"All words are symbols that represent unspeakable realities. Which is also why words are magical." (Donald Miller tweet)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

all joking aside

Warning: Louie is not in this post.

I'm bummed this week.

Another book has been released in the world of Christianity. I haven't read it yet. I'm gonna. Apparently it's got some controversial ideas written in it.

I've read a few blog posts, a few reviews, watched an interview of the author. And once again I am so very disappointed in a couple of things.

First - People who voice immovable opinions without having read the book.

Some have suggested they had originally planned to read the book before forming an opinion, but then they saw an interview, and since they were certain the interviewer had pre-read the book, and since they were also certain that what the interviewer got from the book was what was intended, they no longer felt the need to read the book themselves in order to form an immovable opinion.

Others have started their comments with, "I have never read anything by this author, and don't know anything about him, but ...."

I'm not saying that one shouldn't watch interviews or read reviews, or whatever. I'm not saying that one should read every single book out there. (Good grief.) But for me ... if I'm going to have a really strong opinion about a specific book ... it just seems to me that I should probably read it for myself.

Second - People who attribute nasty motives or character defects to theological differences.

I don't know what I will think of this book. But I don't expect to come to the conclusion that the author is out to destroy people or undermine the worldwide Christian faith. I hope I don't make statements that accuse him of "never having read the Bible". I mean, come on - seriously?

If I'm honest, I will say that there are certainly a few (or more) authors / leaders / influential people in the Christian world with whom I really struggle. I've probably ranted a few times in private conversations. I wonder how on earth they can come to the conclusions they do. I think some of them need to deal with a few issues of their own before publishing books. I think that too often we refuse to allow people to do what followers of Jesus have been doing for centuries - asking questions, exploring possibilities, re-imagining traditions, genuinely attempting to understand and live by the essence of our faith.

I watched the author - who, incidentally, is exactly my age - in an interview that seemed to me to be set up against him from the beginning. I read comments by people taking personal, sometimes vindictive, satisfaction in "watching him squirm". And found myself mighty thankful that I wasn't in his seat. I like having a challenging conversation. I'm comfortable with talking about what I believe to be true. I'm passionate about my faith. But when someone tries to corral me into a 30-second "either-or" answer to a profoundly complex question, it ticks me off. I walk away.

Which probably doesn't work in televised interviews.

So I'm bummed.

Because I really do care about the ancient and mysterious and simple and everyday-world-engaging spirituality that finds its foundation in the story of Jesus, and in the sacred text of the Bible. It defines me (at least I hope it does). And I wish we were better at exploring, and talking, and even deeply, immovably disagreeing every now and then, while still treating each other with kindness.

I know it's idealistic.

But ... I guess ... so am I. And I kinda think the Church should be too.

isn't that the craziest thing.


Guinwalla said...

It'll be OK.. I totally understand your 'bummed-outness', trust me! Just think of me to get your mind off it! ;) <3 <3

chRistine said...

I know of what you speak, and this week made me cringe with frustration. I engaged in a lively debate about the book/author online - the person debating against me attacked me personally - and then I found out this person hadn't read the book, she had only read the "retort" from the opposing camp.

Kelly said...

I just saw this on CNN. Apparently I've been in a bubble and unaware a theological battle was taking place this week. What with all the other stuff going on.

I really am not a fan of boxes. Unless they have chocolate or gifts inside of them. I really don't appreciate people who put God and what "right" belief about Him is in said box.

I think we may be shocked by who is in heaven AND who isn't when we get there.

Dwayne said...

I'm gonna read it this week. Bought it on Kindle v

Anonymous said...

I watched in interview because I had seen a few people posting it on facebook and thought there must be something to it. However, I found that the interview did not educate me whatsoever on what Rob Bell's theology or what his book actually had to say. I thought the interview focused on the interviewers perception and didn't give Rob Bell a chance to respond. I'm was neutral on Rob Bell as I haven't read any of his stuff, and remain neutral because I really didn't get any new information. What exactly is the big deal with this interview?

Bob said...

just bought a copy for my e-reader - any book that gets so many peoples' shorts in a knot so quickly has to be worth reading :)

Dougie G said...

I guess I'm out of the loop. I don't have a clue what book you are talking about. Despite that fact, how can you comment and form an opinion if you haven't read it? Beats me.

Anonymous said...

It would be great if people would to do the necessary heart, soul, brain and Spirit work to determine what they truely believe. That's what this person has done and is now sharing it. I guess the problem is if its different, or vastly different, some people are threatened by that rather than being confident in their own position.