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Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

Colbert and Campolo

After reading about “The Colbert Report” and its penchant for luring distinguished public figures into making complete fools of themselves, I tuned in last night, and who was the guest? None other than a Beliefnet favorite, Tony Campolo, a nationally known Christian author and speaker.

What a delight to watch a seasoned pro (Colbert) try to stump and trap an evangelical (Campolo)–and instead be left speechless himself. And, in the process, I think he opened the door for a whole new audience to discover the radical words of Jesus. Here were Colbert’s best attempts at leading Dr. Campolo toward putting a foot in his mouth:

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COLBERT: “You claim to be a member of the ‘Evangelical Left.’ Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?”

CAMPOLO: “There are people who care about the poor, who take the words of Jesus literally, and if one would do both, then I think the two words belong together.”

COLBERT: “But you’re saying that Jesus hates America. Sean Hannity’s book said ‘deliver us from evil.’ Do you watch Hannity & Colmes?”

CAMPOLO. “Jesus loves the United States. Jesus loves Iraq. Jesus loves Afghanistan. He calls all people to love each other, get along with each other. He loved Afghanistan before the U.S. went there… before it was even Afghanistan.”

COLBERT: “You make Jesus sound like the U.N.”

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CAMPOLO: “If the U.N. would listen to Jesus, the whole world would be in good shape.”

COLBERT: (speechless)

CAMPOLO: “Jesus transcends partisan politics.”

COLBERT: “So you’re saying Jesus doesn’t care who is President?”

CAMPOLO: “I’ve got a feeling that if Jesus went into the voting box, he’d be very confused, because there’s stuff on both sides to like and not to like. They’ve made Jesus into a Republican, and he’s not.”

COLBERT: “Do you get a frosty reception from the evangelical pancake breakfast?”

CAMPOLO: “I don’t get invited anymore.”

And finally…

COLBERT: “Has religion changed politics, or has politics changed religion?”

CAMPOLO: “It’s like mixing ice cream and horse manure. It doesn’t hurt the horse manure, but it hurts the ice cream. Politics has hurt religion, more than the opposite.”

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COLBERT: (pause)

COLBERT: “Would you come back another time to sift the turds from the cream?!”

And then they shook hands, laughed, and shared a moment that—to this viewer—looked like an authentic connection. Campolo won this round, in my opinion, but the real winner was the audience. This frank and funny dialogue was one of the more civil, humorous, honest and challenging discussions two people could have about authentic spiritual searching and its connection to real-life decision-making–all while keeping us laughing. All in all, time well spent.

  • senlin

    I’m not a BIG fan of Tony Campolo (although I agree with his politics) but I thought this segment was really great, too. Clever and weirdly reverent in its irreverence — just what you’d expect from the Colbert Report, or anything the makers of the Daily Show put out. It’s definitely intelligent, interesting television.>

  • stephen

    It was a great segment, but I think you’re giving Colbert too much credit as a “seasoned pro.” The man’s a comedian, not a journalist. Tony did not “win” because Colbert was lobbing him softballs intended so that Tony could knock them out of the park, and he did well. Colbert is a member of the religous left–any attempts to try to really dig at Tony where lighthearted.>

  • johnny

    i haven’t read the other comments, so i don’t know if this has been mentioned. colbert is playing a character on his show, so he has no actual hostility toward his guests and he was not trying to make a fool of campolo. he was simply acting in character. it is always up to the colbert guest to rise to the challenge. stephen colbert the person is a churchgoer and a man of faith and probably actually would be congenial with campolo. it was a great segment and made me think campolo, rather than jim wallis, should be the “face” of the evangelical left/red-letter christian movement. wallis is well-meaning, but bores me to tears>

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