“The goal is not life but the good life,” according to Plato.
Bart Campolo might agree with Plato. Bart’s father is Tony Campolo and I suspect that Bart was poised to inherit the legacy of iconic evangelical Christian leadership … until five years ago. Ironically, his biggest blunder story is about becoming a professional faith leader. Bart and his father are two men of integrity who have come to believe perfectly opposing truths about whether there is a supernatural, intervening God and what happens to us after we die.
By his own declaration, Bart is a Campolo. You want stories, ask a Campolo. This Campolo is the Secular Humanist Chaplain at The University of Southern California in Los Angeles. And he is doing good.
Bart is a passionate and convicted person appropriately suspicious of dogma. His gifts are very obvious in this interview as you may have thought you switched podcasts accidentally when the host is struggling to keep up and the questions are given by the guest. It might seem like something a host should loathe but I must say that I love it, even more so in hindsight.
Christians often posture themselves from a position of authority. The lines of questioning are usually skewed in our favor and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Bart unseated the dialogue and became the authority in the conversation. He was kind and he was also what I asked him to be by inviting him, the teacher regarding a) secular humanism and b) his own stories.
The world is not as good a place when one belief system is the default. The world is a better place when everyone is free to choose and communicate what makes the most sense and what is the healthiest, without automatic punishment for being in disagreement. You will often hear me say that our yes cannot be yes unless our no can be freely no. This is why I can sometimes celebrate when someone says no to me.
If you’re a Christian, don’t worry, I’m still a Christian. But I must admit that I absolutely love the idea that I could lose my faith and still be an enthusiastically loving and good person!
Bart also poses an interesting internal conflict through his father’s perspective (which we’ll assume is only theorizing), whether his father would rather have a son with good values and no faith or a son with crappy values and faith.
Documentary about Tony and Bart: In Whom I Am Well Pleased (2017)
Why I Left Why I Stayed by Bart & Tony Campolo (2017)
Things We Wish We Had Said: Reflections Between a Father and Son by Bart & Tony Campolo (2007)
A Difficult Conversation Between an Evangelical Christian Father and His Secular Humanist Son by Bart & Tony Campolo (2016)
Bart, thanks for the interview and loving, passionate, thoughtful leadership. You are indeed living the good life to which I believe Plato was referring.