According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Gospel of Peace and Solidarity. Of Activism and Nonviolence.


What Do These Activists All Have In Common?
Rene Girard, Rob Bell, James Wellman, & James Alison?

Today I would like to create a brief, imperfect, sketch of several men and their movements which may be reflective of our postmodern times. Ahead of this let me express my apologies for the length of this post. One that might require a revisit or two in order to read through its entirety. However, postmodernism has brought to contemporary Christianity disturbing questions about our moral acts and actions, sociological ideas, and civic involvements. And to this have come many respondents - like the ones we'll review today. Who wish to reform humanity's global societies towards the more proper behaviors of tolerance and respect, mutual affection and listening, corporate solidarity and good will. Wishing to instill a climate of generalized human improvement across all the lines and divisions that would separate ourselves from each other.

A laudable task, I would submit, to each man and their method using Scripture to advance and support a variety of ideas towards their several themes and particulars. As each man or woman shares with us his/her vision of God amongst a humanity that is careless with its self, its resources, its peoples, and cultures. Now whether each separate vision is true or not, I'll let you the reader determine. But for myself, its a bit like describing the elephant in the room by a group of blind men. Each seeing some aspect of God, Jesus, or the Bible, describing what is important to their arena of interests and abilities. And like the Apostle Paul, I would say, "So be it. Let each man follow Christ as their hearts tell them so. They are our brothers in the Gospel of Jesus." (1 Cor. 1.12; 3.4)

So then, who are these figureheads, and what generally do they teach? Let's look at each one while asking the question, "Just what would each idea have to offer Emergent Christianity?" Or, asked another way, "In what way would each idea tell us how the Christian faith might become interlocked within the scope of human solidarity. And how by this activity would it undo the cruel institutionalizations of humanity's hatreds, wars, and intolerances?"


Rene Girard


Wikipedia Bio - René Girard (born December 25, 1923) is a French historian, literary critic, and philosopher of social science. His work belongs to the tradition of anthropological philosophy. He is the author of nearly thirty books (see below), in which he developed the ideas of:

  1. mimetic desire: all of our desires are borrowed from other people;
  2. mimetic rivalry: all conflict originates in mimetic desire;
  3. the scapegoat mechanism is the origin of sacrifice and the foundation of human culture, and religion was necessary in human evolution to control the violence that can come from mimetic rivalry;
  4. the Bible reveals the three previous ideas and denounces the scapegoat mechanism.
René Girard's writings cover many areas. Although the reception of his work is different in each of these areas, there is a growing body of secondary literature that uses his hypotheses and ideas in the areas of literary criticism, critical theory, anthropology, theology, psychology, mythology, sociology, economics, cultural studies, and philosophy

Publications - Here is a list from Amazon with several of his books below:


And a website link - Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary: Understanding the Bible Anew Through the Mimetic Theory of René Girard.

Observations

Rene's integrates his mimetic theory with his theory of divine scapegoating in his book, I See Satan Fall Like Lightening. Here he tells of the cyclical histories found in human history of diverting troubling ideas and messy societal turmoil by electing a person, or an idea, as the common cause that when put away will end the division occurring in a society, culture, or ethos. Examples abound, from Jesus, to Joan of Arc, to the American war in Iraq, to even end-of-the-world scenarios, what Rene would call types of "apocalyptic enders." So that, with the advent of personal, or societal, disruptions must come the sacrifice of an idea, an institution, a person, country, a social order, or an ethos, in order to sustain that society's previous identity of itself.

