Above: Will Campbell, 1975
Photographer = Al Clayton
WILL DAVIS CAMPBELL (JULY 18, 1924-JUNE 3, 2013)
Agent of Reconciliation
I have decided to do something different in this post. Instead of writing a standard brief biography and adding some reflections, I offer almost nothing but reflections. Others have explained his life well and in a detailed way. Some links follow:
And here is an interview transcript: http://library.wustl.edu/units/spec/filmandmedia/collections/henry-hampton-collection/eyes1/campbell.htm.
Campbell, a “bootleg Baptist,” loved God and his fellow human beings. He was married to the same woman for sixty-six years. He advocated for civil rights for African Americans and homosexuals, opposed the death penalty as well as abortion on demand, criticized the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, and ministered to Klansmen. He understood that everyone–from the redneck to the radical–was his neighbor. He acted accordingly.
One of Campbell’s quotes stands out in my mind as a profound theological statement:
We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.
We are all bastards; that is true, but we are bastards who bear the image of God. And, through grace, there is hope for all of us. None of us is beyond the possibility of redemption. Campbell understood that well.
Often we–even we who consider ourselves enlightened and liberal-minded–become comfortable with our prejudices. We need someone to challenge them and to shake us out of our moral complacency. It is easy to be charitable with those who are similar to us in ways we consider important, but Christ calls us to do far more than that. As Campbell understood, Jesus calls us to love both rednecks and radicals, both those who deny civil rights to others and those to whom they deny them, and both the sympathetic and the unsympathetic, for all of them are our neighbors.
Will Campbell set the bar very high.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JANUARY 3, 2014 COMMON ERA
THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS
THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER
THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER
THE FEAST OF SAINT GENEVIEVE, PROPHET
THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA
O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,
and to give his life for the life of the world.
Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom
the world offers no comfort and little help.
Through us give hope to the hopeless,
love to the unloved,
peace to the troubled,
and rest to the weary,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
—Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60