Rob Bell Wants You to Take Communion More

Bo has posted about his recent interview with Rob Bell:

In the most recent episode of Homebrewed Christianity, I asked Rob Bell what he would do if he were starting from scratch again.  I was particularly intrigued for three main reasons:

1) I actually am starting a new gathering so I wanted to pick his brain.

2) Bell is so creative and innovative – who better to ask?

3) His answer was somewhat surprising:

I would have Eucharist alot. And I would make it really clear to everybody that the Eucharist is our only hope. Because otherwise, there’s a thousand forces – the entropy is overwhelming…preferences and particularities…there are a thousand ways for a church to go in all these different directions – you end up just barely being able to hold it all together. But if you have the bread and the wine, and on a really regular basis, you put the bread and wine on the table and you say “Okay everybody – here you go: Body broken, blood poured out…”

I find this very intriguing. First because at Solomon’s Porch — and at just about every emergent church I know — the Lord’s Supper is practiced weekly, so why didn’t Rob implement this when he started Mars Hill?

Second, whenever I talked to the leadership of Mars Hill, they showed a great disdain for anything “religious,” which is why they didn’t recite a creed or the Lord’s Prayer or a weekly benediction. But there seems nothing more religious than the Eucharist.

And third, this seems a lot like the argument of Radical Orthodoxy, an extremely conservative vision of the church. I wonder if Rob has been influenced by that school of thought.

  • Bo Eberle

    If Rob has an affinity for RO it would be like finding out Mister Rogers was a serial audulterer. Traumatic. Doesn’t seem like Rob hates poor people, gay folks, or Islam, so I think it’s unlikely.

    • http://adammoore.us Adam Moore

      I know Rob wrote a very favorable review of Sara Miles’ book, and her approach seems similar to what he is saying here. I know that a review doesn’t necessary mean anything, but this might be more of his influence than radical orthodoxy, etc.

      • http://adammoore.us Adam Moore

        And by “review” I actually mean “blurb.”

  • http://www.scottevans.ie Scott

    Though I understand why this is surprising for people to hear and raises questions about why he didn’t do it more at Mars Hill, he has my admiration for acknowledging it now as part of his learning process.
    It’s rare that you hear those who start projects that are somewhat reactionary see and voice a weakness in their practice, especially if the weakness is a strength in the movement they emerged from.

  • http://simotasia.com/words Collin Simula

    As someone who went to Mars Hill for a long time, and still go back when I visit my mom in Grand Rapids, I think it’s interesting what you say about the leadership at MH.

    We sang mostly hymns (albiet a little more contemporary). Did tons of call-and-response reciting. Rob and the other teaching pastors gave pretty awesome benedictions every Sunday. We sang Doxology at the end of many services.

    I didn’t grow up in liturgical churches that much, but for a megachurch it seemed Mars Hill had a pretty good grasp on liturgy.

    That being said, I wish that we’d have done communion every service like you said.

  • Ric Shewell

    The best thing about this post is that you pulled out an old pic with his bleached hair. A subtle critique, well played.

  • Dopderbeck

    Bo, I’m not sure where you’re getting that caricature of RO from, but clearly you haven’t read Milbank or Ward or Hauerwas…. (Well, ok, maybe you’ve seen one or two of Milbank’s less sanguine quotes on Islam, but the poor people and gay thing is a strange reference..)

    In any event, RO gets its concepts about the Eucharist from the tradition of Eucharisitc theology that spans 2000 years, which is hardly just a contemporary “very conservative” reactionary thing.

    • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

      Well to start it’s funny you put Milbank and Ward in the same sentence in light of Milbank’s more or less disavowal of Ward as a RO guy in light of his sexuality and political stance about equal rights. But, without writing a paper about the atrocious biases of RO, here is a nice little piece by Philip Blond advocating for throwing poor people into military academies
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/10/labour-right-support-military-academies

      Or this piece by Milbank and Blond about a society with “the right kind of inequality” (as if this is really a possibility… oh, just let Rowan Williams decide)
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/27/inequality-opportunity-egalitarian-tory-left

      And here is a correspondence from Milbank with some brilliant quotes like “”in terms of contemporary positions I would be classed as extremely ‘conservative’: against abortion, experiments on foeteses, against any idea that homosexuality can be the subject of equal rights, in favour of the importance of sexual difference, critical of liberal feminism, and holding the opinion that the separation of sex and procreation is in effect a state capitalist programme of bioethical tyranny etc etc. ”
      http://politicsofthecrossresurrected.blogspot.com/2010/09/john-milbank-on-radical-orthodoxys.html

      Let’s leave aside the “clearly you haven’t” accusations, as well.

      I apologize to Tony, this is a post about Rob and Mars Hill, but nonetheless if Rob is influenced by these folks, I think it bears further speculation.

    • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

      I should have added that Milbank hates women, as well. My mistake.

    • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

      I realize you must study with Milbank, so I would be interested in a hearing in which you offer some kind of defense, though this may not be the forum for it.

      • dopderbeck

        Well, these comments are just silly, not informed by careful reading of the literature, and I’m not sure how to “defend” against silly, uninformed comments. And of course, “RO” as a sensibility encompasses folks like Graham Ward and Hauerwas and others, which utterly falsifies this silliness. Shall we say that Hauerwas, because he emphasizes the centrality of the Eucharist and associates with RO, likewise hates women, gays, and the poor? None of which is to say that I agree with everything Milbank has ever said on sexuality issues (perhaps I’m in some ways more “liberal” and in some ways more “conservative”).

        • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

          Well, a typical sidestep! I’m not sure my longer comment with the links was moderated… my favorite is the email from Milbank saying “RO is essentially this…” and throwing Ward under the bus along with feminist and pro-gay rights advocates. Such a rich school of thought!

        • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

          How you made the leap from those who emphasize the Eucharist to hating gays I have no clue. I certainly never implied that the eucharist had anything to do with that. Rather “We shall say” that those who want to throw the poor in military academies hate the poor, those who argue against reproductive rights hate women, and those who do not support basic human and civil rights for GLBTQ folks “hate the gays.”

          • dopderbeck

            Um, I didn’t make that leap, you did, from Tony’s post. Emphasizing Eucharist = RO = hating gays.

            Shall we really say all that you’ve said here? So anyone who opposes abortion for any reason “hates” women, and anyone who questions gay marriage for any reason “hates” gays? What a load of crap.

            We will, however, agree on the inanity of Milbank’s suggestion about the military academies!

        • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

          I’m not making the facile argument that anyone who opposes abortion hates women (my language is a bit hyperbolic), but someone who says “the separation of sex and procreation is in effect a state capitalist programme of bioethical tyranny” clearly is harboring an ideology that is oppressive to women (I hope you check out my above links). Furthermore, stating that “gay marriage” is essentially an oxymoron and “ontologically impossible” rings of certain sentiments of anti-abolitionists who insisted blacks simply couldnt be (ontologically) “as human as the white man.” If one holds these positions (as most in the RO camp seem to, or at least Milbank implies they do), then I do not think it is a far cry to say they “hate” these people on an objective level (as opposed to “subjective” hate which is more akin to explicit and personal feelings of disgust toward a group). Indeed, even if an otherwise very caring and sincere person opposed civil rights, even if they thought it was in the best interest of African Americans, then I would say that on the same kind of “objective” level, they are being violent and hateful. So I think I stand behind my allegation that RO, in general, is hateful towards the poor, women, and GLBTQ members of society. Hate does not refer to a feeling, but an ideology or program that seeks to systematically oppress a particular group or groups.

          • dopderbeck

            I am against abortion and experiments on fetuses. Does that mean I by definition objectively “hate” women? I think not.

            I tend to agree that the (complete) separation of sex and procreation is a bad development that has led to the debasement of women, men, marriage, children, and sex, and that has helped facilitate destructive industries such as pornography and crudely banal popular media. Does that mean I objectively “hate” women? I think not.

            I tend to agree that the ontology of “marriage” involves created biological difference. Does that mean I objectively “hate” gay people? I think not.

            I think, rather, that your immediate association of all these views with “hate” reflects a wholesale and uncritical acceptance of the modernist notion of absolute liberty and a correspondingly libertarian concept of the good. These libertarian notions, I think, are antithetical to Christian concepts of freedom and the good. If anyone objectively “hates” women, gays, and everyone else but him or herself, it is the absolutist libertarians among us.

            Would I state these things as Milbank has? Certainly not. I am, for one thing, an American lawyer and not a Cambridge Brit establishment type, so my views on Church and State will differ. Could I theorize an ontology of marriage that might allow for “difference” between same-sex couples? Perhaps, but that would involve lots of philosophical and theological work that as far as I can tell hasn’t yet been done (the debate is so often framed as you have framed it, in starkly libertarian terms that have nothing to do with Christian concepts of a society of love). Does Milbank’s reference to contraception sound way too much like some of the extreme right-wing Catholic critiques of Planned Parenthood that you can find on some crank websites and videos? Yes. I am not Catholic, and I have trouble at present understanding the Catholic ban on birth control even for married couples. But I agree with the general sensibility that the complete separation of sex from procreation and family life is a bad thing. And I think all this stems from love, of people in their wholeness in relation to each other and God, in contrast to the libertarianism of modernity, which is a form of hate.

          • dopderbeck

            On your effort to separate Graham Ward from RO, BTW, that just won’t fly. See, e.g., the interview of Ward in the innaugural issue of the journal Radical Orthodoxy: Theology, Philosophy Politics: http://journal.radicalorthodoxy.org/index.php/ROTTP/article/view/61/18

            I very much appreciate a number of things Ward says in that interview, for example:

            One of [RO's] great achievements, and it’s not divorced from ecumenicism we talked about earlier, is what I would call an ethic of friendship. It began in friendship, the friendship between John [Milbank] and Catherine and myself—which is as strong now as it ever was which means that we have the means to be critical of each other without the bond of friendship ever being broken in that. I’m sure they see the limitations in my work and in me as a person and I know I’ve been critical of their work. Nevertheless, the friendship remains.

