A Glaring Weakness
**This post is for everybody, whatever your beliefs may be**
I don’t want to add another Rob Bell blog entry into the massive pool that has formed in the last 7 days. So I won’t make it all about him. Instead, I want to point out what I believe is a glaring weakness of those who profess to follow Jesus, in light of the Rob Bell controversy: We Hate Questions.
Nearly 10 years ago, I remember hearing of an incident at a neighboring church that involved a few of my younger friends. Apparently, their youth pastor had caught wind of certain questions that they were asking amongst each other, questions that were deemed heretical and unacceptable to the leadership. The students wondered if a person like Gandhi was really in Hell, especially in light of the great, selfless life he lived. Instead of dealing with these questions and walking his students through them, the youth pastor exercised his executive power and kicked these guys out of the church, never to return again. That’s right, a good ol’-fashioned excommunication of heretics took place in a small Los Angeles suburb that fateful day.
I can’t help but draw parallels here with what is going on with Rob Bell. All he’s done in his promotion of his yet-to-be-released book is raise a few questions regarding the afterlife. Questions I’m sure many of us have asked periodically throughout our spiritual journeys. Questions that may never have clear answers. Questions that have not made the claims that Bell’s biggest critics are saying he did.
We have heard many times that life and leadership is all about asking the right questions, however, we are seeing in Christian circles time and time again that questions are bad. Let me re-phrase: questions that do not have immediate, neat, organized answers are bad. Questions that are outside the FAQ’s of today’s self-professed theological gate-keepers are bad. We oversimplify the complex and understate the simplicity of our core message and duty to love the world around us. The danger that we face today is not that questions of serious doubt exist but that many of our leaders do not know how to deal with them.
The glaring weakness of those who follow Christ is the inability to deal with questions as normal human beings would, which is through conversation and dialogue. Instead, many resort to judgment and default Bible verses, things that often end conversations before they start or explode in arguments. Of course, scripture is the basis for all that we do and say but it also does not mean that we have a free pass from actually thinking about things.
I am so disappointed in many of the nation’s influential leaders and bloggers who have smashed Rob Bell, often using lengthy Scripture-laced essays to show everyone how wrong and heretical Rob Bell’s alleged views are in his new book. I don’t know about you, but this type of thing does very little to impress me and does a whole lot to further prove what many believe Christians are: judgmental, unloving, bible-thumping tools (the bad kind, not hammers and nails).
I agree that questions demand answers but not in the way that many of the “top voices” have deemed appropriate. Public lynching is not the way. Simple excommunication is not the way. Theological piss-matches are not the way.
The irony in all this is that the title of Bell’s new book is Love Wins. I hope he’s right. In fact, I know he’s right. Love has already won. The problem however is that this is not an issue of right or wrong, as much as people are wanting it to be. It’s an issue of who is ready to listen? Who is ready to walk through the very real struggles of faith in the minds of millions the world over?
In a situation like this, theology impresses no one and solves very little. How we deal with the questions in real, time-honoring ways will always have the deeper, lasting impact. Imagine what my young, excommunicated friends would be like today if their questions were honored and validated in love?
Just a few thoughts. How about you? How have others dealt with your questions? How have you dealt with others’ questions? What are the questions you still wrestle with?