“Crucify him! Crucify him!” You associate these words with a crowd gathered at the foot of a cross while watching a man die. But today, while the words remain the same, the scene has changed. People are gathered around a TV watching a different man navigate the hatred of the religious experts: Rob Bell.
Once the darling of the conservative evangelical world, Bell is the object of scorn and ridicule by many who once loved him. His crime? Did he have an affair? No. Did he embezzle church funds? No. Did he murder a book critic? No. What was his crime? He dared to openly depart from the conservative evangelical script.
Can you believe it? He dared to think for himself and then brazenly opened his mouth. Take a moment and google his name. Read what many people in the church are writing about him. Then read the comments posted in response to the articles. You will read statements like these: “he’s now an atheist,” “I hope he dies,” “there’s no hope for him.”
This post is not about Rob Bell. I am neither for or against him. I’m not writing to cast judgement on him. I’m not endorsing him.
This post IS about those conservative evangelicals who smugly condemn Bell to hell. I am way more concerned about the attitudinal behavior of my tribe members who want to crucify Bell than I am about his theological views. Too many who swear to love God with their entire soul, heart, and mind are the first to throw the brine of hatred in the face of those who disagree with them.
- Let’s crucify Rob Bell.
- Let’s draw monkey ears on President Obama.
- Let’s ridicule the gays.
Sigh. If you are a member of the conservative evangelical tribe who asks why we are losing the younger generation, you can stop wondering. They hear the cries of hatred as sermons on love are preached. No wonder the younger generation is checking out. Something just doesn’t ring true.
Crucify him! Crucify him!
Like the first century religious pharisees, many conservative evangelicals will not rest until Bell draws his last breath. The attacks will continue until Bell mutters, “It is finished.”
Just yesterday my wife shared this quote on her Facebook page:
“To me what would be beautiful is if the word ‘evangelical’ … came to mean buoyant, joyful, honest announcement about all of us receiving the grace of God and then together giving back to make the world the kind of place God always dreamed it could be. I don’t toss the word out. Let’s reclaim it, all of us.” Rob Bell from Christian Post, March 2013
Let’s reclaim the word “evangelical.” Let’s be known more for our love than our judgmental derogatory sarcasm. [Click to Tweet] At last, Rob Bell and I have found common ground. Love really does win.
I can tell you this… I would surely be dead today if it were not for the unconditional love and sacrifice of Rob Bell. He made me want to be a Christian. I have zero doubt that plenty of other Christian leaders are incredibly wrong in their theology… as am I. I’m convinced that we have no business thinking we truly even come close to understanding the complexity of a timeless unfathomable God. I am MORE than convinced that people have been jealous of this man because they don’t hold a flame to his teaching abilities and they’ve been looking for his faults since their congregants first stopped downloading their stuff and started downloading Rob’s.
My theology looks much different than Rob’s, but he IS leading people to Christ… who will by the way… finish whatever Rob has started. Do not underestimate the power of The Spirit.
I’m proof. Rob discipled me for a year in person and then for almost two decades via the internet, but he led me to Christ… not himself. God’s Spirit is my guide and to spite my love and admiration of “The Bell”… my theology is that which His Spirit leads me to… not that which Rob leads me to. (which by the way… Rob taught me.)
Quit being scared little rabbits. This man can’t hurt us. If he is not against us… He is for us! And I guarantee you that the “rightest” among us are 7 billion miles away from being “right.” The more I KNOW about The Creator, the DUMBER I feel.
P.S. – You are correct. This next generation consists of two types.
1. Those who are so “Heavenly Minded” they’re no “Earthly Good,” AND…
2. Those who want nothing to do with this finger pointing, people hating, always correcting, ever judging, pew warming, steeple chasing, goose bumps hunting, false version of Christ Followers.
And maybe a 3rd. Those who are asleep.
May The Revolution Continue!!! (Rob’s Commission to me in 2002)
Thanks Brent. A very good and thoughtful reply from someone who knows him.