            And:

            Now the great achievement [of RO] has been that this friendship has multiplied, partly because it drew in students immediately, students who felt that they were intellectually curious and students who were unsatisfied with how things were presented to them before. I’ve had students from Fuller [Theological Seminary] who were beginning to come to the end of certain evangelicalism and enter to a kind of ‘Emergent Church’; I’ve had students from Calvin College. All of them though have recognized that things are changing, that the old lineaments ofCatholic versus Protestant, Evangelical versus Liberal—these labels no longer pertained and should not pertain. These students are saying, “I was brought up in a certain tradition and I’m starting to see the limitations of that tradition. I want to open my self up to new, different possibilities.” It’s always been a place where people can come and reside for a while and then they can choose, this is why it can’t be a movement for me, there isn’t a belonging. The belonging is open to everyone for however long they like. They take from it what they want and then they go to wherever it is they want.

            A lot of students, particularly the American students I’ve had, have all found it hard to find a tradition to belong to after. I remember going to give a talk at a seminary in Vancouver which was quite Evangelical. A number of the students were interested and wanted to learn more. It was something they hadn’t heard before, it was being proclaimed in the name of Christ in a way that recognized but it was a different kind of proclamation that resonated but they didn’t really know much about it. When I talked to them they said “I’m thinking about coming over to the Catholic Church,” or “I’m thinking about becoming an Episcopalian,” “I’m thinking about joining the Greek Orthodox Church.” They were all in transit; they were recognizing some of the limitations of their own tradition and realizing that there were far broader horizons, more profound horizons to which they could actually associate themselves. I think that’s the great hope of the ecumenicalism, not that there will be one and we’ll all agree on everything but that there can be an openness and that we should know that none of us one the tradition.

            Well said, Graham! If Rob Bell is looking in that direction, amen!

          • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

            You have a very hard time making arguments instead of simply appealing to your own authority. We all study theology and history, here! I like the new format though.

            You say: “This sentence is incoherent. You seem to think that anyone who is disadvantaged by a law is a “victim.” That mean we can’t have any laws at all.”

            I never claimed that those who are disadvantaged are across the board victims. It is, however, I absolutely stand firm with the claim that all laws are in place to inhibit the generation of disadvantage via victimization. I’m sure you’re a fine lawyer, but your ideology seems to be creating some kind of conceptual block here. “Good order,” contracts, etc…. all the examples you invoke, that are no classified as “tort” are all less explicitly concerned with protecting potential victims… victims of unkept contracts, victims of bad due process, victims of impingement, etc. Because of repeated, basic use of the word “victim” you seem to take it in some dramatic sense. No, it is simply someone who is unjustly treated.

            You say: “Religious values, and in particular Christian values, significantly changed the Greek and Roman sexual culture that was its context in the 1st – 4th century, including the explicit (Greek) or tacit (Roman) acceptance of sexual relations between men and boys (particularly juvenile male slaves).”

            This is actually a point I may concede, however it is not as powerful as you think. Values that preclude rape and pederasty are certainly not unique to Judeo-Christian history, as this seems not to have been a problem in the East. Regardless, with the inbreaking of these values as the official values of the Roman Empire, “Christian” sexual values left a devastating legacy as well- the hatred and suppression of both women and women’s sexuality. Pederasty may have been put to a relative halt, but as an accident of an overall prudishness that lead to different kinds of horribly unhealthy sexual attitudes and practice that abide even today (believe it or not!)

            You say “Clearly you dont know what ontology means.”

            Here, you equivocate once again. I accuse you of magical thinking, and you’re guilty. The medieval sense in which you make ontological distinctions presupposes actual “categories” of things with ontological difference, not merely a gradation of biological difference, i.e. there is a hard difference between a “person” and a “non-person.” I say that these distinctions really don’t make sense, and this idea of “personhood” itself has a Christian history going back to Nicea, grounded in an archaic substance ontology. I should not have used the language myself. I simply said that an infant is different from a fetus in its biological capacity, there is no need to bring in “ontology.” If the category is “Person,” and you arent saying Homo Sapien Sapien, but “person,” you are invoking a kind of ontology that relies on the substance being present in one thing and not another. I don’t think this is true. Nonethelss, the abortion topic is incredibly charged and complex and we won’t agree. I don’t really care about certain biological organisms and you do. The main point is that the way you use “ontology” makes it irrelevant except as a function of language. There aren’t substances in some things that put them in one category and not another.

