So, Rob Bell has a TV show coming out on December 21. This is the most long-awaited show in the history of Christendom. Ever since he moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Laguna Beach, California, from churchland to Hollywood, we’ve been waiting for his show. His first show — a drama — was shelved. His second show has been worked and reworked since it was filmed last summer. And now it’s coming out.
Also, he’s got a new book out.
So what do you supposed is the evangelical reaction to the amazing success of one of its own? To disown him, of course!
First, Books and Culture, a journal I used to hold in high esteem, published a totally lame “satire” of an editorial board meeting about Rob’s new book. It meant to be funny, but all it did was smell like sour grapes.
Then Sarah Pulliam Bailey, a journalist whom I still admire, published an article called, “What ever happened to Rob Bell, the pastor who questioned the gates of hell?” She writes,
Now, the man who built a church of an estimated 10,000 people isn’t even attending an organized church. Instead, he surfs the waves near Hollywood and has teamed up with the goddess of pop theology, Oprah Winfrey.
Exchanging his evangelical bona fides for the blessing of Oprah may yet prove to be his most unforgivable sin, at least in some circles. Which is not to say that Bell cares very much what anyone says these days.
Since when do you hand in your evangelical membership card when you do business with a television star?
What’s odd about this for me is how quickly evangelicals embrace Christian athletes, movie stars, and singers. If you’re a rock star and you love Jesus, prepare to be on the cover of Christian magazines. And don’t prepare for people to ask if you’re a universalist, because no one will.
But if you’re a former pastor, prepare to be loathed. Maybe it’s professional jealousy, because surely it’s not theology. No way. If that were the case, then Books and Culture would have written satires mocking John Piper and T.D. Jakes long ago.
If you’d rather read something by someone who understands what evangelicalism is really supposed to be, check out this post from Danielle Shroyer:
If Oprah calls you up and invites you to share your thoughts on your faith, what kind of a moron would you have to be to say no? Would evangelicals really rather someone NOT be talking about God? Is it really that dire? Is Rob Bell so bad, so different from you, that silence is the better option? Because that’s what evangelicals currently have with broader culture: silence. Crickets. The vast majority of America has tuned them out. What kind of special prize do evangelicals think they are getting by not connecting with the very people they say they want to reach?
As for me, I welcome Rob’s success. A rising tide lifts all boats. And maybe he’ll catalyze a conversation about meaning, truth, God, and scripture that will ripple out and touch all of us who care about such things.