Quote of the Day (Tony Campolo)

I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.

Tony Campolo, quoted in The Progressive (HT)

  • http://undeception.com/ Steve Douglas

    False attribution. That’s been debunked: http://www.justjoking.com/scared-you-didnt-i

    • Charles

      The link is broken so I don’t know what you’re saying has been debunked, but if the link is saying that Campolo didn’t say this, it’s wrong.  Last time I heard him speak he told the story of when he did this.

      • http://undeception.com/ Steve Douglas

        Charles, read the entire URL of the broken link. ;-)

      • Pf

        I heard him say this to my college chapel about 30 years ago. He’s largely right.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    LOL  :-)

  • http://twitter.com/tmcrow Tim Crow

    ….you’re killing me…

  • Dan

    This quote has been passed around a lot, and there’s always been something that bothers me about it. Mostly, I think it’s somewhat insulting to his audience. Apathy towards global suffering, genocide neglect, etc., are serious problems, but I’m pretty sure that at the worst, his audience was just as concerned/unconcerned about the starvation of children as they were about the fact that he said “shit.”  That is to say, that they were probably shocked to hear it in the moment, but then moved on with their lives. In the best case scenario, many of them might actually lose sleep over the starvation of children, where as a stray swear word on the part of Tony Campolo probably only warranted a moment’s discomfort. The statement has two problems as I see it. One, as I have already said, it’s probably not true. Two, it stinks of a smug sense moral superiority, as if to say, “Not only are you apathetic, but you’re also a bunch of insufferable prudes.” In the end, the problem is not that we’re not sufficiently shocked or moved when confronted with the true magnitude of human suffering around the globe, but rather that we lack the moral machinery to sustain an empathic response to something that large, that abstract, and that distant. It’s just simply not something that we’re built to deal with psychologically. We all have this problem, not just a bunch of stodgy old churchmen sitting in pews and judging a traveling preacher for his foul language. Campolo is probably right to call people out on their apathy, but he can do that without the cheap shots and the shock tactics.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Thanks for your comment, Dan! I’m not sure I agree. First, because I have been connected with a Christian community in which people were viewed as backsliders if they swore but were never asked whether they were doing anything about starvation on a global scale – certainly our failure to do so did not lead to a diagnosis of lapsing as Christians in the way that swearing did. Second, because I think that sometimes a shock tactic or striking image can make an impact that our vague awareness of there being a problem somewhere in the world doesn’t accomplish.

  • Dan

    I agree that you need to have more than a vague awareness of there being a problem somewhere in the world. I don’t think that this statement of Campolo’s accomplishes that. I think that it gives people the same vague awareness of there being a problem somewhere in the world at the same time as insulting them.

    It also creates a false dichotomy, as though someone couldn’t be uncomfortable with swearing AND care about starving children.

    It’s true that I’ve never heard from the pulpit of any church (of any denomination) the sentiment that you are backsliding if you’re not doing anything to alleviate starvation on a global scale. Why? Because it’s much easier to condemn someone for doing something than failing to do something. But you’ll hear plenty of positive exhortations to help the poor.

    All in all, I agree with the basic sentiment that a lot of Christians have their priorities backwards. But I would focus the lens elsewhere. For instance. I find that most conservative Christians I meet are very generous with their finances, but much of their giving either goes into the church coffers in the form of tithes, or else goes to fund evangelistic missions overseas, and not enough goes to actually alleviating physical suffering and hunger. It seems to me that if you talk to churches and try to tap into the natural well of generosity that already exists there and simply try to direct it to the places where it is most needed, you’ll get a better response.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jacksonbaer Jackson Baer

    It’s amazing how many Christians care more about bad language than they do helping the poor…

    http://www.whatthehellbook.com/2011/11/14/do-you-give-a-shit/

  • http://www.realwebseo.com/ Chelsea Saxton

    Kick-ass awesome quote!! Very appreciative quote. I agree with you. Thanks!

  • Len Hamilton

    Consider it this way: Human or animal excrement, “waste”, feces, “night soil” and other terms are simply more acceptably suitable ways of identifying what some cultures openly call “shit” — but by whatever name it is referred to, it is a substance resulting from a digestive function that is utterly essential and necessary in the life process.

    Starvation, whether in humans or animals, should not be considered an essential or necessary life process, utterly or otherwise. Still, it happens.

    Tony’s point has been demonstrated countless times since this remark first gained notoriety. Now, do you want to keep arguing or get busy? Get angry about what’s important. Children are still dying. Are you, personally, still doing nothing?

  • Scott Zielsdorf

    James, Doctor, Doc…I was hearing story when studying for the ministry way back in like 1978 or 80, of course I will admit, due to some nasty health issues later in life, my memory is not what it used to be and the entire decade of the 80′s is a bit of a blur. Do you have, not a source, per se, but the context? Who was Campolo addressing, where and when? I intend to quote it in a blog post of mine but it would be nice to flesh it out a bit. And I intend to use it, a) in a positive way and b) as the good Dr. Campolo used it where ever he was, which I assume, with devasting effect.

    And why I ask you is that where I find it on the web is a little like searching to see if alligators live in sewers. Everyone seems to have a different story,. Thanks.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I provided a link to the source that I got it from. It is of course a story about a talk (probably one given more than once) and so some variation is not surprising. If you find details about one or more specific occasions when Campolo said this, please do share them, but I doubt there is anything like a written “original source.”

  • Burton Bagby-Grose

    I heard Tony Campolo say these words. This quote is correctly attributed and more importantly, he’s right!


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