Saturday, July 9, 2011

"You're Doing It Wrong"

This coming Wednesday our group will get together again. And among other things, we plan to discuss Rob Bell's book Jesus Wants to Save Christians. When his recent book, Love Wins came out I thought to myself the former was a much more controversial book.  I wondered, "why wasn't there much protest about that one?"  Well, I guess Rob Bell wondered the same thing. Listening to Bell's interview recently on the Homebrewed Christianity podcast he said as much.

In Jesus Wants to Save Christians, essentially Bell calls out every American Christian and says "how could someone on the right side of the most powerful empire the world has ever known be able to understand, much less take correct action in accordance with a story told from the perspective of a people under the boot of the empire."  He says loud and clear, "You're doing it wrong" and then gives lots of examples of how to do it right. It is a book about orthopraxy (correct action). Love Wins, on the other hand, is a book about orthodoxy (correct belief).

I've had some time to think about this and I have a working theory. There seem to be lots of folks that think you have to say the right things, regardless of what you do. If you can recite the creed, or the statement of faith from your tribe, you're in. If you don't, "stay out". It's that simple. Say the right things and we will give you the key to the city. One person recently told me this was his experience of the ordination process. He said, "You have to take a set of approved classes and fill out a document with particularly worded questions about right beliefs. You set before a committee and are questioned further. Very little is discussed in regards to the fruit (or doing) in one's life". The ironic thing is that Jesus said to people, "come, follow me and find out what real life is about." They didn't have to pass a litmus test before joining. For more on this, try googling the terms "bounded set" and "centered set".

Now don't misunderstand. Beliefs are important. They inform how we act. We need both; a balance of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. It just struck me odd there was so much controversy over something that when you read it, there's nothing that is too outlandish. Now mind you, the publisher not sending out pre-release copies of the book and putting out that provocative video didn't help matters. Some Christians are pretty dependable to do stupid stuff when they get worked up. It's just that Jesus Wants to Save Christians seems much more provocative. I'll be curious to get other's ideas on this. Otherwise, Wednesday we will try to discern what it means to faithfully follow Jesus. Hope to see you there.


Darvin said...

I was disappointed in the conversation about 'Jesus Want's to Save Christians'. We had an important conversation, and learned important things about faithful living, but we wandered from Rob Bell's thesis, it seemed to me. I was interested in learning from the other readers how they thought we should be Christian citizens of an 'empire'. How do we relate to the state, especially if the state mirrors the behaviors of the ancient Egypt that enslaved Hebrews, or King Solomon's Israel, which was characterized by self-serving greed, slavery, and an international arms trade. What does it mean to worship a God who is active in redeeming all people? To what extent do we submit to any nation's demand that we serve national self-interest, which may come into conflict with God's global interest?

Lon Marshall said...

I too was disappointed we wandered. It looked like Carolyn had some good notes to share. These are good questions you raise. Especially in light of current events. I heard someone today offer a unique interpretation of Matthew 25, saying that the original language leaves open the possibility we will be judged as "nations" verses individuals. He said this idea of individualism is a product of the enlightenment and the scripture is a pre-modern text. Community was a more common lens to view the world. If this is so, we may have good cause to be nervous with our history of colonization and genocide, slavery, greed, war and now the apparent lack of attention to "the least of these..." Beyond avoiding judgment is the joy of joining God's global interest. Hearing Bono talk about One, and (Red) at the U2 concert last week stirred my imagination and begins to address your questions. I'd love to hear your ideas?