Christianity Today is scared of Peggy, Tony and Bart Campolo (and me) and wants to help evangelicals brainwash their children more effectively

Christianity Today is scared of Peggy, Tony and Bart Campolo (and me) and wants to help evangelicals brainwash their children more effectively October 1, 2014

Christianity Today is scared of Tony, Peggy and Bart Campolo and wants to help evangelicals brainwash their children more effectively so they won’t turn out like Bart.

The “method” is always the same. Bart isn’t a Christian anymore so we need to blame his parents (while pretending not to) and improve the way we indoctrinate our kids lest they turn out like Bart or worse yet, like Frank Schaeffer.

To do that the first thing we have to do is lie about them, dismiss the backsliders and make sure everyone avoids their books too, while praying for them, of course.

Christianity Today postures as a forward thinking publication. They are not. They’re the disgusting reactionaries of Bob Jones ilk, just dressed better.

Take the letter the CT editor wrote to President Obama asking to be exempted from laws to protect gay men and women from discrimination. And now it’s war (in the name of “love” of course) on Bart Campolo and other people who don’t drink the evangelical Cool-Aid.

So CT just published what is really an attack on Peggy, Tony and Bart Campolo in the usual paranoid victimhood-style of the magazine. Shorthand “they” are after your children!

Here’s the article in full with my comments/reactions/views, in BOLD Italics between the paragraphs.  

Deconversion: Some Thoughts on Bart Campolo’s Departure from Christianity

Bart Campolo’s departure from Christianity–some reflections about faith and (our) families. |
Deconversion: Some Thoughts on Bart Campolo’s Departure from Christianity

Recently, I was reading some information on the American Humanist Association related to the controversy surrounding their leading poll on The Pledge of Allegiance. Somewhere in that reading, I came across the name “Bart Campolo.”

If the name sounds familiar to you, it should. His father, Tony Campolo is a prominent progressive evangelical. The last I knew, Bart had followed his dad and was preaching and practicing a left-leaning, though evangelical faith.

CT has no problem with evangelical nepotism. The only other groups that rope in kids as “normal” are mafia families and the British Royals. Where’s the CT piece on the tragedy of kids being groomed for ministry? Where’s the CT piece on the flakes that get the “call” to follow their parents into the ever-expanding rip-off industry of American big time evangelical religion? Why do kids follow their parents into “ministry?” Because they are deprived of real world experiences by people like the editors of CT who build walls of falsehood around them. 

As parents, we need to work to ensure our children have a relationship with Jesus.
Translation: Tony Campolo somehow failed to sufficiently indoctrinate his son. The fault isn’t stupid religion the fault is bad parents. Just like when evangelicals have gay kids. What did they do wrong!?

But after I Googled his name, I found he didn’t seem to be a part of any Christian ministry, despite having helped found several. He has not blogged at Sojourners in over three years. His personal website is gone. Mission Year, which he helped to start, references him as a co-founder, but he is nowhere among those listed as currently serving with the ministry.

Wow! Bart dropped out of the private evangelical subculture long ago, Hmmm… turns out he wasn’t really one of us! If he had been real he’d be blogging and doing all those things we do to raise money 24/7, the real “mark of the Christian.” But he snubbed us real Americans and real evangelicals by doing his own thing long ago, maybe he never really was one of us!

Bart Campolo Now a Humanist Chaplain

See what happens if you drop out and don’t stick with the program? You have to remain safely in the sub-culture talking 24/7 to like minded brain-damaged fellow believers or you’ll get notions… and before you know it you are a… HUMANIST!!! So listen up all you editors of reliably same/same publications: next time someone drops out see the danger signals! They might even start thinking for themselves!

While his Wikipedia page only mentions his involvement in Christian causes, I knew I had read about a secular connection. But, just a few clicks down I saw he is the Humanist chaplain at the University of Southern California and a speaker for the Secular Student Alliance (SSA).

On the USC web page, it explains:

“Over the course of his ministry career, Bart gradually transitioned from Christianity to secular humanism. As the first Humanist Chaplain at USC, he is committed to developing a community that offers regular inspiration, pastoral care, supportive fellowship and service opportunities to students, faculty, staff members and local families and individuals exploring or actively pursuing secular goodness as a way of life.”

