Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Listening to Love Wins

I finally started to listen to Rob Bell's Love Wins on my way to work today. I probably hold an even more liberal view of Hell than Mr. Bell does, so since I am already sold on this issue, I was not buying it the day it came out. I was content to wait and get a copy from the library. The audiobook is a great listen, since Rob is the narrator.

I am only a third of the way into it, but I supect that many of the negative reviews that proliferate the blogosphere are concerned with more than his view of Hell. From what I have heard so far, Bell is not just critiquing Hell, but the practical and evangelical practices that result from holding the popular Christian view of Hell.

This is Bell's true heresy. He critiques popular Christianity.

For many Christians, who have been trained to think in an us/them paradigm, when Bell makes a critique he places himself securely in the THEM category.

I was recently on David Hayward's (NakedPastor) facebook page. He was being taken to task by a Christian for a cartoon he drew that critiqued the church. The Christian said that David's cartoon was "anti-church" and that he should be making a "positive case for the Christian tradition". I would think that such a "rose colored glasses" approach would bring the accusation of "cult" were we talking about any other group.

When I heard the following quote in Love Wins this morning, I laughed outloud. However, when I was searching the Net for someone who had already typed it in, I found that most Christians didn't see the ironic humor. Most writers' defense mechanisms kicked in and they spent their sentences refuting the statement... rather than seeing Rob's use of irony. Either/or, Us/Them thinking.

So is it true that the kind of person you are doesn’t ultimately matter, as long as you’ve said or prayed or believed the right things?

If you truly believed that, and you were surrounded by Christians who believed that, then you wouldn’t have much motivation to do anything about the present suffering of the world, because you would believe you were going to leave someday and go somewhere else to be with Jesus.

If this understanding of the good news of Jesus prevailed among Christians - the belief that Jesus’s message is about how to get somewhere else - you could possibly end up with a world in which millions of people were starving, thirsty, and poor; the earth was being exploited and polluted; disease and despair were everywhere; and Christians weren’t known for doing much about it.

If it got bad enough, you might even have people rejecting Jesus because of how his followers lived.

And that would be tragic.



Don said...

Thoroughly enjoyed his book. I hope it can be a starting point for my wife in her journey out of fundamentalism.

Jon said...

Ha ha, what a great line! Aussie's often observe that Americans don't seem to get irony. You simultaneously prove and disprove that stereotype!

Andrew said...

Don- We'll keep our fingers crossed! :)

Jon - Heh! That doesn't surprise me. We just seem driven to jump quickly to one side or the other. Christians are forever getting offended at Onion.com pieces because they don't get the joke! :)

Sammy said...

I loved the irony in Bell's book. In a way though, I'm kinda sad. Many of the Christians who read it take any criticism of Christianity as a personal insult. So, instead of critically thinking about what Bell is saying, and possibly trying to fix the problems he points out, they just get angry and insult Bell. That makes me angry.

A personal creed of mine is "If your beliefs cannot stand up to a modicum of criticism, questioning, and/or doubt, then they aren't worth having." When a group of people becomes angry at another person or group respectfully questioning or criticizing their beliefs, that tells me the beliefs have a weak foundation.

Ma said...

I haven't read the book, but the quote is great.

Steve H. said...

Bell does seem to tap into providing a faith in God that reminds us Christianity can be beautiful!

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