Campolo and McLaren: Prophets or Agitators?

Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren have much in common. They have been hailed and hammered, venerated and vilified. Lately they are said to have an orthodoxy that has become too generous. The pair was interviewed by Keith Matthews, former lead pastor with McLaren at Cedar Ridge Community Church in Cedarville, Maryland, and now a professor of theology at Azusa Pacific University. This is the first of four parts in our blog conversation.

Matthews: How do you both see yourselves - your calling within the evangelical church? Are you prophetic voices, reformers, or just agitators and rebels to the status quo?

McLaren: I think I'm more aware how others see me versus how I see myself in the evangelical world. I think a number of people see me as a problem, but I hear from an awful lot of other people who say they can't stay evangelical with the rising "religious right" identity - they are embarrassed to be associated with a lot of the people that they see on television representing evangelicals, they are embarrassed by the strident language, they are embarrassed by their narrowness, and they are looking for someone who speaks for them, someone like a Tony, or Jim Wallis or myself and say there's at least some alternative.

Campolo: I don't particularly know if we've become prophetic as much as returned to what we used to be, but now, the evangelical community has moved much farther to the right and has left many of us out their stranded - I think that's the best way to describe it.

You know, I basically believe the same stuff I did thirty years ago, but the world has changed and the sense of commitment to the poor and oppressed has taken on a different form.

The evangelical world is doing a great job of picking up the casualties of the political and economic world we live in.

If there are people on the street homeless, or if there is a need to set up a reading program for needy kids, evangelicals are out there doing a great job. But, when you start to think about changing the system evangelicals get very angry, they really want it to stay as it is, and there are many of us that think that the Bible calls upon us not only to minister to the poor and oppressed, and to be the good Samaritan's who pick up the casualties along the road. We think the Bible also calls us to in the words of Ephesians 6: 12 to "wrestle against the principalities and powers, and the rulers of this age," and try to bring about the kind of changes that will move this world a little more in the direction of being the kingdom of God.

October 04, 2005