Perhaps this is well known in progressive circles, but it was news to me. It was particularly disappointing to me since I’ve talked to Bart (though I doubt he remembers our short conversation), he was encouraging to me, I love the idea of Mission Year, and, like so many evangelicals, his father was an influence on my life and ministry.

It was news to you because you live in a blinkered ghetto. I have news for CT: there is a real world out here. And out here no one has ever heard of you. You are looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

My First Reaction

I have to confess, the immediate reaction I had was that this is why progressive evangelicalism and particularly mainline Protestantism (Campolo straddled both) can be dead ends, often failing to keep the next generation. And, there is some statistical support for that reaction (at least for mainliners).

See! All that progressive truth is deadly! Time to take the children to the Creation Museum– again! You just need to be more careful to keep science books out of the home! And better dis-invite that gay uncle who goes to a United Methodist church from Thanksgiving! These are dangerous times!

In fact the editors of Christianity Today actually held a heresy trial of Tony (Bart’s dangerously progressive father) for the late great idiot Bill Bright! (No kidding) because Bill said Tony was a Socialist, what WITH ALL HIS TALK ABOUT THE POOR AND ALL… Tony is hated by you guys. Period. Admit it!

According to the Faith and Families project published last year, only a minority of the children of mainliners are mainliners, whereas a strong majority of evangelical parents end up with evangelical children.

Then, I started to reconsider.

I remembered Frank Schaeffer, son of the late Francis Schaeffer. If robust evangelicalism guaranteed continuing fidelity, the younger Schaeffer would not be writing odd books about his mother’s sex life and describing his own spiritual life as an atheist who believes in God.

Right, but what is even stranger is that if you ever read my books, including my New York Times bestsellers like Keeping Faith, you’d find that actually most of my writing is about subjects other than faith issues. For instance take my trilogy about being a Marine’s parent in time of war that landed me on Oprah, after Laura Bush read a passage out of one of my “odd” books on Meet the Press.

Then again since no Pulitzer Prize winners are reviewing anything by an editor at CT in the Washington Post as Jane Smiley reviewed one of my odd books, maybe you guys are just jealous that people like Tony Campolo, Bart and me have real jobs instead of spending lifetimes sucking the on that big profitable and tax-deductible evangelical mammary gland.

And, let’s be honest, I could list a hundred others, though perhaps few as prominent as Schaeffer and Campolo. And, we don’t really have statistics for progressive evangelicals, partly because there are not that many, so we don’t know for sure if they will track like mainliners.

So, I don’t think my first reaction was a fair reaction, and I shared it because I imagine that many readers might have a similar reaction, based on, “That would not happen to me because I’m not like them…”

Yes, but you still got to say it then like all you weasel-word evangelicals like “I’m praying for you” used as a put down and implied it’s Tony and Peggy Campolo’s fault– then you got to pretend you didn’t. 

So while I don’t want to let mainline Protestantism off the statistical hook (you can’t—it’s just math), I don’t know Bart and I’ve not seen his comments on his journey, therefore I should not make definitive conclusions about his journey. Nor should you.

The reason so many “main-line” kids feel free TO MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICES IS THAT THEY ARE ENCOURAGED TO THINK. They have not been lied to from birth by certainty addicts. 

Religious fundamentalists of all religious persuasions can’t help themselves because they are certainty addicts. They are literally mentally ill.

They have remodeled their brains with false certainties and because these certainties are false and fly in the face of all evidence, thus they wallow in paranoid victimhood bitterness against reality itself. Someone is OUT TO GET OUR KIDS!

Their arguments are circular. They goes like this: The Bible (or Koran, Torah, what have you) says it’s true and so it is true because the Bible says so. This way lies madness. It is the madness of the CT thought police sniffing in other people’s underwear drawers like back alley perverts while looking for apostasy.  But what turns them on is denouncing apostasy.

If they had it their way they would behead people on YouTube like the ISIS fanatics, only these CT folks are soft cowards. But their beliefs are more to do with ISIS than with Jesus. The real evangelical motto is “God hates you and so do I.” 

Declarations are made about God. He loves you or he hates you. He’ll send you to hell, or won’t. Jesus is love or coming back as judge. God wants this or that for your life. Jesus “says” this or that or Jesus “wants” that.

Sometimes Jesus even wants us to not speak to family members who backslide so we won’t be tainted! 

