Rob Bell can be described in many ways–Christian pastor, bestselling author, Oprah favorite…. Heretic.
The latter label was bandied about when he published LOVE WINS and asserted that hell was only a metaphor Jesus was talking about and not an actual eternal destination. In the storm that followed, he left the church he had founded and went rogue from the Establishment.
This summer he and his children are touring the center of the US taking his message on the road. Saturday night my daughter and I caught him in St. Louis at the Pageant Theatre/club, a venue more often the site of boozy headliners than evangelists. But it was exactly the sort of place Jesus might have hung out in his day.
As a modest rogue Christian myself, who thoroughly enjoyed LOVE WINS, seeing Bell in person for a mere $25 sounded like an interesting evening out. It was a very low tech event–a large white board and only one colored marker provided the special effects. Mr. Bell strolled on stage in casual khaki clothes and didn’t even offer a showy costume change.
What he did offer was something we rarely see any more–ideas. He began his talk with the big bang theory and moved into the evolution of the universe, and the appearance of humankind. He presented a case for an ever expanding creation that must have some Divine Intelligence holding it all together.
He crossed into my territory when he explained everything as energy. Each person is one energetic being interacting with another energetic being.
Bell is a gifted, charismatic speaker who can be wise, humble, funny, self-deprecating and controversial. He spoke out against racism in the heart of city where Michael Brown’s death touched off national awareness of deep-rooted social divides. For me, Bell represents a Christianity that is actually following the example of Jesus, rather than perpetuating outdated concepts from stagnated religious organizations.
He spoke for two hours and never lost his audience. He is more teacher than evangelist and ultimately the message is simple. God is Love. Love is the greatest power of the Universe.
It’s not a new message, but it’s sure one the world needs to understand and embrace. So, from one heretic to another–thanks for an uplifting evening, Mr. Bell. I enjoyed it immensely.
Shining the Light–
Visit the Rob Bell website at RobBell.com
Read my review of LOVE WINS