Friday, April 03, 2009

Campolo Diminishes Himself in Oklahoma

I went to Oklahoma City yesterday to hear Tony Campolo speak on "Volunteerism" in an event sponsored by the Oklahoma Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and its parent organization the Oklahoma Department of Human Services along with the United Way and the University of Oklahoma.

I used to be a big fan of Tony Campolo. Until yesterday, I thought his form of faith and mine were nearly identical. In times past, I've heard him speak as an advocate for separation of church and state. Yesterday, however, his actions did not match his previous rhetoric on that subject.

The sermon that was delivered yesterday was vintage Campolo. It was a great sermon. It was an explictly Christian sermon. It was engaging and entertaining. I personally agreed with everything he said.

I even laughed heartily when he said, "You know the difference between a Baptist and a terrorist? -- you can negotiate with a terrorist," while suspecting that some of the event's organizers would think that the Baptist he was referring to was an ardent church-state separationist like myself.

I readily admit that I am reticent to negotiate about the dissolution of the disestablishment clause of the First Amendment. Campolo's sermon was the first sermon I've ever heard from a moderate or progressive Baptist that was solicited, endorsed and introduced by an agent of the state acting in an official capacity and supported by funding from U.S. and/or State of Oklahoma tax dollars.

I remain as strenuously opposed to the state using its power to endorse and support the faith of moderate and progressive religion as I am to the state using its power to endorse and support fundamentalist religion. The state must maintain a benevolent neutrality in regard to religion.

Religion is always diminished when it permits itself to be coopted and utilized by the state.


Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Amen. I liked your term benovelent neutrality. The state cannot be taking sides. If they take my side today, what am I going to do if they take the other side tomorrow.

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...


The "benevolent neutrality" phrase comes from the title of the major textbook on these issues "Towards a Benevolent Neutrality: Church, State and the Supreme Court" written by my good friend Ron Flowers.

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

I received this information by e-mail this afternoon:

Dr. Prescott,

Thanks for your email, which was forwarded to me. I wish you had contacted our office before you posted your blog entry about my father’s recent speaking engagement in Oklahoma, so we could have let you know that the United Way covered all of his costs, not the state or federal governments. I hope that information eases your mind.


Bart Campolo
Executive Director, EAPE