However, we do know that Bart Campolo is now serving as a Humanist chaplain and speaking at Secular Student Alliance conferences designed to gather a “community of atheists, agnostics, and nonbelievers.”

In other words, he’s gone public with his new views.

So now it is time to attack him, make an example of him lest anyone else follow! 

As such, I think it might be good for us to consider a bit about what that means—not for him, but for us (and for me).

Let’s Pause a Moment

So, once we get past the recriminations (see above) it’s best to pause and consider some implications. As such, let me suggest five things to consider as we think about Bart Campolo’s de-conversion.

First, and perhaps this is personal, I need to think about my own family.

Do my children have a faith of their own? In this extremely informative and compelling talk Bart gave to earlier this year to the SSA Annual Conference, he is quite clear that he embraced a Christian community, but not the Christian faith.

As parents, we need to work to ensure our children have a relationship with Jesus, not just a desire to be part of a loving community doing good. In other words, we need to ask, are we discipling or merely socializing our children in church?

Will the children of your faith tradition flourish in the faith you pass on to them?
Translation: Home school them all! Avoid the big bad world! Circle the wagons!
Let’s make sure we are indoctrinating kids with lies more effectively.
Above all avoid paradox and stick to the sort of crap we sell 24/7 at CT by promoting nonsense like Billy Graham’s claims that Jesus is on the way back–NOW! Scare them shitless is what we do, and it’s good for fundraising too!

I’d ask that of fundamentalists, mainline Protestants, progressive evangelicalism, and, yes, conservative evangelicalism.

But, most importantly, I’d ask that of your (and my) tradition—are we producing disciples in the next generation?

Will the children of your faith tradition flourish in the faith you pass on to them?

So let’s split from any denomination or church that doesn’t guarantee my kids will follow me! In fact better stay home because you can’t trust those churches! It’s their fault too. Go church shopping! Find a place as paranoid as you are about “losing” you kids, that will do the job! Be on the lookout for anything less than 100 percent! Sniff out weakness and apostasy in its infancy! 

Third, remember that love draws in people.

Ironically and importantly, Bart stresses that what led him to identify as a Christian was the love he saw between the members of the youth group he attended. He noticed individuals from all the different high school cliques came together at this church.


This should be characteristic of every Christian ministry and church. Loving people is often the first step in seeing them understand and accept the gospel. It can’t end there, but even Bart acknowledged that it started there.

In other words, Bart is right—community matters—and he is also right that it is not enough.

So we love him and love Frank Schaeffer and the “too many to count” dropouts so much that from time to time we fire off a snide little lying article like this in the NAME OF LOVE.

Fourth, after you have watched Bart’s presentation, pray for him.

Based on his words in this presentation, I don’t think he would mind. Though he has obviously moved on, he was very gracious toward evangelicals in his presentation—in an environment where it would be easy to do otherwise.

I’m thankful for that graciousness and I prayed for him after I watched the video. I hope you will as well.

You smarmy prick! Ah yes, you must pray for him WHILE lynching him! 

Fifth and finally, I want to pray for Tony Campolo and to take a moment to be thankful for him.

When your children leave the faith, it’s hard to not take it personally, but Tony has always been a gracious man, committed to his faith and ideals. (I’ve never met Peggy, his wife, but was deeply influenced by Tony early in my ministry.) If there was ever a person who lived what he believed it was Tony Campolo.

Yeah, pray for Tony too! He needs friends like you! 

Over 20 years ago, I spent a week with him in Philadelphia learning how to do ministry in the inner city. He was gracious and clearly loved people. He prayed with me and encouraged me to love Jesus deeply and care for people faithfully. From what I can tell, we’ve moved apart theologically in some ways, but I will always be grateful for his impact on my life.

And, the fact that his son left the faith does not necessarily relate to Tony and Peggy’s faith, any more than so many other children’s departure was because of their parents.

That’s right more weasel words: “the fact that his son left the faith does not necessarily relate to Tony and Peggy’s faith…”

The operative words are “not necessarily relate.” Of course that way you can say “I never said they failed I said “not necessarily!” And Christianity Today magazine is not necessarily a self serving little community of close minded smarmy, unctuous bigots, either! 

Where from Here?

I imagine that Bart Campolo’s name will make his deconversion significant to many.

