Rob Bell Calling out Bullshit
I’m not one to swear often. I generally only do if I really feel like it is the best way to say what needs to be said. But I believe that Rob Bell was right about calling bullshit what it is recently on the UK talk radio show Unbelievable. It was near the end of a tour promoting his new book, he’s visibly exhausted, and the other guest as well as the host (who usually does a great job of moderating in a way that seems fair) just went after him on his position about same-sex marriage. Eventually he responds by saying that it is this kind of bullshit that scares people away from the church.
Here’s a longer clip for context:
I highly suggest not reading the comments on that YouTube video. It’s depressing and more of the exact same bullshit that Bell was pointing out.
I’m not saying that he should have said it on a radio show that airs in the middle of a Saturday when kids could be listening (I don’t know if there was a delay which allowed for cutting it out), but he was definitely right in calling it as he did. That is the type of bullshit that scares people away from the church. If you don’t think so, you aren’t paying attention. This isn’t just about homosexuality, but this attitude in general really turns people away. It’s that attitude that every single question is equal weight, and if you’re wrong, you’re not a real Christian. In short, it’s judgementalism. It’s the opposite of that amazing grace which Christians claim is near the centre of their faith. The other guest and the host kept holding back from quite saying that Bell was not a real Christian but it oozed from their tone that they were sure they were better than him. And this turns off a lot of people who maybe otherwise would have been interested in Jesus, who approached people in the exact opposite way. It’s pervasive in large parts of Christian culture and can come in theological, moral, ritual, or political flavours.
I debated for a bit whether Rob should have just said, “no, I don’t think the Bible says it is a sin” which maybe would have shut up the attacks. Interestingly, I’ve never heard him actually say that. He just constantly affirms the need to love LGBT persons. It is true that he never really did answer the repeated questions here either. Critics have pounced on it and call him evasive for it. But I don’t really think it would have helped. The sense I got from the other guest and the host was that they would have kept attacking. If Rob offered up some scholarly analysis of arsenokoites and malekoi, or talked about interpreting levitical laws or Romans 1 in a more contextually sensitive way, it probably wouldn’t really matter.
That’s because Rob, I think, was trying to make a higher point: how do we treat each other despite our differences? The greatest heresy, after all, is failure to love. Whether sex with somebody of the same gender is a sin was way down the list for the biblical writers and I think should be way down the list for us. At best the other guest and the host would have thoughtfully engaged if Rob presented the scholarship which is pretty easy to find, but even then the conversation is stuck firmly in the realm of judgementalism. It would still be about rich white straight guys determining for LGBT persons who they are and are not allowed to have sex with.
I genuinely think that, like Bell was saying, we need to start with love. Love for people like us and love for people who are different. Love for people inside our religious circles and love for people outside. Love for people, not for political stances on issues. That’s what the LGBT debate needs.