Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bart Campolo's "Modest Proposal"

As a younger, moderate evangelical I enjoyed the preaching/teaching of Tony Campolo. I even heard him preach when he came to my college (Wake Forest) once. As God worked on me and drew me back to more traditional theology, I began to see problems with Campolo's social gospel and his light hold on the doctrine of scripture. When some of his more recent permissive views on homosexuality were revealed, I saw where the moderate trajectory inevitably leads--to compromise with Biblical fidelity.
Well, all that to say I ran across the website the other day for Campolo's son, Bart, also in "evangelical" inner city ministry and a frequent speaker at Baptist and evangelical events (he did a weekend of speaking a few year's ago at my wife's home church in NC).
There I read his 2/17 post titled "A Modest Proposal" in which he advocates not having children in the name of "environmental sustainability." Here's a section from the post:
So then, here is my somewhat less Draconian proposal: We United States taxpayers should offer $100,000 cash to any and all childless men and women between the ages of 18 and 40 who freely volunteers to be permanently sterilized. While we are at it, we might offer $50,000 to those with one child, and $25,000 to those with two. Regardless, the main point is simple: If that kind of fast money is enough to convince someone to forgo parenthood, they probably shouldn’t be having kids – or more kids – in the first place.
I find this to be not only incredibly disappointing from one who claims to be in Christ but also incredibly offensive. It denies the dominion mandate of Gen 1:27-28; the sovereignty of God; and uncritically accepts wordly thinking on "overpopulation." This kind of thinking seems more in line with communist China and its one-child-policy than with Biblical faith that values children. One wonders how Bart would feel if his parents had traded him for $100,000. For a corrective to Campolo check out the QuiverFull ministry website.


Tree hugging said...


I'm frankly a bit surprised... You usually come off as someone who is very literate. Haven't you ever read "A Modest Proposal?" by Jonathan Swift?

If you had, then you'd know that Campolo is actually on your side on this one, and that this is a work of sarcasm. Of course, I'd hope this might be a wakeup call to you that you fell for this. It is incredibly easy to put people into a box, and judge them accordingly. Is it possibly that you're so interested in validating your worldview that you sometimes can't even recognize those people that agree with you?

I think we're all guilty of that sometimes... The inductive fallacy is part of human nature. We all gather data to support our conclusions, but if do that without ever honestly stopping to weigh the merits of our opposition and trying to see their point of view, then we can never form any kind of reasonable conclusions. We might as well argue that the sun goes around the earth, since after all, its easy to find data to support that conclusion if that's all we're looking for...

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...


Sadly, I do not think my analysis is mistaken. Please go back and re-read Campolo's post. Yes, I caught the "Swiftian" allusion, but this does not dismiss the foundational point of his post which is his advocacy for "population control" by decreasing the birth rate. So, Campolo and I are not "on the same page."

As for what this says about my ability to discern and reason, I'll leave that to the judgement of my readers.

Peace, JTR

Tree hugging said...

I went back and read some of his other posts, and I think you are probably right that you and he don't agree; however I still don't think he was saying quite what you claimed.

He simply had to be sarcastic about the paying people money to sterilize themselves; otherwise he doesn't know the literary source he's referencing (which I suppose is possible). Maybe he's making an extreme case in order to argue a moderate one? (i.e. that birth control now is better than the alternatives we may be faced with if we end up with a population like China). Either way, presenting his "Modest Proposal" as if he's actually arguing for that extreme doesn't seem honest, especially if you know that "modest proposals" are always supposed to be works of extreme sarcasm.

Anyway, I don't mind being wrong on this one (or at least on the part that you shared similar viewpoints). I probably should have read some of his other posts before assuming what his point actaully was. It may be that Campolo himself has never read Swift, so he didn't even realize that he was contradicting himself with his literary allusion. In fact, someone should probably point that out to him...

My main point still stands though. I've still yet to see you cross the fence, so to speak, and acknowledge anything worthy about your opponents. If you wish to bring people to God, then you sure have an unusual way of going about it. Do you really think people are really going want to follow your spiritual advice after you've already condemned them? David Wilcox, a Christian Folk Musician, has a great song called "Fearless Love" that addresses this point really well.

chadwick said...

Concerning Campolo Jr . . . "the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree."