Even after following the story and reading reviews, I still haven’t bought Rob Bell’s new book. It’s probably my personal way of trying to go against the grain and not join in the hoopla, my own subversion of the culture if you will. But I have kept my eyes open for the interviews (though haven’t watched any of them, curious enough… I’m just not driven by the videos. YouTube holds no temptation for me, for some reason).
After I posted my initial thoughts and digested some of the comments, I decided that my knee-jerk questions weren’t what bugged me. I liked some of the comments I recieved via FB, and even agreed with most of them. While still fair questions and such, after more thought I think what really bugged me about the TweetingFest de la Bell was more in line with the Piperness. So tonight I’m digging around to see if that was my main frustration.
I’ve since read lots of comments on interviews and I think perhaps I’m getting warmer to the source of frustration. There are a lot of hurtful people out there. Not well-intentioned poor communicators. Just mean, malicious “Jesus loving” people. And I don’t think it should go together, not without concern.
Bell is in a limelight, for sure, and allows himself to be put there. And where a microphone and platform go, a gaggle of critics are sure to follow, it’s a law of nature. But I don’t think he expects all listeners to agree – any pastor who does probably has a bit of a complex. So it’s not the disagreement, it’s the venom with which it is spewed. God doesn’t call us all to agree and to be the same; He does call us to be loving and peaceful.
If some of the Tweeters had concern for Bell’s teachings, I would hope they would a) read the book and b) try to converse about it as a way to better understand what is being said. Ask. Research. Maybe shoot an email or call the guy and have a cup of coffee. I know, he’s proably got a full schedule. But – and I’m getting all Judgy McJudgerson here – I don’t think it crossed anyone’s mind. I think there are a massive amount of people in the world who feel that other people and their work, their opionions, their beliefs, simply exist to pounce upon, as if a sport. The vibe I felt through the tweets, and now through comments on different articles and interviews surrounding the book, is not one of concern – either for Bell or for those who read the book. It’s a concern for being right. An attitude of, “how dare ye say something that goes against my belief system?!”
Again, I haven’t read the book. The most recent interview with Bell that I read led me to believe that while I value some questions, I’m not able to go the distance he approaches. I can hear and understand where the thinking has taken him, but yet… it’s just so… well. You know. Big.
Then again, I have often thought Bell to fall more into the catagory of a modern day prophet, calling the Church and God’s people back to both a belief and a way of life that runs much deeper than some of the solutions that have been offered by contemporary Christianity. And we all know how it ends for prophets. Perhaps, like in the times of the Biblical prophets, we’re so busy comparing religion notes that we can’t hear when God is calling us back toward something that really does need our attention, such as living rightly with Him and one another.
Bell’s newest message is one of the tougher ones that I’ve chewed. But I do believe this: that, like when reading the Bible, if you take it into context of his overall teaching and preaching, you can’t question that his hope is to bring people into a better relationship with Jesus. The accusations about being a Universalist or whatever other heretical titles have been tossed about, fall short with me because it’s evident from listening to his messages consistently, over time, that his passion for the Gospel and for people to hear of Jesus is unquestionable. He didn’t write a book to make it easy for everyone to ignore Jesus now and hope to get in later; if anything the accusations would point more toward the accusors (well, those with a very escapist view). Bell pushes the message of “Jesus matters, now” more strongly than any other teacher I’ve heard in contemporary times.
Ah, I find myself skipping down a rabbit trail… or building a soapbox. Tomato, to-MAH-to. I’ve been asked why this is taking so long to compose, which is a sign it’s gone on too long. So I’ll leave it at that for now.