Tony Campolo changes his mind. Again.

"Tony Campolo Changes" by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Tony Campolo Changes” by nakedpastor David Hayward

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Tony Campolo (I misspelled his name in the cartoon and title. My apologies.) came out the other day with a statement saying that he’s changed his mind and thinks the church should include gay and lesbian couples.

There are some happy and hopeful responses to his statement, such as Brandon Roberston’s.

There are also some responses that express disappointment and raise insightful questions, such as Eliel Cruz’s.

What I appreciate most is Campolo’s willingness to change. My observation is that many theologians, etc., don’t change their minds, but if they do they are hesitant to admit it. I think there is a lot of pressure on theologians to be certain and sure… like their God who never changes. They may be afraid of giving the impression that they are wishy-washy.

It takes a certain kind of courage to let people watch you change, to see you progress, and even to observe you publicly struggle with your theology.

So, even though Campolo’s statement falls short of full inclusion and full equal rights for all LGBTQ people, it does suggest that he’s on a continuum that will eventually lead him there. He seems to be that kind of person.

And I admire that.


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7 Responses

  1. Ducatihero says:

    It does engender respect when someone it open to change from social programming in the light of new awarenesses when having the courage to break free. For an evangelical to risk rejection from his peers in doing so is a brave move.

    I’m not quite sure what the character in the cartoon is getting at with “God” not changing. His comment could easily be deconstructed and a reasonable argument being made for that being false.

    Of course the proposition that theologians are under a lot of pressure to be sure could equally be applied to any one of us with whatever we are heavily invested in. Many of us don’t have either the courage or humility to break free of this form of slavery.

  2. Caryn LeMur says:

    I applaud Tony Campolo! And I agree with Ducati that it does take courage to publicly admit that our understanding changes over time.

    I continue to hold to the scripture’s principle, “God makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good; his rain to fall on the just and the unjust… be as perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” [Matt 5] So, all the ‘blessings’ that church institutions control – from greetings to church welcoming – should be extended to the LGBT.

    Jesus redefined ‘love’. The church needs to adopt his incredible new definition of ‘blessings with impartiality – even to your enemies’.

  3. Gary says:

    I agree Ducatihero, it does engender respect when one is willing to change.

    I am intrigued by your comment however that a reasonable argument can be made that God does indeed change. To be clear, I still believe in God. And I am not taking a position either way as to whether or not He changes. But I have long ago come to the conclusion that the bible, as well as any other holy text, is an imperfect representation of God from a very imperfect human perspective. It seems to me that any argument for or against the changing nature of God is limited to the interpretation and authority of some holy scripture. Since I do not believe it is possible to genuinely describe God (Though I believe 1 Corinthians 13 comes the closest) and I do not accept any scripture as fully authoritative, I find it impossible to accept an argument as anything more than incomplete human perspective. Therefore, while I may enjoy the discussion, I do not find one’s proof for such an argument to be firm. “Reasonable is of course totally governed by the one doing the evaluating.

    This is part of what has intrigued me about the fundamentalists I used to associate with. The paradox created by attempting to weave together the great contradictions in God’s portrayal through the old and new testaments, coupled with the firm assertion that God “never changes”, creates a dizzying level of mental gymnastics to try to rationalize what seems to me to be an irrational argument. I.E., the god of the OT and the god of the NT are the same and he never changes. In fact I long ago gave up the notion that the god of genocide and eternal damnation portrayed in the bible represents anything more than a barbaric peoples self serving justification of their barbaric ways.

    I think theologians are indeed under tremendous pressure to be firm. David’s cartoon of the two pencils recently is the perfect illustration of this for me. Any change in belief at all is seen by many in the Christian community as weakness and a lack of faith. And most theologians I have read seek to speak from a position of if they speak for God. Another little paradox. If my belief changes than my claim to authoritative interpretation is forever brought into question. Better to claim the world is only 6000 old for the rest of my life than to admit that. LOL

  4. Ducatihero says:

    Gosh what interesting points you make Gary and Caryn. So yes courage acknowledged and respect earned for Tony Campolo. I would say similar for David with what he has written recently which cant have been easy to share about or acknowledge publicly as mentioned. Or for any one of us when we know that we make ourselves vulnerable with a conviction we have come to, risking disapproval of peers. Much easier to hide among one’s peers and throw hand grenades at the other.

    I would dearly love finding a comfy couch or two sitting back with a latte and discussing what you have talked about. I’ll try to engage in some small way with what I take to be you main points – I hope I don’t go on for too long.

