On Thursday I had the opportunity to go to a Q+A with Rob Bell at the University of Michigan for the release of his new book Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality And Spirituality. And before anyone freaks out let me give you a portion from the introduction of the book to help you understand where Rob is coming from.
It’s always about something else.Something deeper. Something behind it all. You can’t talk about sexuality without talking about how we were made. And that will inevitably lead you to who made us. At some point you have to talk about God.Sex. God. They’re connected. And they can’t be separated. Where the one is, you will always find the other. This is a book about how sexuality is the “this” and spirituality is the “that.” To make sense of the one, we have to explore the other.And that is what this book is about.
Because the book had not been released at the time of the Q+A, it was hard to ask anything about the book, but there was plenty of other questions that were able to be asked. There was a lot of things that I walked away with from this session, but a few of them really stuck with me.One of them was in regards to Rob’s stance on non-violence. I had heard the sermon series he did entitled “Calling All Peacemakers” via the Mars Hill Bible Church podcast. And Kimmy and I were able to be there for the first of that series when we went out there for our 11 year anniversary. And that series was a look into the idea of Jesus and his teachings on non-violence. (For more on the subject you can also read Walter Wink’s book, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way) The one thing with Rob’s teaching that I continually questioned was how in the Old Testament there are many instances where God tells Israel to go in and utterly destroy a nation (people, animals, everything) and why it is such a stark contrast to what Jesus taught. Well, Rob was asked this question that night and he said that there was two schools of thought on this.The first one is that God really did not tell Israel to do any of that. But then he pointed out that if you believe that, then you really call into question the authority of Scripture. So he didn’t buy that one.The other one is that due to the barbaric nature of the culture in that era, that the “myth of redemptive violence” was the prevalent mindset of the day and when Jesus came into the picture he called for a change to it. Which got me to thinking about something. I like to do a read through the Bible every year and I just got done reading Leviticus and I remember thinking over the past several weeks how bloody church services where back in the Old Testament. Well, then it hit me when Rob said what he said. Not only did Jesus call for an end to the sacrifices in the Temple as a part of or redemption for sins, but He also called for an end to our ways of redemptive violence. He was introducing us to a new way to do things, not just in the Church but also in how we live with one another.One of the other things that hit me during the Q+A time was from a question a guy asked about how can we get people who are addicted to substances to realize their need for God. This guy said that he worked with people in that area and one man he talked with said that he wanted nothing to do with religion or Jesus, because he had seen all of that before. Rob went onto to say that when he turns on cable TV and sees people who talk about Jesus, that he rejects the Jesus they are talking about. He talked about how he knew a woman who was raped by her father and during the whole time he would recite the Lord’s Prayer and he can understand how she would reject that Jesus. He then shared a story about a woman from his church who invited a guy in her neighborhood to church and this man said that he would never go to church, because when he grew up in Bosnia a group of “Christians” gather up the Muslims in that area and took them into a building and shot them all dead with machine guns.I had always thought about the fact that people reject Jesus, because they have not been shown the real Jesus. But I never really thought about it like when Rob pointed out that people are just rejecting the Jesus they have seen, not the necessarily the true Jesus. He then pointed out the following in Matthew 22:1-10….
Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. (TNIV)
And how in that passage Jesus is saying that just because you think that you have a ticket, doesn’t mean that you will make it to the banquet and that there will be people who are going to make it that you never thought would. But the reality is that we who call ourselves Christians need to be very careful about how we are representing Jesus. And I think that the following two verses are very key to achieving that mindset….
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35 (The Message)Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4 (TNIV)
So needless to say that I walked away with a lot of stuff going on in my mind. They also showed us the newest NOOMA video entitled You. It was good just like all of his NOOMA videos are. Then at the end of that we were able to go and get Rob’s autograph, so I had him sign my copy of Sex God that I bought before the Q+A session. I am looking forward to reading this book and will be posting my review here as soon as I am done.As you can see, Rob is such a conservationist that he even conserves by eliminating a “b” from his name when he signs!