Last week students and faculty at Eastern University in Pennsylvania heard from Tony Campolo, a progressive pastor and prominent Christian Left fixture who counseled President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Campolo, now a sociology professor at American Baptist Churches USA-affiliated Eastern University, presented a microcosm of the liberal political ideology present within the evangelical community in his September 20th chapel address dedicated to “Social Justice Day”.
The politically liberal pastor quoted the Old Testament Book of Esther, referencing Mordechai’s statement “in the midst of a national crisis, that ‘perhaps you were born for such a time as this’. I’m saying to you students, faculty ‘perhaps you were born for such a time as this. I’ve been around a long time but the crises that are facing our nation have had such a painful effect.”
Campolo raised President Trump’s address to the United Nations, implying that the threatening statements made to “destroy North Korea” pose a greater danger to the U.S., than the actual threat posed by the totalitarian rogue regime’s testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. “The response that our nation has sent forth is: ‘mess with us and we will destroy you, there will be nothing left of you – I’m not exactly sure that that’s the Christian response!” Campolo stated and went on to list issues; he defined as pressing problems for our times:
- The growth of “Islamophobia” in American society as a backlash response to the security problem evidenced by the rise of ISIS and transnational terrorism in general over the past 16 years since 9/11. Campolo however dismissed the threat of terrorists as one imagined and caused by the fearful ignorance of Americans, asking: “what are we going to do in response to the threat – and I put threat in quotes, ‘the threat of Islam’, because we do feel threatened!”
- The social problem of dealing with illegal immigrants known as “undocumented workers”. He argued for defending the DACA program and explained why immigrants who are here illegally should be treated the same as those here legally. Campolo answered his question: “why do they come in illegally?” by asserting that American laws purposefully make the naturalization process more complicated by sending the message that “you better not come to this country unless you have a wallet full of money” finishing on this subject by demanding: “we have to change the system, people!”
- The cultural problem of “homophobia” that he said has been caused by conservative Christian “radio and television preachers who are supposed to be preaching Christ are basically propagating fear that these gays are going to undermine the American family.” He joked that “it’s the heterosexuals that are getting divorces, the homosexuals want to get married, if you can’t see the humor in that – you have no sense of humor at all!”
- The racism problem evident by the recent tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia which he said was the “moment that lifted the veil” subtly alleging that there are many white supremacists who are connected to the conservative movement. Campolo invoked the debate about preserving historical monuments throughout the South, asking “do we listen to those who have been hurt by these symbols or do we only listen to those who preach hatred on the airwaves?”
“Right now, we’re on an ego trip as a nation and we need to humble ourselves” Campolo assessed. “We don’t even known what this country is about…for instance, how many of you know that in the Declaration of Independence, Native Americans are referred to as ‘merciless savages’?…these are the people from whom we stole the land!”
Campolo continued to criticize the U.S. Constitution saying: “the Constitution, which everyone says is so wonderful, which the Supreme Court is dedicated to uphold, it refers to African-American people as being two-thirds human…the U.S. Constitution doesn’t declare you to be a whole and complete person, this is the U.S. Constitution and people are ready to fight and die to preserve the Constitution and the Supreme Court says we have to be faithful to the Constitution.” “There are parts of the Constitution that I want to be faithful to but there are parts of the Constitution that I want changed!” Campolo concluded to applause.
In referencing the “Three-Fifths Compromise” of 1787, Campolo did not mention that the formula for counting slaves in determining the size of state populations for legislative representation and taxation had been proposed by delegates from northern states in order to limit the congressional representation of slave-holding states, whose slave populations could not themselves vote.
After exclaiming perceived faults of the Founding Fathers, Campolo returned to criticizing the President. The Trump administration’s policies of law enforcement measures against illegal immigrants were then compared to the forceful removal of Native Americans in the ‘Trail of Tears’ enacted during the formative stages of the nation’s history by President Jackson.
Campolo charged: “before we decide where we are going to go, we better find out where we came from…and we are not facing up to our own history – our own origins, our own nature…”
In conclusion, Campolo invoked a “passage which interestingly enough the U.S. Congress in its founding, established as its national verse – there is a verse that is supposed to stand for America but it’s not a verse we want to here right now.” He then quoted 2 Chronicles Chapter 7 verse 14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” This scripture is usually used by Christians to call for repentance to Biblical values, however in this case Campolo seems to use it to call for political action in the name of social justice. “Let me say it loud and clear, we here at Eastern University, student and faculty alike including me, have become bystanders in the midst of a revolution and we pretend that we’re innocent – but bystanders are never innocent!” Campolo declared, ending with a call for action: “To not act, to not be involved, to not be involved in doing the things to solve the problem will prevent you from understanding the problem, you need to go back to your political science classrooms and ask ‘what can we do?’”
To view Campolo’s chapel address in its entirely, visit the Eastern University web site by clicking here.Google+