 09:32:00 AM
Hi Byron, I appreciate your bridge building and despite the fact your friends probably think I'm a knuckle-dragging brute, I agree with it completely. I just think the rhetorical/theological/cultural/political argumant offered by Campolo and the rest of the Christian left (I guess that includes you) does much more harm than good (and note that I am only talking about their *argument*, not necessarily about their individual acts and lives, which may do a whole lot of good--but in the bigger picture, as public spokesmen, their argument will be more influential in the long run). There are several difficulties with this discussion. One is that the Christian left by and large fights for an abstraction called "justice" which it does not understand. Schaeffer called this a "connotation word" in that it guestures vaugely to a Christian idea but permits the user to supply content of his own making. I will speak bluntly and just say that I think it is uncontrovertable that the pursuit of "justice" in the form of progressivist emancipation from limits, natural and societal, has done unspeakable harm to our social order and caused untold havoc in millions of lives. If you want to see a pretty accurate description of my political/cultural approach, read Bill Kauffman's latest book, Look Homeward, America. It defies all attempts at political stereotyping and presents an authentically American and authentically Christian understanding of life. We just published an excerpt here:http://www.newpantagruel.com/2006/05/return_from_boh.php


DATE: 5/23/2006 11:14:00 AM
Caleb,We just got that book in the shop and I ordered one for myself, so I will read it before too long...Quick question: when Campolo insists that sugar cane workers should be given fair wages, or advocated for land reform in the Dominican Republic, or when I call for policies that are "just" (that is, do not fail to neglect the duty of the state to manage public affairs so that all citizens are treated fairly and that each given it's due, which may mean for some social welfare programs) why do you see that as part of the modernist dream of emancipation from limits.I understand that "freedom" ground motif as a driving force of secularized, automous humanism (as Dooyeweerd suggested) and am aware of the spirit of the French Revolution alive in some ideologues on the left, but am truly perplexed why the call to order society with justice is seen as necessarily a part of that, esp when spoken of by folks who quote the Old Testament prophets and prooftext a desire for this kind of justice, thereby infusing it with specifically Biblical meaning. (Examples, say, may be that it is wrong to have laws that discriminate against certain races, it is not just to treat some citizens more fairly than others, it is unjust for social policy--instance, say, taxation biased in favor of the rich, it is not just to allow a corporation to despoil the common air we all breath, etc.) Good discussion, and I again appreciate that you aren't implying that liberal Christains or social activists are doing necessarily bad things with their works of mercy, and that you are properly asking quesitons about the "phiolsophy of" and the style and logic of their public arguement for their views. So I take no offense.But I do think that you've caricatured and the meaning implied (of their implied definition of justice) and the logic and apologetic (that they themselves give) of this movement. I've never, ever heard Campolo or Wallis or John Perkins or Ron Sider or, within mainline circles, William Sloan Coffin or Robert McAfee Brown or the Catholic Bishops or Dan Berrigan or Bill Stringellow or anybody like that say that the reason we order society justly and use Christian motivation to please God by loving neighbor is so we can be free from constraints of law or norms.(Ahh, they do--especially the existentialist Catholic liberation theologians---sometimes talk about self-actualization and the way the gospel helps us be authentically free human beings; Romero even said that, and he was assinated during Mass, which says something about how the principalities and powers understood that call. But I do see that, rather Romanticist vibe, coming from some quarters. But not from the evangelical left. Do you?)I would even suggest (but I keep avoiding this because it is so complex and I'm not sure what to say) that the "progressive" Christians who favor full legitimization of homosexuality do so, usually, with helpful efforts to read the Biblical text properly. (The new book by Jack Rogers, does this, for instance.) There is a libertarian/freedom motif in some of those writers--"what right does anyone have to tell me what to do with my life" which is anti-authority and utterly individualistic. I don't see that in Campolo or the progressive Christian left that we've been discussion. And I sure don't see it in Gideon, Mouw, or Skillen. Me? Well, if the shoes fits I'll wear it, but I invite you to tell me where I come across sounding like that...btw, the very phrase "progressive" itself betrays some humanistic spirit and a caputulation to the projects and faith of modernity. I still come back to Goudzewaard's Capitialsim and Progress, a book I cite as one of my all time top influences. I should read that again, too. Have you?Thanks again.Hugs to your family. Pet the sheep for me.Byron


