The release this week of Rob Bell's new video clip exposed the ugly side of mainstream Christianity. The pastor and author from Mars Hill is taking shots across Twitter and blogs for discussing the themes of his new book, Love Wins, which questions the idea of eternal hell and whether a loving God in rescuing the few, would send the many to eternal torment.
What kind of a God is it that Jesus would need to rescue us from?
I'll leave the arguments for Bell's position to Rob himself and to his new book, but I will say that it sounds pretty reasonable to question the notion of an eternal hell. I personally doubt it. Does that make me unChristian?
In my honest moments I find it hard to decide whether I gave up the exclusive claims of Christianity because I found inclusiveness more godly or simply because I wanted inclusiveness to be true. Either way, I am now on the outside of the church looking in. And it's not a bad place to be.
Falling in love with someone of a different faith, being a stranger in a foreign land or simply having a child can change you and your beliefs. It's harder to be black and white about truth when you step out into the world and love those who are different from you.
I wish that the stone throwing in Rob's direction would stop. Before his book is even out, he has been subjected to accusations of changing the gospel and of being a false teacher. So if his beliefs don't exactly conform to your definition of Christianity, you get to call him a heretic and unsaved?
I am not sure how the stone throwers were able to put an exclusive claim on the "Christian" label for themselves. Is it not enough to love God, love your neighbour and strive to follow the way of Christ with all of one's heart? It has taken centuries for the ideas of Christianity to be worked out with many differing versions unfolding and revealing themselves throughout its history. Does that mean those with whom you disagree are not true believers?
The shrieking and backlash against someone who questions a basic belief is a part of fundamentalism and conservatism that I may never understand. What is it that they are they so afraid of? Losing the monopoly on truth?
I haven't been in this world as long as many others have, but I do know this: when there is a choice you want to err on the side of compassion, not on the side of condemnation.
We all have areas where our beliefs don't conform to the majority; this doesn't make our beliefs false or mean that we are unsaved. It makes us individuals. Our secrets and our differences are what make us human.