Another example of Rene's mimetic principal can be found in the idea of Christians making a religion out of their faith, and in the unconscious act of doing this, have created the ancillary affects of secular modernity sustained within society today. Paradoxically, when Christians have taken the words of Jesus and followed through on biblical principals they believed were true, these acts have resulted in secularizing the bible to one's needs and  wants (indicative, I think of our old man, or sin nature, that lives on underneath the renewing image of Christ regardless of our supposedly righteous acts when undertaken in our own prideful power or religious zeal):

In René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis, Scott Cowdell provides the first systematic interpretation of René Girard’s controversial approach to secular modernity. Cowdell identifies the scope, development, and implications of Girard’s thought, the centrality of Christ in Girard's thinking, and, in particular, Girard's distinctive take on the uniqueness and finality of Christ in terms of his impact on Western culture. In Girard’s singular vision, according to Cowdell, secular modernity has emerged thanks to the Bible’s exposure of the cathartic violence that is at the root of religious prohibitions, myths, and rituals. In the literature, the psychology, and most recently the military history of modernity, Girard discerns a consistent slide into an apocalypse that challenges modern ideas of romanticism, individualism, and progressivism.

In the first three chapters, Cowdell examines the three elements of Girard’s basic intellectual vision (mimesis, sacrifice, biblical hermeneutics) and brings this vision to a constructive interpretation of “secularization” and “modernity,” as these terms are understood in the broadest sense today. Chapter 4 focuses on modern institutions, chiefly the nation state and the market, that function to restrain the outbreak of violence. And finally, Cowdell discusses the apocalyptic dimension of Girard's theory in relation to modern warfare and terrorism. Here, Cowdell engages with the most recent writings of Girard (particularly his Battling to the End) and applies them to further conversations in cultural theology, political science, and philosophy. Cowdell takes up and extends Girard’s own warning concerning an alternative to a future apocalypse: “What sort of conversion must humans undergo, before it is too late?”

"Scott Cowdell's book is the first comprehensive study of modernity and secularity in René Girard's thought. Cowdell brings Girard's theory into a fruitful dialogue with leading approaches on secularization like those of Max Weber, Hans Blumenberg, Peter Berger, or Charles Taylor. Scholars and students of theology, philosophy, and sociology will benefit from this wide-ranging overview of the relationship between religion, modernity, and secularization." —Wolfgang Palaver, Institute of Systematic Theology, University of Innsbruck


Rob Bell

Besides being my former pastor at Mars Hill, Rob is a novel thinker who is passionate about his Christian faith when liberated from religious stereotypes and focused solely upon Jesus' message and mission. As we have followed along here before with many posts and commentaries (sic, Relevancy22's sidebars, Love Wins, Rob Bell), let me quote from several outside sources of Rob's passion and vision:

---

"Rob’s newest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, tells how God is described today striking many as mean, primitive, backward, illogical, tribal, and at odds with the frontiers of science. At the same time, many intuitively feel a sense of reverence and awe in the world. Can we find a new way to talk about God?

"Pastor and New York Times bestselling author Rob Bell does here for God what he did for heaven and hell in Love Wins: he shows how traditional ideas have grown stale and dysfunctional and reveals a new path for how to return vitality and vibrancy to how we understand God. Bell reveals how we got stuck, why culture resists certain ways of talking about God, and how we can reconnect with the God who is with us, for us, and ahead of us, pulling us forward into a better future—and ready to help us live life to the fullest." - Amazon Review

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"Rob Bell, Subversive? Celebrity? Radical? Heretic? Holy Man? Making the cover of Time Magazine, star of the influential Nooma series, game-changer in the church, and budding TV entrepreneur, Rob Bell has caused the entire evangelical world to wrestle with the scope of salvation with one daring question: who gets to be saved?

"For religious progressives, Rob Bell offers a passionate faith, a prophetic challenge, a biblical acuity, and a generous vision of who God is in the world. For conservatives, Bell’s the voice that young Christians are looking for—a person who takes science seriously, speaks at cutting edge of popular culture, and argues God is bigger than our language for him.

"The Christian message needs a new interpreter: one particular enough to embody the tradition but broad enough to evoke thought and feeling from a range of people, including evangelicals, religious progressives, and those disenchanted with churched religion—the spiritual but not religious, who find themselves compelled by Bell’s charisma and artistic creations." - James Wellman, Rob Bell and a New American Christianity


James Wellman

From his blogsite we discover that James Wellman is "an Associate Professor and Chair of the Comparative Religion Program in the Jackson School of International Studies. Teaching at the University of Washington since 2002, his areas of expertise are in American religious culture, history and politics.

