Rob Bell is everywhere. Last night I heard him speak (and adeptly evade answering questions…more on that in a minute) at the New York Society for Ethical Culture (transcript at Patheos). Today, he was on Good Morning America and MSNBC. He is promoting his controversial-before-it-was-even-released-book Love Wins, which is available today. I’ve been reading and re-reading (it’s really short) and I can tell you that so far it seems the promotional video that started all the hoopla is more controversial than the text itself.
I’ve been commissioned to write about all this for Killing the Buddha, which I’m very excited about because I’m going to practice what I preached in a recent Patheos column — about slowing down, considering in an in-depth way, and reaching conclusions that show serious contemplation as opposed to knee-jerk reactions.
Last night, however, in the opposite of what I just described, I tweeted a quick (and intentionally vague and maybe-controversial) thought about what I had just heard:
Quick preview: @realrobbell speaks for evangelicalism in the truest sense. Stay tuned.
Tantalizing, right? This is what I hope to consider further for KtB. Bell last night said a lot of things I agree with and was absolutely engaging and inspiring, but he managed to do this without really answering any of the pressing questions that Lisa Miller, the interviewer, asked. What we got instead was a lot of show and not much substance. Similarly, in regards to the book, it seems that the controversy it created is what was controversial, much more so than the ideas he espouses.
This seems to me to be representative of evangelicalism. Without a central framework, a defined sense of belief, or even a solid definition, it ends up being many things and appealing to many people, but there is not a lot of depth. In the United States it is often more interested in presenting Christianity as another layer on top of American culture, as opposed to complete reinvention or, you know, a counter-culture.
Well. These are not the deeply contemplated thoughts I hope to present at the end of a period of further consideration, rather this is the beginning of that process. I offer them here because I’d love to hear some of your reactions to this line of thinking. Am I onto something? Way off? What do you think?
Jonathan D. Fitzgerald
Jonathan D. Fitzgerald is editor of Patrol and author of Not Your Mother's Morals: How the New Sincerity is Changing Pop Culture for the Better. Follow Fitz on Twitter.
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