Note: This article is a sidebar to our cover story, “The Positive Prophet.”
In 1976, Campolo was not only chairing the sociology department at Eastern College, but was also a full-time faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught two of the largest classes (Introduction to Sociology and Sociology of the Family, each with about 1,500 students) and a graduate course in Existentialism and Sociologism.
“I was really challenging the students to look at the anti-war movement from a biblical perspective, and was the guy bringing Christianity and the anti-war movement together at Penn,” he recalls. “For instance, although [students elsewhere] were burning down their buildings and holding demonstrations where they were burning the flag, I got the Penn students, as their form of protest, to hold an all-day prayer vigil.”
But protest wasn't enough. Campolo decided to run for Congress. “At first it was almost tongue-in-cheek,” he says. “The idea of winning was ridiculous because the 5th district of Pennsylvania is 7-to-1 Republican. But I had hundreds of Penn students and Eastern students going door-to-door for me. About halfway through, we decided we could win. Then, just as the campaign was coming to an end, the war ended. It kind of took my issue away. I think I ran out of steam, too.”
Still, he won 40 percent of the vote in the general election, something no other Democrat has done in the 5th District since.
Campolo says his views on political involvement have changed since his candidacy. In an interview with The Door published just before the general election, he explained his candidacy by saying, “For every casualty that [the church] cures, society turns out ten more to take its place. What we have to do, in fact, is change the society so that it doesn't turn out so many casualties.”
There's no problem with that argument, Campolo now says. But he adds, “The political system does not control what happens in society. The structure of society is more controlled by economic forces than by political forces. If you want to change society, don't bother getting elected. Go to the stockholders' meetings.”
Still, Campolo says, “I think it's very legitimate for a person to become part of the political process. We need more people with Christian convictions in politics.”
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