Led by Holy Spirit, Campolo stays young


The Rev. Tony Campolo tells stories to the Chautauqua audience regarding his journey of faith. Campolo highlighted how his relationship with his Penn State students strengthened his faith during his early teaching career and encouraged him to advocate Christian ideals through taking action and helping populations with need. Photo by Megan Tan.

Mary Lee Talbot | Staff Writer

If there are traits that the Rev. Tony Campolo embodies, they are enthusiasm, energy and joy in taking action, so I was surprised that he and his wife Peggy had moved into a retirement community.

“Yes,” he said, “I did move into a retirement community, but you should not retire. I was with some UCLA students. They were so cynical. I said to them, ‘I am 76, and you are 23, and I am younger than you. You are as young as your dreams and old as your cynicism. I am still dreaming.”

So many people in his position act as if life is over, Campolo said.

“As that great American philosopher Yogi Berra said, ‘It ain’t over until it’s over,’” Campolo said. “We need to grab hold of life now.”

Campolo told a story, another of his signature traits, about getting arrested while demonstrating against poverty in Washington, D.C.

“Gordon Cosby, founder of the Church of the Savior, was with us,” Campolo said. “I was standing right behind him when we got to the precinct. He was in his 90s, and the desk sergeant said to him, ‘Mr. Cosby, you are here again. When are you going to grow up?’ Cosby told him, ‘When you are led by the Holy Spirit, you are young forever.’ I want to be like Gordon.”

Campolo continued, “Maggie Kuhn, who founded the Gray Panthers, often wondered why older people were not in the forefront of radical social movements. They have nothing to lose. When Wounded Knee was an issue, she went there to demonstrate. A National Guard soldier pointed a rifle at her. She pushed the rifle aside and said, ‘What are you going to do, kill me?’ Older people are freer to take risks.”

In Campolo’s future are trips to the Dominican Republic to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the National Evangelical University of the Dominican Republic; a trip to Haiti to visit the literacy program that involves almost 10,000 people; and a trip to the West Bank to work with others as agents of reconciliation.

“There are legitimate concerns on both sides that need to be addressed,” Campolo said. “We need to get both sides to listen to each other.”