Here’s the thing. A lot of people are afraid. I don’t know why they’re afraid. I am blessed to not be a fearful person. So I must admit that I have a hard time empathizing with people who react to things out of fear. That’s just not the way I’m built.
Here’s another thing. Because of fear, people react (over-react?) to things that might scare them even if they don’t know they’re coming. I saw a lot of this last night at our local Board of Supervisors’ where we were discussing the budget and taxes (you can see where this is going, can’t you?). A whole bunch of well-meaning folks got up and produced a whole bunch of logical fallacies that led to a whole bunch of doomsday scenarios. For those of you who have studied composition (ahem – this means you, my beloved students), you would have been proud to recognize “the slippery slope” fallacy, “the false dichotomy,” and “the ad hominem” in rare form. Plus, there was a whole lot of forecasting the future. Unless you guys know something I don’t, known of us piddly humans can forecast the future, so I spent a lot of the evening furious at their failed logic and the insulting of teachers (see the upcoming post on Saturday for more on how I feel teachers are maligned – can’t wait, can you?).
Take out my tiny county and put in an international uproar and you have the scenario surrounding Rob Bell’s newest book Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person who Ever Lived. There was a ton of fear that sparked some true idiocy about this book – fear that was, given that most people had not read the book, completely unfounded. Fear that was based in logical fallacies, years of church mis-tradition (yep, just made up that word), and eons of power struggles. I could give you link on link about this nonsense, but to be honest, I don’t want to give it any more credence (you can Google it if you want).
Instead, what I want to say is, I read Love Wins. It was interesting. I wasn’t remarkably changed by it, but I found the questions he asked to be intriguing and worthwhile and . . . wait for it . . . simply questions. I didn’t find much that was definitive in the book, and that’s okay – sometimes, to quote my favorite Rilke, it’s enough to live the questions. I would have liked to see him come down more fully on certain things, but it’s okay that he didn’t. It’s okay to not have all the answers; who does?
But you know what – I might have not read the book; in fact, I probably wouldn’t have read it – without all the hype. I read this book for the same reason I read The Last Temptation of Christ: when someone is attacked – particularly a writer – my natural (and God-given, I’d argue) instinct is to defend them. So I jumped on Rob Bell’s book (and Kazantzakis’ novel? – much better and absolutely fascinating) because I don’t like to see people attacked, especially when the attacks come out of a place of fear and ignorance.
In the end, here’s what I think Rob Bell’s book did:
1. It exposed a lot of the fear that many Christians carry around and then lay like a burden on the shoulders of those who look to them for wisdom.
2. It posed a lot of questions that many of us – myself included – have carried for years and validated them as worthwhile and reasonable.
3. It gained Rob Bell a slew of new readers that he may not have had before. Go Rob Bell!
Perhaps, this is exactly what it needed to do.
I do recommend the book – especially if you like to live the questions . . . or if you’re like me and just like to stand on the opposite side of those whose fear overwhelms their logical and makes them think they can tell the future.
For other reasoned reviews of Bell’s book and the controversy surrounding it, check out
Janet Oberholtzer’s “Once Upon a Time”,
Brian McLaren’s “Will ‘Love Wins’ Win”
USA Today’s “‘Love Wins’: Pastor’s Book Kindles Firestorm Over Hell”