My hope is that evangelicals (like me) won’t ignore it (hence, this blog), but will take wise steps so as, to the degree we can, we can strengthen the faith in our own children.

Take wise steps now! First, resubscribe to our magazine so we can keep defending truth! Second, pound Jesus into the tykes! Third, make sure you aviod the likes of Bart and Frank, and come to think of it, after you pray for Tony and Peggy– avoid them too! I mean what’s next? Peggy may even start supporting GAY people!!!

 They need to learn to do what we at CT do: hide the reality we serve, for instance that we’re tied to the corrupt Billy Graham family. Franklin pays himself a million-plus a year out of funds raised to help poor people. That is NOT Billy’s fault because we like his theology. See?  

You’ll see no article on linking Billy Graham to Franklin’s rip-off machine at at CT! All you’ll find is more BS about the End Times as we spew the Graham nonsense for profit. 

HERE’S the bottom line folks!

Most of our CT readers are pastors! Do you guys realize that your livelihoods depend on hoodwinking the next generation!? Where would Franklin be without his donors? 

I mean this is serious! People like Bart and Frank Schaeffer don’t go to your churches or send money to Franklin or to us! NOW THAT is a THREAT! If they are right, how do we earn a living?

I’m not the national figure that Tony Campolo is, but my children are in the spotlight because I am in, to some degree, a spotlight. And, if you are a pastor, so are your children. Actually, if you are a Christian, yours are too in many ways.

Answer the hard questions from your kids, disciple your family, and humbly realize that, ultimately, your children can and will make their own decisions about faith one day.

In my new book I answer the CT/evangelical worship of an angry “god” that leads to the sort of smarmy rejection they direct at people like Peggy, Tony and Bart Campolo. I offer an alternative they are afraid of.

But in a strange twist I’m getting tons of email from hundreds of readers saying the book has not just brought them closer to God but is the first book that a child or friend has read that made them reconsider their atheism. 

Brian McLaren, Peggy Campolo and I were just speaking at a seminar supporting gay rights (at the Open Door Community Church in Little Rock) last weekend. Brian told me that he thinks I should say that my new book is for people who want to still believe in God– in spite of their evangelical backgrounds. He said it’s also a book to give to family members who have rejected their faiths based on what they encountered from the likes of the people who run outfits like Christianity Today.

Evangelical conservatives are really just worshipers of a book–the Bible. They follow that book, not God. This is why they are so mean and two-faced. This is why people like me sometimes write a book asking the rejected to consider the possibility that God has not rejected them no matter what the gatekeepers of the evangelical money machine say. 

But there is another way to see Jesus as I write in my odd: new book (WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace)

Here’s an excerpt pointing to the God the CT editors and their like are afraid of.

           The idea of atonement—Jesus “dying for our sins” as if to satisfy God—is the opposite of evolutionary truth. Evolution doesn’t  demand justice; it demands life. In evolution the result of suffering, killing, extinctions, death and chaos is the learning curve undertaken by genes that pass on knowledge in an effort to survive.

No one from the first primitive microorganism to Jesus has died to “satisfy” an angry God.         

If there is a Creator by whatever name, then our very existence puts that Creator on the side of life. The evolutionary method is not about changes in life forms bent on dying. Why would the Creator be the enemy of his, her, or its own creation and anything or anyone in it, including a divine son? Nature may be many things but it is not petty, vindictive and stupid. So why should we think God is?

Can you imagine me consigning my beloved granddaughter Lucy to oblivion because she had wrong ideas about me? Can you imagine me burning her forever because she didn’t believe in me, forgot my name, called me the wrong name, thought I had six arms, believed she had three or six or ten grandfathers, or brought me fruit when I’d asked for lamb? And even if a grandchild killed me and I could judge her or him from the grave, do you imagine that I’d demand they burn for eternity? I am not a good man and yet can you imagine anything that would cut Amanda, Ben, Lucy and Jack off from my love?

The trouble is that the CT editors serve a mean god. 

That’s why loving and wonderful people like Peggy, Tony and Bart Campolo make the evangelical Bible-worshipers nervous.

When you serve a pretend “biblical” god who burns people forever for wrong theology then just lying about them in the name of “love” comes naturally.

The real reason the CT editors don’t like humanists like Bart, is that most humanists are better Christians than they are. 

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book —WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace

Available now on Amazon

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