By Luke Moon (Twitter @lukemoon1)
It should not really be a surprise to anyone who has been following Rob Bell’s career of late that the former mega-church pastor turned writer-provocateur has come out in favor of same-sex marriage. How better to incite people to buy your latest book than to jump on the bandwagon of so-called “marriage equality.” Rob’s evolution on same-sex marriage is timed like well-trained politician, but for a minister of the gospel is a sad testimony to how doubt and unbelief can lead one to affirm that which God abhors.
Rob Bell’s comments came in response to a question asked by the Very Reverend Jane Shaw, Dean of San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. This Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco has been the center for the Religious Left’s advocacy on behalf of same-sex marriage. Just over 40 minutes into the hour-long conversation, Rob is asked his views on same-sex marriage to which he replies,
“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…I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
Devoid of any attempt to justify his position through scripture, Rob simply affirms that since the World seems to be embracing same-sex marriage it’s time for the church to catch up. Of course Rob did make a video recently where he told a bunch of teenagers that they need to “say ‘Yes’ to the world.”
The saddest part of this conversation came as Rob describes his upbringing and then how his church grew from a handful of people to over 8000. At one point in the story one can hear the longing in his voice as he recalls how the Holy Spirit moved powerfully on the hearts of the people of his church. He mentioned how his plan to slow the growth of his church was to preach on Leviticus. Rob remarked,
“For a year and a half I preached Leviticus verse by verse by verse and even more people came. I am live 28 or 29 and we have 1000 people, 2000 people, 3000 people, 4000 people, 5000 people 6000 people, 7000 people, 8000 people. I am talking, like a baptism service where we were baptizing some people and people begin to get up out of their chairs, fully dress, and coming to the front and saying, “Please baptize me! Whatever I am experiencing now, I have to be a part of this.” So we were baptizing 100, 110, 120, 130 people at a time.”
It was in the midst of this spectacular growth and ever increasing busyness that he begin to doubt his faith. The New Yorker article describes his journey into doubt,
“He started to doubt the inerrancy of the Scriptures, which made him doubt the faith that had sustained him; he was leading a church, but he wasn’t even sure he was still a Christian. He was exhausted, and, one Sunday, after the nine o’clock service, he hid in a storage closet, dreaming about running away so that he wouldn’t have to preach at eleven. He says, “I remember having moments of, O.K., I’m only going to say things that I know are true. ‘It’s better to be generous than stingy’—O.K., I can do that.”
The journey may have started with personal doubts about the inerrancy of Scripture, but his proven effectiveness as a communicator has allowed him to spread his message of doubt to all who will listen. His book “Love Wins” reached millions and falsely assured them that “hell” is no big deal.
But “hell” is not the only doctrine under attack. In a recent interview with Jonathan Merritt, Rob was asked whether it is “appropriate to pray to one’s heavenly mother” as well as to one’s heavenly father?” To which Rob replies, “Well, you certainly have Isaiah using a mother image for God and Jesus talks about longing to gather like a mother hen gathers her chicks. But that is a great question, and one we should be asking.” In perfect re-imagining form, Rob intentionally confused metaphor with identity. Following Bell’s logic since Jesus likened himself to a door, perhaps we should pray to our Heavenly Door?
Whether it’s Universalism, Mother God, or same-sex marriage Rob Bell seems bent on embracing every popular heterodoxy in his march towards obscurity. Like many who have gone before him, this journey will only be punctuated by the occasional worldly ovation confirming his sad trajectory.