"Wellman’s most recent book, Rob Bell and a New American Christianity (Abingdon Press, 2012), explores one of the most well-known and controversial evangelical ministers in America. Bell, up until 2011, led a 10,000-member megachurch, and is now pursuing TV opportunities in Hollywood. Bell’s artistry as a preacher, his fearlessness in pursuing various forms of media, makes him an ideal person to examine the future horizon of American Christianity.

"As Wellman wrote: "In this way, Bell is a postmodern evangelist--a slam poet, a Billy Graham type, who beguiles with words, images, and ideas about a beautiful Jesus, whose stories transfix and transduce words into flesh, making incarnation the arbiter of all value."

"Wellman’s other publications include an award-winning book, The Gold Coast Church and the Ghetto: Christ and Culture in Mainline Protestantism (Illinois, 1999); two edited volumes: The Power of Religious Publics: Staking Claims in American Society, with Bill Swatos (Praegers, 1999), and Belief and Bloodshed: Religion and Violence Across Time and Tradition (Rowman and Littlefield, 2007). His 2008 monograph, Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford University Press), received Honorable Mention for the 2009 Distinguished Book Award by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

"Wellman has recently completed editing a volume with Clark Lombardi, called Religion and Human Security: A Global Perspective (Oxford University Press, 2012). This volume examines case studies of the impact of religious groups on the human security of diverse global populations.

"His next book project, High on God: How the Megachurch Conquered America (Oxford University Press), is based on a national survey of twelve national megachurches, engaging quantitative and qualitative data from interviews with clergy and laypeople. The book explores the powerful affective forces within these congregations and is a fascinating portrait of the dominance of megachurches in American religious life.

"Wellman is a Presbyterian minister. He lives in the Seattle area with his partner, Annette Moser-Wellman, and their two daughters, Constance and Georgia, whom Jim calls his  bright and shining morning stars."


Sojourners

Sojourners is an activist group centered upon political pacifism and social causes for justice. In a book review on Rob Bell’s latest book (see below) Rene Girard's mimetic theories are tied in with Sojourner’s ideas of societal sacrifice, healing, and redemption. Their history is one of social struggle, ethnic diversity, international community, and call to renewal (as found in their website):

"Sojourners are Christians who follow Jesus, but who also sojourn with others in different faith traditions and all those who are on a spiritual journey. We are evangelicals, Catholics, Pentecostals and Protestants; progressives and conservatives; blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asians; women and men; young and old. We reach into traditional churches but also out to those who can't fit into them. Together we seek to discover the intersection of faith, politics, and culture. We invite you to join, to connect, and to act. Welcome to the community."


James Alison

A disciple of Rene Girard, British Theologian James Alison promotes the idea of forgiving one’s victim. Which is all-well-and-good but one which may reiterate a form of naturalistic theology authorizing man’s cultural lifestyles as the definitive hermeneutic for biblical exploration and derivation. As example, homosexuality is a natural instinct and is not a sin, which may, or may not be true, and one we've been exploring in our support for the rights of gender, and sexual preference and equality without actually addressing the question in the way that James Alison has been doing.

At which point you have to ask how this type of hermeneutic is different from William Webb's theistically-based Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic. Which is a biblical type of trajectory hermeneutic speaking to the moral progression found in Scripture unto this present day. Here, morals are viewed as a relative set of ethics that have been evolving through man's primitive histories. Where one set of morals is viewed in a certain way in the Old Testament until Jesus comes along and "uplifts" them towards another definition and meaning. And then the 21st century breaks out under postmodernity to challenge our contemporary structures of morals and ethos to reform yet again. Understandably, the problems this view presents are manifold.

