Monday, April 11, 2011

What the H---?...Don't Blame Bell!

Didn't quite have the guts to spell it out. I did look up the meaning of the phrase. One internet source suggested it means "So, who cares?" or "What do you mean?" That might apply to this post. Never-the-less, it might have grabbed your attention. Or shocked you into reading more.

Anyway, a bunch of folks who identify themselves as Christians are throwing their energy towards a new book from Rob Bell, Love Wins. Me included, until today. There is some heat and controversy about hell and escaping it through Christ, either now or later. A fascinating discussion, and not new to the church, though Bell is taking the bashing this round. Truthfully, in my case, he's just written a book that asks many questions I've already had myself on some of the very same passages of the ancient text, I call the Bible. I know. Some of you may have just gasped in near horror.

Here is today's irony for me. I just finished Chapter 12 in another book, The Hole In the Gospel, by Richard Stearns. The closing paragraph grabbed my petty little heart and threw it violently against some sort of spiritual wall:

"Three diseases alone -- malaria, TB, and AIDS -- result in more than five million deaths per year and half a billion new infections, virtually all in the world's poorest countries. The poor are routinely exposed to situations and conditions that attack their health -- disease, malnutrition, parasites, and bad water. Poor health, in turn, saps their energy, limits their capacity, and kills their children. They live in places where doctors and medicines are largely unavailable, and even if such health care were available, they lack the money to pay for it. In short, poverty leads to poor health, which in turn leads to greater poverty--one more strand in the web that traps the poor."

So I'm wondering, along with others, where is the church's outrage toward these heart-breaking, inhumane, global needs? Doesn't this deserve just as much of a holy offense and outcry?

Jeremiah 22:16 reads "'He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?' declares the Lord." The verse does not read "He defended against Rob Bell's latest book with passion, so all went well." I may have crossed a courtesy line there. Let me back up, and be more genteel. I realize as I read Stearns book, that some things are easier to passionately debate. Other things need passionate action. I have limited energy and resources. I must prioritize better.

So here is the deal for me. Some of the church is outraged by Bell's book and many in that camp have not yet read it, nor do they intend to do so. Perhaps this is a distraction from what might truly be breaking God's heart. Perhaps this is a diversion to drain our resources in time and energy. Perhaps our concentration is more on speculation than on the realization of people dying and orphans wandering at risk.

If so, then shame on me for continuing my part in the Bell's book discussion any further. Yes, some believe it is a life or death issue of truth. But I tell you what I'm thinking. Malaria, TB, and AIDS are the life or death issues. And the truth is I'll be glad to chat about Love Wins, using the tools of compassionate conversation and respect, but only while working side-by-side with anyone on issues of caring for the poor.

I need to do more for the poor, who probably don't give much thought to hell after death, because they are living in hell today. I can make a difference. So, if you wish to set the record straight on exactly when and how to avoid hell, let's talk, while we work side-by-side. Let's argue point-by-point on Bell's book while we campaign for clean drinking water. Hit me with your theological sledge-hammer, while we encourage others to sponsor AIDS orphans around the world. Challenge my views while we sign-up people to send malaria nets to other parts of the world. Let's impact the world for the Kingdom of God here and now, care for the poor, and talk about Bell's book while our hands and feet move together on common ground for justice in His name.

When I do get to Heaven or help bring the Kingdom to earth, and I meet Jesus, and he says, "So, how did it go?" I'll say, "I helped out." I don't think where I line up on Love Wins will really matter that much, though I did enjoy it.

2 comments:

-Lidy said...

This, my friend, is very well written. Satan's best defense is keeping us busy...whether in daily life or in the outcry against some other Christian who is not quite Christian enough by our own standards. I haven't read Bell's book so the only discussion I've had was with my son, in the confines of our kitchen. :)

There are a lot of things in this world that do not make sense but God didn't ask us to make sense but to have faith, tell others of His love and to "do unto others...".

Cindi said...

You are a wise, wise woman. And fun, too. Thanks for this comment. I was encouraged.