Tony Campolo is striving to be a Christian.
This might come as a surprise to those who know Campolo as founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, co-founder of Red-Letter Christianity, and professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University. Even so, Campolo sees religious leadership as an ongoing process.
Campolo will discuss religious violence at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy.
To Campolo, encouraging an end to violence is necessary in his effort to become a Christian leader.
“When you study the essence of your faith, you obviously have to stand at war against the violence that often goes on in the name of religion,” he said.
Campolo said part of this “war” is to question one’s own understanding of God.
“Whenever we go to war, we always want to make sure that we let people know that God is on our side,” he said. “How is it possible to take the teachings of Jesus and twist them so that the Jesus of peace becomes a standard bearer for war? It has a lot to do with nationalism. What happens is that a given nation tends to create a God in its own image, a God who is the incarnation of the values of that nation that replaces the God that they should be worshipping.”
This deity-shifting is something that can be seen in American society, Campolo said.
“When we worship, are we worshipping the God that was revealed through Scripture and in Jesus Christ, or are we worshipping a God that is really American?” Campolo said.
When a deity is re-cast as a national symbol, Campolo said it casts war and other forms of political violence as the will of God. To Campolo, this is a dangerous mindset that allows for violence with impunity.
Campolo said he hopes to convince his audience to reconsider their understanding of the divine.
“Have you created a God that is the incarnation of American values, or do you worship a God that has been revealed, if you’re Jewish, in the Hebrew Bible, or if you’re Christian, in the New Testament?” he said. “George Bernard Shaw said, ‘God created us in His image, and we decided to return the favor.’ That really says it well.”