However, Webb's definition, like Alison's, are asking some very hard questions about the moral sentiments and ethical practices of the Christian church as foundered outside of Scripture within its subjective network of religious folklores and traditional belief structures. Such that other Christians, organizations, and institutions, are saying perhaps we should re-hear Jesus on these matters. Asking questions of whether God condoned the very violence, injustices, and moral outrage we read of in the OT. Or whether we have somehow misunderstood that violence to actually be a mirror of that same violence found within our own wicked hearts?

But, then comes the question of why God would reveal Himself in this way? Or why He commanded Israel to commit violence against its neighbors? Or even why the holy men of Scripture wrote of God in this way? Is this God the same God of love, peace, mercy and forgiveness that Jesus tells us of? That Jesus demonstrates to us as God Incarnate amongst us? Who speaks a much different message to sinful humanity than He did in the OT when telling Noah of His plans to wipe out all of humanity in a massive flood? Where was God's mercy and forgiveness then? Are we to take these stories as literal evidences of God, or as comparative literature to polytheistic nations of Israel testimony of Yahweh? Which tells of a powerful God who spared Noah in a flood's devastation because he looked to God for his salvation and acted upon his faith? There are no simplistic explanations here when thinking through sovereignty and sin, free will and disbelief, purpose and meaning. Where people and religion are involved all is dark and murky.

So understandably, one can see the many interpretive problems we might have when relating the idea of divine revelation to that of static human reasoning. As such, Natural Theology is similarly based upon human reasoning and experience. But unlike biblical theology, natural theology is not based upon Scripture as revealed theology. Thus, natural theology must use human convention for its particulars and assertions, unlike Christian orthodoxy which states that God revealed Himself to His people in the Old Testament telling of His mind and heart, divine plans and purposes. Even as He did in the New Testament through the Apostles, and especially through His Son. Who is the second person of the Trinity, and very God Himself. And that this revelation gives to us the authority and assurance of a God unlike any we can imagine in our human souls. Which revelation and relationship and Spirit-imbued empowerment causes us to imagine, to collaborate, to envision, to reach out, in a thousand different ways and wonts searching for life's meaning and purpose, our responsibility in this life, for the human touch, hope, and peace, as centered in-and-around all things God and through His Son, Jesus.

Overall, it seems that Webb and Alison are asking the ultimate questions of the church. Just "what good is religion if it doesn't do much good?!" For them, Jesus, and the church's idea of God, must focus upon human morals and ethics if it is to have relevancy and meaning. That the faith of Jesus is a faith that not only changes people, but changes people's civic institutions towards the revolutionizing idea of doing good to one another. For the Naturalist it is enough that this effort is promoted and practiced. For the Christian, we see this effort as that and more. For God is our reality. And Jesus is the truer picture of the God of the OT. That our tasks are manifold spiritual, apocalyptic, societal, personal, regenerative, and redemptive. That in Jesus will come the Kingdom of God. And not by our own hands, but through our hands submitted to His Spirit of Love and Wisdom shall it be inaugurated. This would be the gospel of Jesus. One that resonates with the (spiritual) revisioning of the world for the solidarity of mankind in Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord.


Let Us Summarize

My reaction? Like Paul’s statements who once had said, “The one who is for Christ is our brother, not our enemy.” Whether it is Girard, Rob Bell, James Wellman, the Sojourners Community, or even James Alison, each are promoting Jesus in the light of their religious understanding of Scripture. An understanding that plays out differently to our temporal, moiling societies so locked into greed, pride, selfishness, and ambition.

Yes, I suppose we might debate their separate theologies, as being too earthy, too subjective, or too societally-oriented, and such like. But what is the point so long as Jesus is uplifted as the Life-and-Light of sinful mankind? And furthermore, the question of what good is religion if it doesn't inspire and transform our relationships with one another, is a significant one! This is a very legitimate question when reviewing the church's history of Muslim genocide in the Middle Ages; its cruel religious Inquisitions in Spain and Western Europe; its wars and lusts down through the secular Ages of the 19th-20th Century; its intolerance - if not outright advocacy of - slavery, domination, murder in witchhunts, extortions, bribes, power, pride and greed? Did Jesus envisage these as Christian acts (or as the gospel's acts) when saying "Love God and Love your neighbour?" No, I think not.

