The moment I saw the video I posted about Rob Bell’s forthcoming book “Love Wins,” I emailed a link to my brother Jon and said, “I think you’ll like this video from Rob Bell.”
He responded and said, “Cool. Looks great.”
Then a few minutes later, he emailed and said, “I ordered a copy!”
I posted here a couple times about it. Over the weekend, it landed many hits here at Le Café. I wasn’t aware that it was trending on twitter. But throughout the weekend, Rob Bell got eclipsed by drunk-driving bitch whore Debra Oberlin, who apparently is more popular than hell.
You see, Jon and I talk about once a week, sometimes more. My family is Christian and I’m the black sheep atheist. Jon is not thrilled (no one is) that I’ve gone the route of a non-believer, but he has made a great effort to be the same best friend he was to me before. I’m so grateful for that. Over time, he’s become more comfortable, and I’ve asked that he behave in all the same ways as before. He tells me when he’s praying for me, and he tells me when he feels attacked by the devil. I’m so glad that he feels that comfort level again.
Earlier this week, Jon and I talked on the phone. He said he’s been following the battle within the Christian camp (which is dizzyingly vast). Real Christians™ believe in hell, heaven and the resurrection. That trinity is more important than the father, son and holy ghost.
The quibble over the invisible is never ending.
Without hell, Christians can’t scare children into holding onto the gospel through adulthood. Jesus just ain’t good enough to latch onto. They NEED hell.
So for a pastor with the notoriety of Rob Bell to insinuate, “Hey, there might not be a hell.” This is big stuff. If a pastor of a little, po-dunk church in rural Wyoming said it, no one would bat an eye. But Rob Bell has influence over many thousands.
Rob Bell saying it is an iPad 2 announcement game changer. Rob Bell is the Steve Jobs of Christianity … and frankly (and I hope it’s true), he could change EVERYTHING.
Back to my conversation with Jon. Jon sounded deflated about it. He said, “People are criticizing Rob Bell, calling him a Universalist … and they haven’t even read the book yet.” He paused and then he said, “Just read the freaking book.”
My dad sent me an article from Christianity Today (link) yesterday that spells out more of the controversy. Dad reads this blog just as closely as anyone I know, and I he’s a mighty solid Christian, too. He’s one that the world can admire, especially because he puts up with all the shit I write here. But more so because he’s very well read and articulate about what he believes.
That Christianity Today article also calls Bell a Universalist. Apparently calling a “Christian” a universalist is a pejorative. Thems are fightin’ words!
If Jesus were so goddamn clear, why the hellfire are there so many sects and so many interpretations of the bible? I know this isn’t a new question and Christians have a hundred different ways to respond … but it doesn’t change the fact that they can’t agree on damn near anything.
I want to point out that Bell discounts hell in his book “Velvet Elvis” which was published about 6 years ago. So it’s not new for Rob Bell to say this. It’s just that this new book puts it in the title. And since most Christians don’t read anyway, they would never get past the front of the book.
Also, I want to point out that hell is the simplest Christian doctrine to discount. I was able to do it as a Christian … long before I stuck a flag in atheism. I’m surprised it’s taken this long for topic to dry up … but it never will entirely … because Christianity NEEDS it.
I was reading the article in Christianity Today, and it ends with a quote from the Christian Deity named Rick Warren. Warren is a god among Christianity, and anyone who says Christianity is a monotheistic religion is blowing smoke up your ass. Warren says, “I believe in hell because Jesus says it’s real & he knows more about it than anyone.”
I laughed so loud when I read that that my neighbors sent a squad car.
The non-biblical tradition that guys like Warren tell their mega-churches is, “When Jesus died, he spent three days in hell.” What a load of malarkey. So Warren tells everyone this and it is gospel.
The short of it is, Christianity needs Rob Bell, and it desperately needs to follow his lead. If there’s a guy who models a form of Christianity that I started to agree with as a Christian … it’s the version he writes about in his books and talks about in his video series. He’s what I consider a smart Christian … and it’s high time Warren got on his weepy knees and asked for an ounce of the smarts that Rob Bell has.
Warren’s purpose-driven life focus should be, “Become more like Rob Bell.”
Hey Christians … you’re making a HUGE mistake by demonizing Rob Bell. You should stop. Rob Bell actually makes you guys look cool.
But who am I? A humanist with an atheist voice who has no following as large as Rick Warren’s or Rob Bell’s. I’m easily discounted. If only there were a way to become a hugely adored Christian … and then break the news. I’m doing this all wrong.