DATE: 5/24/2006 08:24:00 AM
Good comments Brian, and Byron, I shouldn't have pigeonholed you, but I misread something you wrote above and thought you were taking the mantle of Christian left for yourself.Byron, to try to answer some of your questions, I would say first off that on international and economic matters I think I am much closer to you than you might think, but the problem comes with this definition of justice: "the duty of the state to manage public affairs so that all citizens are treated fairly and that each given it's due, which may mean for some social welfare programs."Most policies attempting to follow this "duty" have been destructive in the United States. Take school consolidation, just as an example. This policy came out of the civil rights movement and at least purported to be rooted in the "duty" to treat everyone fairly and give everyone his due (as defined by certain "experts" mostly in far away places). It ended up being what amounted to an act of war on rural America which played directly into the hands on large corporate-state interests and contributed to the creation of deracinated, placeless America and the destruction of thousands of previously self-sufficient communities. People like Wendell Berry have charted and described this process in compelling detail.The progressive dream is damaging to REAL life. The civil rights movement, for all its good intentions, has left a black community utterly and completely ruined. The women's liberation movement, for all its good intentions, has completely shattered the family in America (and one doesn't even need to talk about the obvious issues of abortion and sexual liberation, it is sufficient to note that the onset of no fault divorce creates the economic necessity of dual income families which is inherently unstable and feeds a consumerist anthropology that is required by our economy of creative destruction).I could go on, but you get the idea. These are not "conservative" arguments, at least not it the way most people understand that word. Mother Jones, William Jenings Bryant, Eugene McCarthy, Wendell Berry, Dorothy Day, and many other's of the "left" have made them all before.