In fact, Jesus said that faith in Him, or the active practice of following His examples, will divide families and children from one another, even as they will divide churches and societies from one another. To expect political, economic, and sociological disruption while attempting to practice the arts of global healing, forgiveness, mercy, unity, and redemption. These are but some of the biblical themes one comes across when reading either the OT or the NT. Themes that divided Noah's heart. That disturbed David's sin. That caused Abraham to withhold his hand from sacrificing his son and to lay down his knife of disbelief before the God of love and reconciliation.

There is a solidarity that can be found in mankind. But its discovery will be from within the heart of the God whose image He has placed within us: a heart that seeks good. That practices love and thoughtfulness. That engenders peace and good will. That preaches a gospel of service and care to others. That epitomizes self-sacrifice and selflessness. A Christian theology that is amazingly convoluted, but one that makes me glad that I have taken the time to write down my observations of it, along with that of others different from mine own. Of what an Emerging Christianity could look like as it is pulled in a million different directions into nothingness by its many separate reformers and reformationsAn Emerging Christianity that continues to synthesize itself from the many disruptive, and caustic, movements pulling it apart towards fracturous results. One that is seeking to develop a central core of tenets that may lend the attitudes of Life-and-Light to its many separate causes and promotions of a contemporary Christianity growing within this present post-modern era of reflection and revisionism, post-structural deconstruction and reconstruction,  spiritual reformation and repentance. It is an emerging vision of inspiration to the power of the Spirit who can heal and bring peace.

These, then, are my thoughts and sentiments. What say you?

R.E. Slater
February 13, 2013



* * * * * * * * * * * * * *



More about Sojourner's Political Activism for Justice and Peace
http://sojo.net/


Rob Bell, via Rob Bell's Facebook page
Rob Bell on Facebook


A Sojouner's Book Review:
'Rob Bell and a New American Christianity'
http://sojo.net/blogs/2013/01/25/book-review-rob-bell-and-new-american-christianity

by Adam Ericksen 01-25-2013 | 11:17am

"Can we watch a video with that guy who has the weird hair and the dark rimmed glasses?"
- a member of my youth group

"Love wins the in the sense that God’s will is the reconciliation of all things - 
the soul, the body, the earth, the cosmos, and everything in it."
- James Wellman, Rob Bell and a New American Christianity, 59 

American Christianity is experiencing a theological shift. Many have tried to explain it, sometimes making the shift far more confusing than it actually is. Fortunately, the shift can be explained quite simply, and while it may be new to American Christianity, it is actually very old. Indeed, it dates back 2,000 years. The shift boils down to the two theological axioms of the New Testament, both found in the letter 1 John:

“God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” (1:5)

and

“God is love” (4:8 and 16)

Those statements, while simple, are far from simplistic. John was bold in affirming these statements. He knew he had to give it to us straight – probably because he and the other disciples had a hard time understanding what Jesus meant in his teachings and parables. So, John cut to the chase and simply claimed that Jesus reveals, “God is love and God is light. There is absolutely no darkness within God.”

That’s the shift within American Christianity, and Rob Bell is leading the way. I highly recommend James Wellman’s book Rob Bell and a New American Christianity as a great resource for anyone wanting to understand Bell’s biography, his role in the shift, and the admiration along with the fierce criticism he engenders. Personally, I admire Bell. I find his books, videos, and sermons a source of inspiration, as do many others. His appeal transcends generational gaps. Members of my youth group frequently plead, “Can we watch a video with that guy who has the weird hair and the dark rimmed glasses?” Interestingly, their parents like Bell, too. A few years ago I showed Bell’s video Rhythm to some adults of my church. They were quickly engaged by Bell’s artistic style and message. His fundamental point in that video, and throughout his ministry, is to teach what God is like. Bell says in Rhythm:
Jesus is like God in his generosity and compassion. That’s what God is like. In his telling of the truth, that’s what God is like. In his love and forgiveness and sacrifice … that’s what God is like. That’s who God is.
Of course, there are theological consequences in these claims. What does it mean to say that God is love? That God is generous and compassionate? That God is forgiving and sacrificial? Ultimately, what does it mean to say that God is light and in God there is no darkness at all? First, it means that God’s love is nonviolent. This changes our understanding of many Christian doctrines, including the all-important doctrine of atonement. Many believe that doctrine insists that God is holy and that sin offends the all-holy God. God’s wrath must be taken out on someone pure and innocent, and so Jesus saves us from God by sacrificing himself to God’s wrath. One of the problems with that theory of atonement is that it places darkness within God … but “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. But the question remains: What are we to make of the atonement and the sacrificial language of the New Testament?

