Rob Bell’s Comments on Marriage Equality: Some Thoughts…

Rob Bell has done it again!ASSIGNMENT #65477

I really thought one of my next posts would be a review of Bell’s new book, What Do We Talk About When We Talk About God which I am just finishing up reading now

It’s not…

I woke up this morning to see the “blog-o-sphere” exploding both for and against comments made at Grace Cathedral church when Bell, in responding to a question about marriage equality, responded:

“I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”

Upon hearing the comments the progressive evangelical bloggers celebrated…

…the conservative Evangelical bloggers gnashed their teeth.

At the heart of Bell’s statement though is his obvious desire to move past an issue that is preventing the church from being the Body of Christ bringing life and “good news” to the world.

Bell is by nature an “affirmer”.  He loves people and has expressed in the past that love for people has not been something that the church has, by and large, been identified with.

He says in his new book:

“over and over again we see him (Jesus) going to the edges, to the margins, to those in trouble, those despised, those no one else would touch, those who were ignored, the weak, the blind, the lame, the losers… He  moves toward them, he extends himself to them, he reaches out to them”

Progressive Evangelicals shout “Yes!”

Conservative evangelicals shout “Yes…but…”

There is a growing voice in Christianity that doesn’t want to be defined by theological litmus tests.  That doesn’t mean we can’t engage in theological discussions on matters that we feel are important…it’s just that maybe we should be a little more humble and gracious in how we describe people who differ from our interpretations.

Jesus was constantly approached by the religious leaders of the day to find out where he stood on theological matters.  Not only did he refuse to get entangled in conversations designed to entrap him…sometimes he refused to say anything at all.  Instead, he focused on bringing mercy and forgiveness to people who were on society’s edges.

This drove the religious leader’s crazy because (usually) religious leaders are not found at society’s edges.  They are part of the mainstream, the inner circle, “the system”.  Religious leaders, both then and today, are happy enough to give charitable scraps to people living on the edges but go “bezerko” when those same people are brought from the edges and given a seat at the table.  Something the Shane Claiborne’s, Tony Campolo’s, and the Rob Bell’s tend to do.

In fact it will have the religious community screaming for your crucifixion!

I look at Bell’s comments and see at the heart a motivation to engage with a group of people that have been traditionally ostracized in church circles.  Let’s face it, gay people are viewed with contempt within much of the Christian church.

Contempt is a horrid thing!  The Pharisee’s were full of contempt and Jesus took issue with it many times including Luke 18:11 “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.”

Sometimes we forget that the man who gave us the book of Proverbs, which is often the foundation of many “daily devotionals”, was a guy who had 300 wives and 700 concubines.  Put another way, King Solomon could have sex with a different woman every evening and not see the same face for 3 years!  And somehow his sexual lifestyle didn’t seem to keep his books (Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) from being recognized as sacred scripture.

I have not always agreed with Rob Bell theologically.  Heck, I don’t always agree with my closest friends, my wife, or even sometimes myself, theologically but I will not break communion with someone who claims Christ as his King and seeks to share his love and life to others.  To do so is to show contempt for the Table of the Lord.

And I’ve already shared with you my thoughts on contempt…

I’ve seen some people in the “blog-o-shere” say not only has Rob Bell stopped being a Christian for stating this position on marriage equality but that he wasn’t even a Christian to begin with!

God forbid!

If you disagree with Bell, that’s fine. I think he would even encourage it.  But when we disagree, even if we disagree quite strongly, can we do so with a humility that NONE of us have a clear picture, and a graciousness that seeks to reconcile rather than separate?

And again, let’s keep contempt out of the discussion entirely!




  • Margaret Wunschl

    This is an issue I have struggled with for some time now. If marriage is denied to two people who love each other, they are either faced with sin outside of marriage, or a solitary existance. I don’t support rampant promiscuity, but know people of the same sex who have longterm, stable, loving relationships. I choose to love them for the wonderful people they are. It’s not up to me to stand in judgement of them. They have to live according to their conscience and allow God to judge someday. All that’s expected of me is to be a loving reflection of his son Jesus.

  • Steve

    Thanks for your gracious comment Margaret!

  • I agree, this ship has sailed, we need to learn to love and not condemn homosexuals. We have to get over the Bible-bashing, ‘I’m going to attack you with Scripture because I think my lifestyle is better and I want political power’. Much of the Church has also failed the world on the abortion issue, angrily proclaiming that abortion is murder while condemning and attacking the women who have abortions. Some ‘Christians’ are downright nasty to anyone who says, ‘hey, hold up here, you’re being a jerk’. I believe that we should value life at all ages, especially the mothers who don’t feel like they have any other option. We need to learn how to love EVERYONE, including the mothers, fathers, abortion clinic doctors…everyone.

  • Sherry Markwart

    Finally figured out the comment link.
    Thanks for posting this Steve, I really appreciated your thoughtful post.

    For me, this was one of the best parts of the broadcast:

    From the audio at Grace Cathedral Sunday March 17.
    Rob Bell, commenting on the backlash by Christians against him and his book “Love Wins”

    “800 million people in the world don’t have access to clean drinking water. Another statistic I heard, a million people committed suicide last year; we have rather large problems on our hands. When a Christian wakes up in the morning and the best exercise of their God given energies is shredding another Christian who is trying to do something about these issues, I begin to think some Christians need to be saved.”

  • Darcy

    I agree 100% with your post. I think we should all focus on our own planks a bit more and let God be the judge. What I find particularly hard is that once someone in the church opens up about being gay they will be on their way out – of the church, not the faith necessarily. In my experience, they are immediately kicked off any volunteering they do for the church and are encouraged to keep “their struggle” a secret.
    On a more general note, I have been a lurker on your blog for a bit now and just wanted to state how much I love, love, love your blog. It’s better than church.

  • Steve

    Stephen: Thanks for the comment. Yes, we need to extend charity especially to those with whom we disagree

    Sherry: You bring what is really important back front and center. Thank you!

    Darcy: Most kind! Thanks! Glad you are no longer “lurking” 🙂

  • Quite a difference between your blog and facebook reactions. 🙂

  • Derik

    I like Rob, must say. He gets a really bad rap, and he definitely doesn’t choose touchy topics to launch into, but someone has to. I find his “false teacher” rap rather funny, since, when the bible warns against them, the context is either those who bring people under law (like the ones Paul had issues with) and those the bible says will “deny the truth” and even reject Jesus himself.

    Having a look through their church website, and listening to Rob, it is quite clear that he is pretty much the opposite of those two camps. Rob Bell, by the power invested in me, I hereby declare you “not guilty” haha 🙂

    Looking back into church history (preaching at the choir here I know) we can’t forget how the church justified apartheid in South Africa (where I am from), killing jews, war crimes (still happening), male superiority, woman wearing hats in church and staying quiet, etc etc. It’s a long list.

    Asking these questions is healthy, if not a must. For us to be more relevant to those who need it.

    Thanks Steve, great blog brother!

    • Steve

      Great insight Derik and I’m sure Bell will be happy to know you’ve pronounced him “Not Guilty” 🙂

  • Mel

    “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”

    If I saw this on a friend’s FB, I don’t think I would make a fuss about it because it says nothing about gay marriage – Just love. I love gays, I have gay friends, but I DON’T agree with homosexuality. Do I condemn them? Heck No! Same as I don’t condemn myself when I undress a woman in my mind. I think its subtle to confuse loving homosexuals to loving homosexuality. This may lead us to being passive with the later which is wrong because Dad, because He loves us, told us so.

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