            The last two points you make about marriage aren’t even really points, you simply trivialize by point to “Serious scholars who write in support of gay marriage from a theological perspective admit those differences and try to describe how they are not the exclusive basis for “marriage” and/or how same sex relationships can involve analogous differences.” Who these people are, I have no idea. The point is not to say the “Women are like X” and “Men are like y,” I don’t know any p[roponent of gay marriage who admits that and tries to get around it. Whatever combination XY that is important for a good relationship can obviously be present in a male+male, female+female, or male + female relationship.

        • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

          Ok point by point:
          A.) I said that if you oppose women being able to have a say in how there body functions at a reproductive level, you are engaging in women hating. I did not say if you oppose experimenting of fetuses or oppose abortion (we agree that third trimester abortions are probably wrong). Birth control, early term abortions, etc. are another matter completely.
          B.) “I tend to agree that the ontology of “marriage” involves created biological difference. Does that mean I objectively “hate” gay people? I think not.” Look, what I am pointing to is akin to the distinction Zizek makes in “Violence” about “subjective” and “objective” violence. Subjective is punching someone in the face, objective is participating in an oppressive system (like global capitalism), and objective violence is the far more dangerous threat. If you think that “marriage,” an cultural creation, maps onto biological difference, presumably through appeal to an archaic religious value system, then I still hold that you are objectively generating oppression even if you are not actively feeling “hate” towards these people. I find this talk of absolutist modern “liberty” conflicting with Christian tradition to be an incoherent attempt to suppress equality. We’re talking politics and how to engage in a world not just composed of Christians, so damn straight I take equality, liberty, etc to be absolute when it comes to making sure everyone has access to the same sorts of rights. Religion cannot be invoked to claim ontological inferiority of a group of people.
          C.) Why we need an “ontology” of marriage I have no idea. Doing so seems to require a level of essentialism that is bound to exclude countless human beings. It suppresses difference and novelty as far as I can tell. Either that, or an obsession with gender roles makes thinking of “difference” seem trivial. I don’t know.
          D.) How “love” needs to be tied to making a family or creating children I have no idea. Why those things shouldnt be a free choice of love and not a requirement I cannot imagine.
          E.) All this “right relation” to each other and God in opposition to the “evils” of libertarianism seems to be a shield or guise for nothing but a particular conservative ideology. Who can possibly say what these “right relations” are? That’s why we’re libertarian politically when it comes to these things. Rowan Williams, the Pope, John Milbank, Tony Jones, you, me are not qualified to delineate any constraint on evil libertarianism.
          F.) You missed my point about Ward entirely. Milbank disavows Ward, that does not mean Ward is not RO. It simply is emblematic of the bigotry and strife present in the movement itself, and serves as an example of oppression within the movement. Other than that, good on Ward.

          • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

            As an addtion to E.), if you want to remove the utter freedom and “libertarianism” from love then you’re removing the condition of its possibility. The only “evil” of libertarianism, as you’re using the word, is that it’s risky and can be abused. But without that risk, we have no right relation to begin with, no chosen relation.

          • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

            Last thing: the only way I can begin to understand “the evils of libertarianism” is via Zizek’s (and others) critique of liberal democracy, where we’re all obsessed with our private spaces, not being offended, encroached, etc. Yes, that’s awful and we’re all worse for it. But that kind of critique is certainly not implied in a broad, prima facie assertion of absolute equality (as Ranciere, or heck, Thomas Paine argues). Equality and liberty, not privileging some over others for “ontological” reasons, is no critique of modernity in itself, in fact that is one of it’s greatest legacy’s. Should we all be in disjointed relation? No. Is that disjointedness a consequence of “libertarianism” wherein apparently ontological differences are ignored? No.

          • dopderbeck

            Bo, I think the conversation here about Ward vs. Milbank has clarified that it isn’t “RO” per se that you have a beef with, it’s some of the more extreme things Milbank has said, and how that reflects a strand of some RO folks who start to spin off in oppressive directions. I don’t disagree with you there.

            Otherise, I think this conversation helpfully has now come to center on what I think is our main difference: the nature of “libertarianism.” I think your defense of absolutist libertarianism here is confused and mistaken.

            In your last comment, you said “damn straight I take equality, liberty, etc to be absolute when it comes to making sure everyone has access to the same sorts of rights.” Well, I bet you don’t really mean that. For example, should a pedophile have access to the same rights of freedom of assembly, speech, and movement as someone who is not a pedophile? No, we should not let pedophiles hang around the school playground unsupervised.

            Now, at a more basic level, accused pedophiles ought to have the same due process rights as anyone else prior to conviction. But we rightly, justly, and necessarily say that after conviction, the liberties of pedophiles can and should be restricted.

            There are myriad less extreme examples of ways in which what we might think of as individual liberties are rightly, justly, and necessarily restricted for certain people. Society could not function otherwise; a society of truly absolute liberty would be a society with no law or order at all.

