Will D. Campbell [“Radical Grace,” May 2000] says things in such a way that I would normally turn my back on him without a second thought. Why, then, did I read Jeremy Lloyd’s interview with him so intensely? Perhaps at first so I could hate him and everything he seemed to stand for, judging by the quotes alongside the photographs. As I continued reading, however, I was rewarded by insights so simple they’d been unavailable to my educated mind. I see now that I must stop and listen a little more often.
After twelve years of Catholic education, I understand the slow but continuous growth of corruption that Campbell sees in institutions. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he has opened a place in my heart and reminded me that sometimes we are all too “smart” to remember the simple things.
As a Methodist minister, I have found Will Campbell’s definition of the Christian faith — “We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway” — not only plausible but also refreshing and challenging in a religious climate that is often as sterile and antiseptic as an empty bottle of rubbing alcohol.
A friend of mine once suggested a revision of Campbell’s definition: “We all think we’re bastards, but God knows better.” Recently, I came up with a revision of my own.
Though the biblical record attests that humans often behave like bastards, there are also many places in Scripture where humans plead their case before God for the manifestation of justice and equity, and their pleas seemingly go unheard. They then indict God for being “absent.” My revision is: “God is a bastard, but God understands why I need to say that.”
To be able to utter such gut-wrenching statements of faith in times of anguish, pain, and violence can be freeing for anyone.
I was grateful to see the interview with Will Campbell in the May issue ["Radical Grace,” interview by Jeremy Lloyd]. As a left-leaning Christian, I often feel isolated from American culture. The mainstream media portray Christianity as if it were synonymous with fundamentalism and the Right. Alternative media seem either to ignore Christianity altogether or to denounce it. It is rare to hear anything about those of us who hold Christ dear while believing that the Christian Right has gotten it wrong — not just in its political agenda, but in its theology.
It was refreshing and gratifying to read an intelligent and respectful interview with Campbell. I read his Forty Acres and a Goat almost a decade ago as part of a college program. I am a Christian today because of that program, and Campbell’s books and ideas were a significant part of my rebirth.
Now I’m married with an infant son, and I struggle with what it means to be a Christian in new and different ways. Jeremy Lloyd’s interview reminded me of where my ground is.