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Campolo urges lawmakers and attendees to restore civility

February 3, 2011

By JOHN FORTMEYER,
Christian News Northwest,
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SALEM — The rough and tumble world of politics has gotten way too much that way, and it is time for a dramatic change and it could start in Oregon, Rev. Tony Campolo told a state legislative prayer event last month.  “It’s time to overcome evil with good,” the famed author, educator and media commentator told approximately 400 people attending a prayer breakfast Jan. 11 at the Salem Conference Center.“It’s time to grasp certain realities, that we can’t go on this way.”

The event took place on the second day of the 76th Oregon Legislative Assembly. Organized by legislators on both side of the aisle politically, the breakfast was coordinated by the Salem Leadership Foundation.

The choice of Campolo to speak reflected a desire to hear from someone who is well known not only within the evangelical Christian community but who also finds respect from more mainline religious traditions. He speaks hundreds of times each year around the world for a wide variety of groups, including churches, colleges, youth groups and the business community.

At the start of his talk, Campolo suggested that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was a good meeting place for people from various perspectives.

“We come together around the Sermon on the Mount,” he said. “It’s an embracing set of teachings that we all need to embrace.”

He said that while the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes reflected at one point a depressing outlook on life by stating that there is “a time to hate,” Christ’s comments on the mount give a new perspective.

“Jesus says that the time to hate is over,” Campolo said.

Campolo noted that he was making his breakfast comments only three days following the tragic shooting in Tucson, Ariz. that killed several people, and wounded many more, including a congresswoman.

“There should never be a time for hate,” said Campolo. “The time for killing is over. We must stand for those who are threatened with being killed.”

And the same goes for oppressive attitudes that, although not involving actual violence, are also destructive and hurtful, he told the breakfast audience.

He said that even applies to the tone of political campaigns.

“Let me tell you, legislators of the state, the time for tearing down is over … People are tired of negative campaigns,” he said. “Don’t win elections by destroying people. The time for tearing down is over. ?It is time for building up.”

Campolo expressed dismay at the increasingly destructive mood found today in political discourse.

“What has happened to us, that we’ve conjured up this negativism?” he asked openly.

Political leaders have an obligation to care for the lowly of society, in the same way that Jesus urged care for the poverty stricken and the estranged everywhere, Campolo said.

“We need people in the Legislature who will speak for the poor and oppressed, who have no say in what happens in this world,” he said.

Legislators also would be wise to pursue their calling to political life in a humble, thoughtful manner, as they contend for various issues in the Capitol, he said.

“We’ve all been wrong so many times, only the arrogant could say, ‘I’m never wrong,’ ’’ he said.

State Sen. Rod Monroe (D-Portland), in opening remarks at the breakfast, said “This is the way we ought to be starting every legislative session.”
At the close of the event, Rep. Kevin Cameron (R-Salem), said the time spent at the breakfast was clearly worthwhile.

“For our nation to change, each one of our individual hearts much change first,” he said. “For our state to change, each one of our hearts much change … May the state of Oregon be a blessed state because of our time here.”

  
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