            Now, you might say that liberties should not be restricted based on what you deride as entirely socially constructed “essential” characteristics. But if you want to make that move, you run into numerous problems. Take again the example of the pedophile: I could quote you and say, “if you think that our resistance to child-adult sexuality, a cultural creation (after all, the Greeks and Romans thought child-adult sex sometimes was ok), maps onto biological difference (such as a neurological-psychological predisposition to pedophilia), presumably through appeal to an archaic religious value system, then I still hold that you are objectively generating oppression even if you are not actively feeling “hate” towards pedophiles.” And so, to be consistent, you would have to argue that it is immoral and unjust to restrict the liberties of convicted pedophiles in any way. I don’t think you want to make that argument.

            On the flip side, consider your comments about early term abortions being “another matter altogether” from late-term abortions. Why? The principled answer offered by pro-choice advocates is based in a presumed ontological difference between the early-term fetus and the adult mother — the fetus isn’t yet fully a “person.” If the fetus was fully a “person,” then we would have few qualms about restricting the adult mother’s liberties with respect to that other person. And so a mother or father cannot lawfully kill a baby or child after it has been born, and can be compelled to provide for the child’s care. That is certainly the distinction made in the American Supreme Court abortion jurisprudence.

            You can’t have your cake and eat it too: if you want to posit that ontological difference as a basis for abortion, then you have to allow for the possibility of other kinds of difference as a basis for legal distinctions.

            As a near-absolutist concerning restrictions on abortion, my argument is that conception instantiates a new and unique human being, and that precisely this difference is what allows for and requires reciprocal community between the mother, father, family, society, and developing fetus. This community, which ought to be a community of life, prescribes killing the fetus without extraordinarily rare and compelling reason.

            Similarly, I would argue, it is the difference in marriage that allows for the community of marriage. And this sense of difference-in-community, in marriage and in society more broadly, reflects the Trinity. That the Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct “persons,” and that the Son stands under the Father and the Son and Spirit proceed from the Father, is not a relation of oppression or violence, for the three persons are one in essence and interpenetrate each other without division of being or will. The Son and Spirit stand in relation to the Father not in “libertarian” freedom but in the perfect freedom of love. And that Trinitarian freedom is exactly what instantiates true society, because it is from the love of the Trinity that creation itself is instantiated.

            We could go on and on and on with examples of how “difference” is required for true “community.” Take as a very mundane example a simple contract of exchange: you run a farm that produces eggs, and I run a farm that produces vegetables, and I trade you a share of vegetables for a share of eggs. This kind of free and open exchange can only happen because of some difference.

            Again, coming back to marriage, does this mean it’s entirely impossible to develop a moral theology of marriage that would encompass some form of gay marriage? Perhaps not, but if we are taking this seriously from a Christian theological framework it can’t be based on a libertarianism that violently erases all difference and thereby prohibits authentic loving exchange. But that is what I personally have yet to see.

        • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

          I just hope others can see the extreme equivocation going on here. When I assert equality, the response is “Well, I bet you don’t really mean that. For example, should a pedophile have access to the same rights of freedom of assembly, speech, and movement as someone who is not a pedophile? No, we should not let pedophiles hang around the school playground unsupervised.” Obviously, when someone speaks of equality, what is implied in any kind of civilized non-straw man discourse is that victims are not being generated. The disturbing implication here, then, is that in the same way pedophiles dont deserve equality, neither do GLBTQ individuals because apparently they are also transgressing a kind of law.

          The way you proceed is just facile in its overlooking of basic principles of society. We create laws to protect potential victims. Bringing in the pedophile is a conservative fetish that is just ridiculous. No one would argue that archaic religious values have overturned normal sexual relations between men and boys. Ancient societies lacked the kind of laws that protected the weak and vulnerable, prime example: children. The problem is that kids cant make those kind of decisions, and studies show that sexual experience is generally too traumatic for them. No need to invoke religion here. To be consistant I need not protect pedophiles, murderers, or, let’s invoke Godwin’s Law: Hitler. They all generate victims. GLBTQ sexuality and marriage are clearly not even in the same ballpark. Your idea of consistency is absolutely untenable.

          As for abortion, I’m again dumbfounded by your argument. Ontological difference? I do not assert such a thing, I attack you for it. I simply say that a fetus dependent on its mother is not a person. When it is a separate entity, or could survive as one, I think there is a distinction. Not ontologically, but biologically. Your use of the word “ontological” seems like a euphemism for magical special god force.

          lastly, your argument about marriage community in no way excluded homosexual relationships. There is no reason any combination of genders could not enter into such a contract and community. Similar sex organs do not equal homogeneity, I hate to break it to you. Radically different individuals of the same sex enter into relationships. You seem to reduce “difference” to penis’s and vaginas. I don’t know what’s with that. If you really want relationships to mirror the Trinity, along with the conservative insistance that God is more like a “He” than a “She” I would suggest you think about the “ontology” of male homosexual three way relationships.

          • dopderbeck

            Equivocation: pot calling the kettle black, friend!

