Like many, I too have been thinking about Rob Bell’s comments throughout the week. I’ve been asked about them almost every day. I’ve just listened to the interview and been catching up on the numerous blog chatter out there. These are the tricky posts because they cover on a number of topics, like “Gay Marriage,” “What the Bible says about Homosexuality,” “The Church’s posture toward the gay community” – these are all different questions … and answers. Then there are underlying topics going on like recent responses to the comments, critiques to the critiques, accountability and so forth.
So to recap of the current controversy: While promoting his new book What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Rob made these comments in a q&a at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
“I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs to — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are…” Please consider listening to the audio for a fuller picture.
Then in my corner of post-evangelicalism, I saw that David Fitch posted these comments on his Facebook:
Tony Jones, responded with a post entitled, “Why Rob Bell Still Matters” and among his points said “Rob is accountable to his readers.”
My good friend Evan posted here and said although he has appreciated so much about Rob, he’s siding with Fitch on this.
Well, for those of you get into personal context – know that I care about all these guys – I love David Fitch (whom I barely know but have enjoyed his writing and have bumped into from time to time) and I love Evan Curry (who I know very well and he would not hesitate in giving me a kidney if I asked) and I love Tony Jones (who has always been kind and gracious to me and to reciprocate, if he wants Evan’s kidney – let me know).
This is among my favorite parts of social media – that we can have access to so many different voices who have different cultural values but also different personal values to us. Honestly in some ways, Evan’s thoughts matter more to me than Rob Bell’s. All these guys matter to me because I’ve allowed them to be voices into my life.
That said, if Dave and Evan are annoyed with Rob Bell, that’s cool, he doesn’t have to matter to them but Tony is right – Rob Bell still “matters” in the cultural landscape. What makes someone matter culturally? Their influence, their ideas resonate and become accessible and transferable, at the very least, their ability to create conversation (which again, is what I appreciate most of Bell and my favorite part of the Love Wins fiasco). The fact that we are talking about him is evidence that he does matter and check out Tony’s post on some more about Rob’s unique gifting.
Part of Fitch’s post (and others) point out Rob is not affiliated with a church anymore since he’s not serving in the pastorate and no one knows if/where he’s worshipping. I believe in the importance of community but affiliation the way it was described there doesn’t work for me. Are we saying if Rob Bell joins a local church again or signs up for a small group that he can speak/publish again? That sounds like an odd technicality especially from us Protestants. Whose to say their denomination/affiliation/network/tradition is any more legitimate for another?
Community is not determined by your current attendance record but by identification and participation. Rob Bell may not be part of your local church community, but it’s safe to say he’s part of the Church. And he still is accountable but there are different levels and forms of accountability. From what I can see, the chatter out there from the week is at the very least evidence from those who are trying to hold him accountable and Tony is right, in this case, the readers (as well as the publisher/book sales) will hold accountable to a certain degree.
I think what else bugs me is this “Who holds him accountable?” question that’s been circulating feels a lot like “Who can we contact to get him in trouble because he has stepped out of line?” or “To whom do go to tell on him?” As part of the generation who is suspicious of “organized religion” I like there are people who are working outside the system. As one who is employed by the system, I hope to bring redemption/reformation to it.
Now, I think it’s fair to question motives, I think it’s another to actually conclude. But what I like about these outliers like Rob Bell is that right or wrong, I believe he is saying what he really believes and feels. Or he’s just saying it to sell more books? Whoops, well, I have come to no actual conclusions but it’s fair to ask.
Seriously though, Rob Bell still matters … at least to me he does.
Tomorrow I’ll post a little on the actual comments and what I’m doing with them.
Your thoughts, push backs and sharing these posts are always welcomed but I’m curious – Does Rob Bell still matter to you? If yes, on what level? If no, why? Keep it classy :)