Minister Urges Racial Tolerance
“We’ve got to find the God that transcends the God of the tribes, that is more than the constructions that emerge from cultures,” said Campolo, who founded the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education and has spoken about religion on shows such as “Nightline.”
Speaking along with local Baptist minister Jeffrey Brown in an address entitled “Breaking Barriers: Racial Reconciliation in the Church,” Campolo said religion can become a form of oppression when one dominant group imposes its conception of God—what he called a “God of selves”—on another group.
“The Jesus that is being worshipped is presented as a white, Anglo-Saxon male,” he said, adding “Republican” a few moments later.
Campolo said anthropological research had found that before establishing religion, cultures often determined what they considered to be “traits and values that make them distinct.”
When these representations are dominant, he said non-white cultures are less likely to accept missionaries or to embrace Christianity.
“They see themselves as inferior to a God that is nothing more than an incarnation of the values of an oppressive group,” he said.
Campolo urged the audience to remain tolerant of cultural distinctions but to recognize Christianity intended to destroy division and “to make us into one.”
“You can’t be a Christian and be a racist,” he said.
Racists have a tendency to “cede physical superiority” to one group while claiming intellectual superiority for themselves, Campolo said. He urged Americans to work toward the belief that all racial groups have equal intellectual and physical capacities.
In his work with inner-city children in Oakland, Calif., Campolo said he has found that black students consider carrying books to school “a white thing” and dream of becoming athletic stars rather than learning, a mind-set he said must be reversed to eliminate racial divides.
“To be a Christian is not just to be transformed but to be an agent of transformation in a world that needs to be transformed,” Campolo said.
The Rev. Peter J. Gomes, Plummer professor of Christian morals and Pusey minister in Memorial Church, introduced Campolo and Brown, who spoke briefly of the advances made against racism since his childhood.
Campolo, a professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern College in St. Davids, Penn., will also speak tonight and tomorrow as part of a first-ever Easter Mission, a week-long series of events about spirituality sponsored by Memorial Church.
—Staff writer Elisabeth S. Theodore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.