            You say: Obviously, when someone speaks of equality, what is implied in any kind of civilized non-straw man discourse is that victims are not being generated.

            I respond: This sentence is incoherent. You seem to think that anyone who is disadvantaged by a law is a “victim.” That mean we can’t have any laws at all.

            You say: The way you proceed is just facile in its overlooking of basic principles of society. We create laws to protect potential victims.

            I respond: You obviously don’t understand the law. Law is not only, nor even primarily, about “potential victims.” Nor is “society” only, or even primarily, about “potential victims.” I’m not sure what “basic principles” you think you’re referring to, but they clearly have nothing at all to do with the Western tradition of “society” stemming from the Greeks and running through the present.

            “Society,” historically, has always been about the concept of the “good life.” Law helps order society towards a concept of the good life. Many laws — perhaps the vast majority of laws — have to do with principles of good order and not only or primarily with “potential victims.” This includes much of the first year American law school curriculum, for example: contracts, property, civil procedure, and the bulk of constitutional law. Even in subjects that deal directly with “victims” — torts (a subject I teach in the first year curriculum) and criminal law — a great deal of the jurisprudence is about good order and not just “potential victims.” In the second year curriculum, there are foundational courses in corporate law and tax, which again are more about good order than “victims.”

            Now, it is of course true that in all of these subjects there is a jurisprudential concern for ensuring fairness, and to that extent even contract and corporate law help prevent innocent people from being victimized by fraud, etc. But to say that these subjects are primarily about “victims” is just absolute nonsense.

            You say: No one would argue that archaic religious values have overturned normal sexual relations between men and boys.

            Wrong. Religious values, and in particular Christian values, significantly changed the Greek and Roman sexual culture that was its context in the 1st – 4th century, including the explicit (Greek) or tacit (Roman) acceptance of sexual relations between men and boys (particularly juvenile male slaves).

            Ancient societies lacked the kind of laws that protected the weak and vulnerable, prime example: children.

            Partly true, partly wrong. There were some laws that protected to some extent what the Greek and Roman cultures viewed as the weak and vulnerable, but not in the way that we today would say is adequate. But, correct that the Roman idea of the Household allowed the Patriarch pretty much unfettered discretion to abuse everyone else in the familia, particularly women, children and slaves. And a principal reason that began to change was the influence of Christianity, which valued the “lower” parts of society more than the Roman law. (It began to change — we will agree that early and Medieval Christian law also retained vestiges of the Roman sense of hierarchy).

            You say: As for abortion, I’m again dumbfounded by your argument. Ontological difference? I do not assert such a thing, I attack you for it. I simply say that a fetus dependent on its mother is not a person.

            I respond: clearly, you don’t understand what “ontology” means. For if a “fetus dependent on its mother is not a person,” then you are in fact asserting an “ontological difference” between the fetus and the mother. A “person,” of course, is a particular kind of being, which is what “ontology” is all about; and if one kind of being is a “person” and another kind of being is not a “person,” then you are asserting an “ontological difference.”

            You say: lastly, your argument about marriage community in no way excluded homosexual relationships. There is no reason any combination of genders could not enter into such a contract and community.

            Well, there are some reasons why it might not be the same kind of “community.” Whether those reasons are compelling is another matter, which you simply haven’t addressed. A “contract” is a different matter, and whether “marriage” is merely a “contract” is another argument (it is not).

            You said: You seem to reduce “difference” to penis’s and vaginas. I don’t know what’s with that.

            I respond: Well, no, I never said any such thing. Certainly, those are “differences,” but they are connected to a broader set of differences, which in turn are connected to reproduction and the family. Nobody who is serious about these issues will just deny those obvious differences. Serious scholars who write in support of gay marriage from a theological perspective admit those differences and try to describe how they are not the exclusive basis for “marriage” and/or how same sex relationships can involve analogous differences.

            You said: If you really want relationships to mirror the Trinity, along with the conservative insistance that God is more like a “He” than a “She” I would suggest you think about the “ontology” of male homosexual three way relationships.

            I respond: First, nothing I said about the Trinity implies anything at all about “the conservative insistence that God is more like a ‘He’ than a ‘She’”. It is simply basic Trinitarian theology, which is perfectly compatible with and in fact supports the “traditional” understanding that God in esse is not gendered (what you describe as the “conservative insistence” is neither “conservative” nor insisted upon by any serious Trinitarian theologian). Second, to suggest that the Trinity is analogous to a homosexual three-way relationship shows that you aren’t really serious about either the Trinity or gay marriage. I don’t know of any Christian theologians who advocate for gay marriage who would make such a stupid comment.

            Here’s what I’d suggest: if you’re really serious about these issues, study some history, law, and theology, and then come up with coherent arguments that do more work than shouting “victim!” as loudly as possible. It can be done; people have done it, even if some other people like me don’t find all their efforts persuasive.

          • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

            See my comment from above that starts “You have a very hard time making arguments “

  • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

    “Our only hope,” says Bell? I revere bread/wine sharing in sacred gathering, but to over-emphasize the eucharist and its partaking and hyperbolize its place and “power” . . . yeah, it’s radical.

  • http://umcworship.blogspot.com Taylor Burton-Edwards (@twbe)

    Except “you put the bread and wine on the table and you say “Okay everybody – here you go: Body broken, blood poured out…” is not the Eucharist.

    It is the RESULT of the fraction WITHIN the Eucharist.

    But the Eucharist per se is not these things.

    This isn’t a trivial quibble. It goes to the heart of what Christians have used the term “Eucharist” to describe.

    The Eucharist is our corporate sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God for all that God has done to save us.

    It is not primarily a teaching tool. It is not primarily a message. It is not primarily a symbol.

    It is primarily our act of sacrifice in union with Christ’s offering for us.

    And in acts of sacrifice, particularly in sacrifices of thanksgiving, what is offered is then shared by all who offer it.

    We offer ourselves spiritually and bread and wine materially, that the Spirit may make the material gifts be for us the body and blood of Christ, and we, receiving them, may be the body of Christ redeemed by his blood.

    And so what we share among ourselves is body and blood of Christ AND ourselves as re-membered body of Christ.

    • Chris

      Oh gheesh, this is an obnoxious response. Way to bend his words to make them objectionable.

  • Lee P.

    As a new Christian in an Episcopal church where we take communion weekly, I just think it is amazing. It’s an amazing ritual and I try to take it as much as possible (Wednesday mid day service, etc.).

    It’s one thing to know something in your head — in your mind. But it is another to go through with an act. The ritual. It solidifies everything for me. Ties it all together.

    Church history is rife with one group taking one thing too far, then some group splinters off and then that group then goes too far in demonizing (call back to the demon post!) that thing. Do the Eucharist as much as you can. It’s badass.

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Lee, I’m totally with you on the value of partaking. While I’m not one who places much emphasis on sacraments, there’s nonetheless a deep solemnity in the experience of in-taking tangibles (the bread and wine) while sharing in the spiritual reflection that attends sacred gathering, in which the material communion can facilitate the spiritual communion. And the Episcopal Church, in my opinion, is the Mozart of western eucharistic liturgy.

  • Evelyn

    Rob Bell probably figures that if everyone is drunk on communion wine they’ll see no problem paying $500 to go surfing with him and listen to his crap.

    • http://whateveryoudo.ca David

      That was an overwhelming edifying response, Evelyn.

    • Kenton

      I knew it! Evelyn hates the Lord’s Supper!

      • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

        That’s because all he ever makes is bread. Borrinnnnnngg.

      • Evelyn

        I don’t “hate” the Lord’s Supper but I have a strong distaste for it for multiple reasons:

        1) The act of communion itself involves parishioners walking down an aisle toward an altar (the relic of animal sacrifice), getting down on their knees, and holding out their hands to receive the bread and the wine. This action looks like the parishioners are begging the clergy to give them God. It is not indicative of the “priesthood of all believers” but places the clergy in the position of God-distributors.

        2) I’m opposed to the sacrificial rite and the notion of sacrifice because it is used as a once-a-week (or less) stand-in for good behavior on a daily basis. The liturgy leading up to the communion is framed in the language of “sacrifice”. Jesus is described as a “Pascal” sacrifice to God. It is believed that this sacrifice can be made and communion can be taken as a form of atonement for sin. We know that this atonement is only momentary, if at all, and it says multiple times in the bible that it is better to obey than sacrifice.

        3) Communion has it’s origins in the story of the last supper and my reading of this part of scripture is that Jesus is throwing up his hands in frustration because his disciples actually thought that he wanted to celebrate Passover. After teaching them to love their neighbor as themselves, the disciples turn around and ask Jesus if he wants to celebrate a holiday that commemorates the killing, by the Spirit, of all the first-born of Egypt. This not only says that God is a murderer or that killing the slave-owners is the proper punishment for enslavement but that once learning that an Egyptian neighbor might be killed (no matter the offense), the fact that the enslaved Jews did not help save the lives of the Egyptians is to be celebrated. This is inconsistent with Jesus’ concept of God.

        4) Communion also has it’s origins in ancient ideas about cannibalism. Taylor says in his comment: “We offer ourselves spiritually and bread and wine materially, that the Spirit may make the material gifts be for us the body and blood of Christ, and we, receiving them, may be the body of Christ redeemed by his blood.” This is a rationalization of the ancient idea that if you eat the body of an esteemed member of your society then you partake of dead esteemed person’s glory. I don’t believe in this brand of cannibalism and I think it is disgusting.