DATE: 5/24/2006 06:07:00 PM
Thanks. This is helpful, good stuff.I did find your second paragraph, Brian, to be a bit confusing...I guess I feel being less than pure and working with others with whom I disagree just a pretty common experience, but not "subverting" my faith, or facing deadly compromises. (I will vote, for instance, for a candidate that isn't loud about the prolife cause, if that particular office isn't one which tends to rule on that topic; similiarly, I will vote for a guy who is favor of the death penalty, if the capitol punishment isn't ever going to come up in his arena of authority.) I don't wat to take lightly the "horns of a dillemma" you spoke of, but I don't fret about it that much. I perhaps didn't understand your comment.(And, yes, I think social organizations ought to be free to be who they are--you mentioned Catholic Social Services, say---and it is repressive to not grant them that freedom of faith orientation. And, yes, if it comes to that, they should stand on their principles and refuse federal funds if necessary. That much is clear, I'd say.)I will post a blog at some point referring folks back to your comments and some of the books that have been mentioned. (Did you see the piece by Alan Jacobs in Books in Culture saying how hard it is to keep communal discourse of this sort going with some of the fancier blogging technologies, and the short attention span for readers wanting new stuff? Very interesting.)I've read a lot of Berry, and agree with you, Caleb, that he has documented well the problems in America, but not sure exactly how food stamps, say, have been "war" on rural America. The more obvious war was when Carnegie and Mellon et al sent the guys with guns to shoot the unionists in WV. Or when corporate interests created agribuisness, pushing the bottle feeding of babies. And when Gallo Wine people shot Ceasar Chavez's migrant workers in plain daylight. And that war continues, I think, with mountaintop removal. (btw did you read, a decade ago, that marvelously written book by a homeschool kid about cynicism around these issues. Very moving.)I'm being dramatic, and suppose you aren't disinterested in these obvious examples of collusion between big business and conservative government. One need not be a Marxist or liberation theologian to see that these are unaccepable injustices. But I do wish you'd moan a bit more about them.And I truly don't get how FDR big governement helping people---putting power lines through the south, say, or Campolo insisting that urban schools should be better funded, may be a mixed bag, but "warfare" and but deeply damaging? Good health care for vets? Damaing to REAL life? Guess whose real life it is your talking about: my brother gets excellent care from the VA for his war-related hearing loss, and for his non-war related MS, and I am grateful. (Yet another guy I know, truly underemployed, scarred and fairly poor, despite his wage-earning wife and smart teenager who works and helpful church friends, who can't get over his demons from the horrific things he did in Cambodia, and, oddly, can't get a dime's worth of help from his VA people. I don't understand the reasons, really, but their services, such as they are, don't seem an assult, but merely a pay-back to citizen's hurt while serving (supposedly) the common good.Again: I asked why you think that seeking public justice, including what I suppose is called "distributive" justice, is part of the progressive humanistic "freedom" ideal, and if it was fair to implicate Tony C, et al in that antinomian philosophy. I thought it unfair and inaccurate, and I'd like to see your reply.Your claim, though, that their policies are nonethessless hurtful, is unconvincing to me, since you seem so abstract (even as you ask for real life scenarios.) What policy or safty net or welfare piece, exactly, that has been warring on rural America? (The school consoladation issue was a good concrete example, but a bit unusual, since I doubt Tony has preached about that, nor have it, and I am sure Sojourerns has never weighed in on that, and doesn't exactly make the point that welfare services are hurtful. It's like saying that because huge late-60's housing projects were a disaster we should therefore cut back on TANF; one doesn't follow from the other. Perhaps had you analyzed forced integration---an example of well-intended social engineering that most likely had more negative fruit than positive in the 70's, it might have been clearer. Although, again, because some well-intended policies haven't been just or healthy, does that mean we should mistrust the call to do justice, or just be more vigilant upon how to accomplish that and what the polcies or programs will do. But to mock and blame those who still call for justice seems odd to me, and feels like back-lash scapegoating. I suppose your critique of Tony is different than Falwell's but it seems to sound the same...* I know that folkways and rural traditions and a certain sanity of lifestyle is threatened by "progress" (ha!) and modernity, but am unclear how, say, lefty politics or fuzzy evangelicals for the democrats are to blame. I'm really not trying to continue a fight, but understand your view.I disgree with your claims about the way in which women in the workforce have ruined the family. Kind of like those who insist that gay civil unions with destroy the institution of marriage; heterosexual infidelities and weaknesses have done that quite well, it seems. A minority of gays making vows to stick together doesn't seem to me to be a major threat, although I have read some compelling pieces about this and am still trying to sort it out. My couple of friends who are gay couples seem pretty stable and happy and their neighborhood, or their neighbors families, aren't going south because of it. The rhetoric about this just doesn't match up with my experiences, so I have to ponder more. I am not glib about this, I don't think, and and understand the huge problem no fault divorce has caused.(Although, your statement that that policy made two income homes a necessity flew right by me. Like wanting a bigger house and regular trips to Disney and a better kitchen etc didn't have much to do with it? ) I just don't quite (a) get all the arguments against feminism in a way that makes sense to me and (b) find your view to be true within my own experience with those healthy families I love the most--my mother in law was a librarian, my mom worked in blue collar jobs, those bestest friends of mine ours that we admire most, too, have shared incomes and co-parenting and all that stuff...two full time parents working too much cleary isn't healthy, but I don't understand that to be a problem of gender or offices, but just workaholism or institutional pressures to make homelife less important than we should. (Yikes---pity the poor promisekeepers dads, who are supposed to take their work more seriously, devote more time to citizenship, and be better dads and hubbys. Something has to give, I'd say, and if the wife was working part time out of the home, the dad could work less and be a more attentive father. And that seems, a la Mary Stewart Van Leuween's book, to honor the way in which both aspects of the Genesis cultural mandate---homelife and public life---are given to both men and women. In this view, the workworld needs women's input and the homeplace needs greater men's involvement; hence the call for flex time and innovative part time options for all. Again, I wouldn't caricature those who believe in this as those who have ruined families....I won't at all say I resent you implying this about me, since I don't take any rancor in your tone, but I must say it is a pretty serious accusation. My business woman-wife as the downfall of families? Cut me a break.Although, some days, it is draining, working hard, as we do, to wage war against rural America and wreck ruination on the hetero families of the West.;-)By * You know something about Campolo: I've used him as an example, since you went after him a bit, of the prototypical "Christian left" voice. But you know, when he dramatically tells, as he did again at Jubilee this year, about the inequities in school districts, he did NOT give a Jonathan Kozol-esque call for policy reform. He invites evangelical education majors to serve in those poorer schools. (He doesn't seem to favorable to the faith-based iniatives, either, (and Os Guinness has spoken out against that plan, as well, by the way.) So Tony, who rails against Christians owning fancing cars and being apathethic about the poor, has, as his most obvious first-level plan: Christian charity and personal responsibility, neighbor to neighbor. Micro-enterprises, educational tutoring, church-planting, accountability, job-creation. Doesn't sound like the ruination of American culture or an erosion of notions of authority or local economies to me. Does it to you?


DATE: 5/24/2006 08:20:00 PM
Byron, nowhere have I accused you of anything (I don't think). I have already set forth my objections to Campolo and it seemed the discussion had moved passed that, so I'm not sure of the relevancy of TC's views on consolidation.No fault divorce strips the non-working spouse (husband or wife) of economic security and creates strong incentive for two-wage-earner households. This is pretty elementary and well-documented social science. Of course I rail against the collusion between big business and big government whether it be of the right or the left! If you have missed that it seems you haven't been paying a lot of attention (which would be fine). The right and left are constantly holding hands under the table. That has been one of my repeated refrains (and the refrain of many others more competent than I).You are throwing out a whole bunch of policies without taking time to really look at them, the motives behind their implementation, and the real winners and losers the benefit or are hurt by them. You just lump them all under the heading "justice." I find this problematic. Speaking generally, I have a great deal of sympathy for Edward Abbey's creed: "Be loyal to your family, your clan, your friends, and your community. Let the nation-state go hang itself." So I am immediately suspicious of any centralized, bureaucratic, theraputic control which will in all liklihood be put in service of a progressivist dream of "growth" "freedom" and "equality" which I believe it can be conclusively demonstrated is destructive of real, humane life.