Wellman states, “Bell believes that Christ’s sacrifice is not for God’s sake. Rather, it is the ultimate revelation of the innocent victim, the final scapegoat.” Then Wellman makes an important association by claiming that Bell’s understanding of atonement has been influenced by the French anthropologist René Girard. “Girard’s theory of scapegoating illumines how Bell negotiates this knotty problem … [Jesus’] death is not demanded by God, but made necessary to reveal the folly of humanity and the necessity to begin to love and forgive the enemy” (127-128). In other words, Girard helped Bell understand that it is not God who demands the violent sacrifice of Jesus. Rather, humans demanded it. The wrath was human, not divine. James Alison, one of Girard’s greatest students and who has a brilliant curriculum for the New American Christianity, states in his book On Being Liked, “Jesus revealed that God had and has nothing at all to do with violence, or death, or the order of this world. These are our problems and mask our conceptions of God…” (23).

What I appreciate most about Bell is his attempt to live into God’s non-violent love and forgiveness. If he is one of the most admired leaders of the “New American Christianity,” he is also one of the most criticized — one might even say demonized. With passionate furor, many accuse him of being a heretic, of leading people away from the true faith, and of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Bell has a particular way of not responding to these accusations, and Girard is helpful in understanding why Bell’s non-response is vital for the New American Christianity. Girard states that humans tend to imitate the violence and accusations committed against us. We respond to accusations with accusations of our own. “I’m not the problem! You are the problem!” Girard writes, “If nothing stops it [accusations and violence], the spiral has to lead to a series of acts of vengeance in a perfect fusion of violence and contagion” (Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, 17). The most important thing Bell teaches and models for the New American Christianity is to not participate in cycles of accusations and violence. Wellman states that in the face of these accusations “The takeaway for Bell [is] not bitterness or accusations. It is, as he consistently says in all sorts of venues, that the story is not done; your story, our story, my story is not done” (67). Bell’s response to the harsh criticism and accusations made against him is to ignore them and move on with telling the story.

Of course, the story is ultimately not Bell’s or ours. It is God’s. The reason Bell doesn’t defend himself by imitating the accusations against him is because he has faith that God is in control. Bell can be “in a non-anxious, non-reactive state” (Wellman, 85) with those accusations because he knows it’s not about him. Rather it’s about the God who is Love; the God who has nothing to do with the darkness, violence, and the accusations of our world. For Bell, this is the God of Resurrection. He says the resurrection tells a “better story” than the stories of violence and accusations. It is the story that “culminates in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whereby Christ reconciles all things to God. The power of the restoration of all things has no limit and works not only in the human body and soul, but also into the very roots of creation itself” (Wellman, 18).

The story of resurrection is told by the God of love who is restoring and reconciling the world back to God. We have the choice of participating in that story of nonviolence love and reconciliation, or not. If there is any substance to the New American Christianity it will look like the God who has nothing to do with violence and accusation, but everything to do with love, reconciliation, and forgiveness.

Bell is leading the way and I hope more people will follow. Wellman’s book is a great place to start.

Adam Ericksen blogs at the Raven Foundation, where he uses mimetic theory to provide social commentary on religion, politics, and pop culture. Follow Adam on Twitter @adamericksen.



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