I’ve been following some of the Rob Bell stuff over the past few days. Here’s what I’m learning. If you are an evangelical Christian don’t ever, ever, ever, think out loud in any kind of public forum about controversial issues. You’ll be thrown to wolves claiming to be sheep.
Rob Bell has written what looks to be a controversial book. He’s dead meat in some circles already. Even people who haven’t read his book are throwing him under the truck and labeling him a heretic. I wonder what that says about us?
The problem with Christianity, it has been said, is Christians. Oh my we can be an ugly, pretentious bunch of malcontents can’t we? We go to battle over our preferences and stand quiet about the Lord's convictions. We gather in little ghettos of paranoia and argue over some of the smallest things. Of course it’s also been said that what’s good about Christianity are Christians. You know of whom I speak I’m sure. They are the ‘wounded healers’ (thank you Henri Nouwen) who in word and deed so evidently follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
But when we are bad we are very, very bad.
Here’s the thing about the Rob Bell controversy. I have hunch he’s saying some stuff that needs to be talked about. Deeply talked about. He’s raising some long dormant issues and showing them the light of day. It’s making the status quo nervous. Maybe deservedly so. For sure, because Bell is an influential voice what he says will be noticed. A meaningful conversation needs to occur. But the conversation won’t happen if there’s a climate of finger pointing and mean spirited accusation. Who wants to be in a conversation when people are shouting and sticking fingers in their ear so they can’t hear?
I’m looking forward to reading Rob Bell’s newest book ‘Love Wins’. Already, based on some reviews, I have a hunch there’s some things I’m going to struggle with. Some assumptions, preferences and convictions of mine will be challenged. I’ll probably have some things to say, perhaps even challenging Bell’s conclusions and thought processes. There’s also a good chance that I’ll be able to endorse good portions of the book. Both in the challenge and in the endorsement I run a risk. For on both sides of the aisle there will be people who won’t want to have a conversation but instead will want to label and accuse. It’s too bad. For those folks are missing out on all the fun stuff where good people exchange meaningful ideas and where minds are changed by persuasive arguments based on rigorous biblical reflection.