DATE: 5/25/2006 02:18:00 AM
Caleb,It is 3 am and I'm up working late as we are readying to go to a wedding in Michigen. So I'll be out of touch for a while, which you may find happy news.Here's the thing: you keep saying that the left and right hold hands under the table. It is a refrain, you say it often. To be honest, though, I just don't know what that means. What table, whose hands, how so? I keep pressing these various typical concerns that the left favors---food stamps for God's sake--and you never say anything about then, except that somebody is holding hands under some table. I know that by and large Republican Senators voted to cut food stamps, and the Christian left, including some whose theology is substandard, voting in favor. Some kids bellies growl as we type because of this. The hungry kids may have parents who have, over a generation, become irresponsible and because of the ideology of freedom have caste off restraints and get drunk all the time. (Or maybe these ideologies had little to do with their irresponsbility.) Or maybe they are hard workin' folk who just can't make ends meet. Regardless, I believe it is fundamentally in the common interest to help these kids and thereby unjust not to. I speak of the government's duty, as I read the role of the state in Israel and try to extrapolate based on Jesus's ways and values and Pauline principles about the state (not much, I suppose.)I don't think much of the politics of Day or Ellul since I think they quite get the Bible correct on those things. (Ellul understands the Fall---his book on cities, his book on media, his book on government, his book on technology: all the same, these things are idols and bad, bad, bad. No doctrine of creation, it seems (is it because he was influenced by Barth?) and little direct relation of redemption to these social structures. Cities are babylon, information is propoganda, technique is reductionistic. All the same gloom.So, of course, the State is fallen and to be resisted. I've been arrested with Berrigan, I understand that. And have huge admiration for those who really are anarchists (you know, "First, we kill all the lawyers.") But I don't think that is Biblical.Your last paragraph, even with the nifty quote from dear old Abby, just doesn't make any sense to me. I don't know what a therapuetic state is (do they pass out soma and I don't know it?) and I don't know how it is harmful (well, I admit I know a bit, but I keep asking you about these seemingly good things they do---specific things---and all you say is I don't look at them. Perhaps this isn't the time or place, but it seems as if you are nearly conspicious in avoiding the concrete policies or proposals I've suggested are worth fighting for. You just talk about how somebody is colluding to damage everything which is well documented.(Re: the documentation about the no fault divorce incentive. I make no claim to no the social science stats on this, but I've never heard anyone say that because we can get an easy divorce therefore I better get a job. Have you EVER heard anybody say such a thing, can you even imagine it? This just seems like the abstract idology you claim to oppose: it sounds like a good critique, but it just ain't the way REAL people really think. At least that is my gut. It is like pre-nups, I guess: who wants to admit that they might break up? What young wife thinks I better get a job quick just in case my romance goes south. Just haven't ever heard anybody say that. Maybe you have in your law practice...Anyway, I am most glad that you are faithful to your dear wife and family, and, even though I think your Bible doesn't say to hang the state, it is good you are fiercly loyal to your place and tender towards your family and friends.My wife is scowling even now, so I better knock off. Talk next week. And I've got to read the good stuff from Brian.


DATE: 5/27/2006 11:57:00 AM
caleb:I've grabbed a quick glance at a computer up here at Calvin College; part of a couple days worth of celebration of a friend's wedding. What a spectacular event; at the very moving and very fun reception, the father of the groom read a wonderful excerpt of Wendell Berry, on the nature of wedding vows. I don't have time to say anything about our conversation, but I wonder what sarcasm you refer to? I honestly don't know what you mean.If it is the line about Beth scowling, that was not sarcasm. It was after 3 am, we were---well, she was---doing ironing and packing and van maintance and I was sneaking one last "comment" post to you. I am so dumb, sometimes, mad at my kids for not helping out, say, while Beth---the level-headed and practical one---does the heavy lifting. And I argue with you about feminism.So, I realized she wisely thought I ought not to be typing to anybody at that hour.So I wasn't be sarcastic, more confessing.The line in a previous blog about us getting tired from trying to destroy the family was supposed to be a joke. Sorry.Talk later, Lord willing.Byron


DATE: 5/30/2006 09:44:00 AM
Not your fault, like I said, I was being overly testy. But this medium kinda stinks too (as Postman would probably point out!).peace