I remember hanging around Robbie Castleman’s house in Tallahassee nearly a quarter of a century ago with a group of IVCF students. Robbie got it in her mind that she wanted to show us a video of Tony Campolo speaking. He was full of passion and energy. His message was directly related to salvation. Campolo made an impression.
Sometime later, I became aware of him again as one of Bill Clinton’s spiritual advisers. I can even recall him speaking at one of the inaugurals for the president. That gave me pause. Being a spiritual adviser, I understood, especially in the wake of the Lewinsky case. A minister should not withhold Godly counsel. But I didn’t understand his choice to speak at the inaugural because I saw President Clinton as a strong voice for abortion rights. And in my view, abortion rights called for prophetic denunciation rather than political support.
Tony Campolo has long been a beacon for Christians on the political left. He has supported Democrat politicians, written books about things such as saving the environment with worshipping Mother Nature, and criticized the religious right.
Now, there is news about Tony’s son, Bart, that puts a spotlight on something important. Bart Campolo has announced that he is has become an agnostic humanist. The following clip from Jonathan Merritt’s article about Bart is relevant:
The younger Campolo recounts becoming a Christian in high school. He says he was drawn by the sense of community and the common commitment to love people, promote justice, and transform the world.
“All the dogma and the death and resurrection of Jesus stuff was not the attraction,” Bart said.
James Burtchaell once wrote about a similar generational effect. You have parents who believe and who take on certain commitments because they believe. But then the next generation wonders why you can’t just have the commitments mom and dad were so concerned about without the accompanying beliefs. They jettison the faith and keep the ideology.
This is a blade the probably cuts both ways for those of us who have strong political views. Bart Campolo saw something like the campaign to end poverty and lost interest in the real quest to save the world by shattering the power of sin. With the kids of someone with a different ideological lens, it could be something like caring more about preserving freedom than about devotion to Christ.
Pondering the situation reminds me of a thought that recurs with greater frequency these days. I am ready to be corrected, but it seems to me that the church is God’s strategy. We need to pay much more attention to the church, what happens there, what we do within that community, and how that community witnesses to the world. And our children should intuit from our priorities that the church is where the action is in the Christian life.