    I think firstly I might show my colours. I wasn’t raised in a Christian family, but had an epiphany in my early 30’s which I found was answered by going to church. Since then I’ve been to theological college studying first an honours in theology where my dissertation was looking at ministry holistically. Then a asters in biblical interpretation where for my dissertation I considered humour in Jesus and the Gospels. the college was considered to be of an “evangelical” flavour and I now am a pew filler in the Church on Scotland which is considered to be more of a “liberal” flavour.

    So I guess I would be described as a “theologian” by some.

    In the light of that with critical engagement, it would be to onus on the character to prove his point about “God” not changing, to provide evidence and make therefore a reasoned proposition for what he claims to be true so it can be considered. Without such, it can easily be dismissed as opinion. It being that opinion is open to all and everything and anyone could make the opposing statement that God does change with it being every bit as valid as what he proposes. So, easily deconstructed and an argument made for the possibility of an alternative. The burden of proof is on the one making the proposition, that is the one claiming that God doesn’t change his mind.

    Gosh Caryn – that’s a HUGE question about love even to enemies for the church for me, for you, for everyone. When I see so much war and humankind’s hatred for humankind I think wow – how can this ever stop, thinking of both contemporary life and human history. Surely it must take something radical which of course love for one’s enemies is. So how do we do that when naturally we are include to be adverse to that? Surely there must be something transcending our own human ego , something we must have security in to even start to think about it. I was thinking about some music lyrics today that highlight the madness of the world what has many of us screaming about but what are we to do with it?! I’m finding Martin Luther King an inspiration in this with forgiveness and direct action. When talking about Jesus, I see him attending to the request of a centurion someone representing an occupying force and naturally at enmity with his own people, the Jews as readily as to his own people.

    It seems to me in pop / rock songs there sometimes is something about the soul that is crying out for something else and / or justice:

    “Things are big that should be small… its a crazy world we’re living in… what a mess we’re in… nothing left to do but pray… this world, has got to change… Cos I just, I just can’t keep going on” Jamiroqui Virtual Insanity

    “Generals gathered in their masses… Evil minds that plot destruction… Politicians hide themselves away… Why should they go out to fight? They leave that role to the poor… Time will tell on their power minds… Wait ’till their judgment day comes… Hand of God has struck the hour… Day of judgment, God is calling… On their knees the war pig’s crawling.. Oh lord yeah!” Black Sabbath – War Pigs

    Gary – gosh yes so much to talk about with what you bring up. you seem comfortable with the idea of God so that how I’ll comment. I like how both you and Caryn have picked up on the theme of love. I’ll start there and expand on what you have talked about with interpretation. So, “love God and love others as yourself, the rest is commentary” in the bible is something that’s heard sometimes. So i would ask what is love? It seems to me that I need something other than what I consider to be love to base an idea of love on. I am not perfect neither is anyone else so what do we do when one of us say considered something to be loving and another thinks of it as being judgemental, condescending? It seems to e that there is such a thing as perfect love casting out fear etc nd that perfect love is something to connect with – God’s love. So then it being necessary to come to biblical interpretation with the willingness ever time to connect with this, in order to be transformed into being more loving, every time for what one of us can love perfectly? So some great points Gary that you make about the bible being an imperfect representation of God, being written as it has been by humans. I tend to shy away from the use of the term “the Word of God” to describe scripture. I think god can speak in many ways and scripture has been known to have the potential to be an idol bibliolartory. However it is what we have to go on and I would look to biblical interpretation being dependent on revealing by God to be how God speaks to us, as one of the ways God speaks to us. So much is about understanding the context and how much of that can we understand given it was written 2000+ years ago in a different culture to our own?

    I like the illustration with the two pencils two. I think it’s good (and often challenging and difficult) to hold onto what we perceive of things lightly. It always worries me when someone is so sure about something as to reject viable other ways of looking at it – in life in general. I think that sets things up for unhealthy insensitivity and tribalism towards the other.

    I sometimes cheekily say I am wise, but then say the wiser I become the more I realise how minuscule the wisdom I have is and how much wisdom there is out there that I don’ know about.

    Sorry if I went on a bit too much there I do reailse that was quite a long post.

  5. Gary says:

    Only have a moment presently but I want to share something your statement on wisdom reminded me of. This was told to me by a family member with a double PhD in physiology and microbiology.

    When a person gets their Bachelor’s degree they think they know everything.
    If they go on to earn a Masters degree they may recognize that they don’t really know much after all.
    If they go all the way to a doctorate, by then they often KNOW they don’t really know anything but are OK with it because by then…they know that no one else does either.


  6. Ducatihero says:

    Lol Gary,

    The one I have heard is about knowing more and more about less and less until you get to your PhD when you know everything about nothing 😉

  7. Nathanael says:

    I’ve always had a lot of respect and appreciation for Tony. He has always challenged evangelicals to care for “the least of these.” I’m proud of him for taking this stand, imperfect as it is.