Randy — two thoughts…
First — kudos. A well-written article about an evangelical systemic problem that no one seems to want to discuss.
Second — just a note: We’re not just losing the “younger generation;” we’re losing my generation too, including, possibly… me.
Perhaps I am naive but I would rather not be identified as an “evangelical Christian,” but as a “Christ-follower” (as imperfect as I might be).
Thanks again for the great post.
Thanks Dave. You are right. We are losing more than the younger ones.
Well written Professor Randy! I find it interesting that it appears on one side of the political Christianity says right actions get you to heaven, while the other side says right doctrine. I think both sides miss the point entirely. The greatest commandments are to love God, and to love others.
Eric. Somehow we seem to have forgotten that!
Thank you, Randy for this perspective. It is well written and clears up a few questions I had. I knew we were losing several generations of kids. Most of the teens I went to church with are not still in the church. When I was teaching college & career age kids back in the 70s & 80s, most of them have left the church, as well. It is so discouraging to know our attitudes reflect in our actions and we don’t always exhibit the love of Christ as we should.
There’s a general inability in this generation to separate one’s ideas from his person. I disagree with Rob Bell. However, this does not give me reason to hate him or to disparage him. I disagree even more with President Obama, but I pray for him because that’s what God asks of Christians. Our pervasive doctrine of tolerance as agreement means that disagreement devolves quickly into overt hatred and intolerance. By the way, tolerance is not agreement, it’s a willingness to let others be wrong and love them anyway with the understanding that there may be areas in which I’m wrong and may need correction.
I love your comment, especially this: “…tolerance is not agreement, it’s a willingness to let others be wrong and love them anyway.” Thanks for your input!
What a thoughtful and well-written post, Randy. Spirits of hatred and judgement discredit the life of love and compassion Christ led.
Thanks Jill. I appreciate your comment.
Thanks for the words, Randy. If we, as Jesus followers, spent more time talking about who Jesus is and less time announcing who He isn’t, we’d have generations of people who want to know more about Jesus. I’m certainly not an advocate for Rob Bell, but I can say that much of my spiritual formation came from sitting under his teaching years ago. He and I will disagree on his current theology in part, but I understand his passion for those who need Jesus and truly believe that heaven will be filled with many who found Jesus under Rob’s teaching.
Regardless, all this declaring what we hate is just putting an ugly face on the most beautiful thing I’ve ever embraced. I didn’t commit my life to a bunch of grumpy people, I gave everything to the one who rescued me and shows me grace new every morning!
Randy, I don’t agree with Rob and I don’t agree with the hatred. But I do understand how easy it is to be upset with those who teach false doctrine and lead others astray. In fact, I believe if Paul were alive today, he might tell Rob to go castrate himself!
Thanks, Randy. I appreciate your provocation and straightforwardness.
Wow! Many thought provoking comments in your challenging post; and from others in “the tribe”! When I really look at some of the attitudes, questions, etc that many in the younger generation (and others) are voicing I am transported back to my college days in the mid sixties. Many, including me, were asking the same questions & many youth (friends & youth from my church) were leaving the church & looking for love and community outside the church. Then and now I began believing it’s not about the church…it’s about our relationship with Christ; when we take our eyes off Jesus discouragement, dissatisfaction, disillusionment, etc sets in (been there!). I agree with Brent it’s not about the man (Rob Bell or any other leader) it’s about being regenerated by Christ and lead by His Spirit. Also loved Brent’s comment that we don’t even come close to understanding the complexities of our unfathomable God. So maybe in our churches we need to quit acting as if we have all the answers and figure out the best ways to show people who Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit are and admit to our own brokenness and sinful nature. I for one want to learn how to be more real and vulnerable and way less judgemental and show what the genuine Love of God & saving blood of Jesus is all about!!
Thank you Randy for sharing what God gives you with the rest of “the tribe” so we can examine our hearts and our minds and really THINK; then act on what His Spirit is saying to us individually. I for one need this!
Thanks a lot for your insightful comments!