        5) Communion has it’s origins in a sacrificial meal that the early Christians shared but they also called their weekly Sunday meeting a “sacrifice”. I think the sacrifice in this case wasn’t a physical one but revolved around the concept that they were sacrificing their time (instead of working in the fields or at their trade) to speak to each other about God and share in community. It is difficult to connect this notion of a sacrificial meal with the actual killing of a living being for the sake of a blood-thirsty God.

        6) I also find it hypocritical that a church would claim (in the little leaflet they hand out at the beginning of the service) to be willing to bless their parishioners if the parishioners do not want to take communion but then the clergy (who are active sinners, by the way) act like it is SUCH AN IMPOSITION to have to bless someone at the altar. Don’t bother trying to discuss this with them because they will act as if I was imagining things but this doesn’t respect each parishioner’s personal relationship with God.

        I don’t mind eating a wafer and taking a sip of wine but when the ingestion is tied into a sacrament with the liturgy of the Eucharist the only statement that I would be making were I to do it is that people are spiritual failures and are stupid. I prefer to believe that life is a spiritual journey towards God and don’t want to pretend to give up on anyone while they are walking their path. The Eucharist is not the way I commune with my concept of God and I don’t think Jesus intended it to be what it has become.

        • Curtis

          There are may ways to administer the Eucharist. My grandparents’ Methodist church used to partake of communion by everyone passing the bread and grape juice down the row of pews and serving their neighbor. This addresses objection 1 and 6.

          Objection 2, 4 & 5 are based on the historic ties of communion to animal sacrifice and cannibalism. But such metaphors about Jesus are used throughout the Bible. If you have a problem with Jesus as the Lamb, doesn’t that introduce a problem with the concept of Jesus in general?

          Objection 3 is based on the fact that the disciples didn’t know what the hell they were doing. Which pretty much sums up Jesus’ relationship to the disciples. And his relationship with us as well. So, in the end, communion symbolizes we don’t really know anything. I can’t think of anything more meaningful than that.

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Took the words right out of my mouth Evelyn.

    • Frank

      Wow Evelyn, R Jay and I all agree on something! Miracles are possible!

      • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

        I’d say “Hey, hell just froze over,” but I don’t believe in hell. (I hope this didn’t just ruin our moment, Frank.) ;-)

  • Lee P.

    Can’t we do it with pizza? If Jesus had pizza would he have offered mere bread?

    “Take this bread, which has been enhanced with sauce, cheese and pepperoni, and eat it in remembrance of me.”

    • Evelyn

      Well, sure, if that was all the Eucharist was about. Unfortunately, there is a lot of language leading up to the Eucharist that frames Jesus as a sacrifice to a blood-thirsty God. I have no problem thinking about Jesus while eating pizza.

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      So long as I’m drinking it with a glass of Shiraz or Malbec, then hell yeah to pizza!! And I don’t even mean that in jest. Reverence can be experienced without ritualization. Pizza and wine as the meal during fellowship would be abundantly relevant, particularly given its belovedness in our American culture.

  • Lee P.

    It was just a bad joke. But hey, the bread is his body, the sauce is his blood, the cheese can be his skin and even pepperonis — they can be his wounds!

    Give us this day our daily pizza and forgive us out trespasses.

    On a serious note as a skeptic I would deride the Eucharist as an odd cannibalistic ritual but now I am a big fan.

    • Evelyn

      I realize that it is fun to act like a cannibal but it is demonic not to take God seriously. I don’t judge you for this given that people are demonic all the time and get away with it just fine but the sardonic form of ecstasy becomes insanity when taken to the extreme. This thing about the cheese and pepperonis is just eeewww.

  • http://jonathanbrink.com Jonathan Brink

    I wonder if Bell holds this view because he has found the deeper meaning of the Eucharist, one that is often (but not always) stripped of meaning in the traditional church. The Eucharist is typically thought of as God’s tangible representation of sacrificial love for us, which it is. The act becomes one of an event that we recognize in history. But it is rarely seen as God’s invitation to follow into that sacrificial love as a way of life, something that becomes present reality in our way of living. And it is this love that reveals the Kingdom of God we are all looking for in church.

    In 2006, Rob held the Isn’t She Beautiful conference. His talk on the Eucharist (http://morethanstone.blogsome.com/2007/01/26/isnt-she-beautiful-the-eucharist/) was at the time revolutionary. We sat in the audience and collectively said, “Can we actually believe this way. That the Eucharist is an invitation to a deeper way of life?” He got a lot of flak for that talk. But it fundamentally changed my view into something much more wholistic.

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  • David

    “I find this very intriguing. First because at Solomon’s Porch — and at just about every emergent church I know — the Lord’s Supper is practiced weekly, so why didn’t Rob implement this when he started Mars Hill?”

    And as do most “mainline” churches like the Episcopal, UCC, PCUSA etc. Oh and Roman Catholics. I am not sure about Easter Orthodox churches. The point is it seems quite common to take Communion weekly/frequently and that mainly evangelical protestantism seem not to, but even there many Calvary Chapels have Communion every Wed night and one Sunday.

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