Monday, March 21, 2011

Radical ...

... but not extreme: Rob Bell's intervention in the often ugly world of American evangelicalism. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"Will everybody be saved, or will some perish apart from God forever because of their choices?" Bell asks. "Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact. We don't need to resolve them or answer them because we can't, and so we simply respect them, creating space for the freedom that love requires."

This seems reasonable to me. We do well to acknowledge there are questions we cannot answer. I must say, though, Mark's disparagement of American evangelicals seems clichéd and unfair. I met and talked with many when I wrote for The Inquirer's religion page. None that I encountered came close to matching the media caricature.


  1. Maybe it's the point of view and the setting. I've met many evangelicals who are just as bad as the media portrayal. I've met a few who were not, but the majority were. Of course, that too is point of view and setting, since in many instances they were vociferously attacking myself and my friends. The position of the observer matters a great deal, as Einstein said.

  2. It may also have something to do with locale. My experience has been with people from around here. Many were also African-Americans. I've never encountered anybody like that crazy Fred Phelps character and I just don't feel comfortable with all evangelical Christians being tarred with the same brush. And tolerance is a two-way street.

  3. I agree. The Black evangelicals I've met have usually been a lot more affirming and inclusive than their, shall we say, "white trash" equivalents. I've been to Black pentecostal and gospel-choir services more than once, where the emphasis has always been on praise rather than condemnation, on rapture rather than hatred.

    Whereas most of the evangelical groups and individuals I've run into here in the Midwest have been far more hateful, condemnatory, and so forth. Fred Phelps is only an extreme example, but not an atypical one.

    Tolerance is indeed a two-way street. I'm willing to tolerate anyone who tolerates me, and my mere existence as a gay man. When that tolerance is not forthcoming, I feel no guilt about not offering love where is there no love in return. I don't offer hate, I just don't offer anything.

    And mere "tolerance" is neither acceptance nor genuine brotherhood. Tolerance is merely refraining from hatred, it's not active acceptance nor is it always openly welcoming.

    In some (not all) of those Black churches I've felt genuine affirmation, whereas in the white evangelical churches at most I've ever felt an uncomfortable, wincing tolerance.

    So, yeah, I'd say it has a lot to do with locale. LOL

  4. Well, if I may revise myself a tad, tolerance may be a two-way street, but it's hardly an ideal. I do not merely tolerate my gay friends. I love them.