Here’s a bit of the article from Huffington Post (original embedded links removed):
Rob Bell, the widely popular and controversial former megachurch pastor, is now convinced that a church doesn’t support same-sex marriage will “continue to be even more irrelevant.”
Bell made the comments on an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday, where he appeared with his wife Kristen to talk about religion and spirituality.
“One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness,” Bell said. “Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.”
Bell notes that Christianity is evolving and that many Christians have already opened their hearts to the idea that two people of the same sex would choose to journey together.
In fact, he says the church’s acceptance of gay marriage is “inevitable.”
“I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life,” he said.
Bell’s convinced that a church that doesn’t support same-sex marriage will “continue to be even more irrelevant.” More irrelevant? In other words, churches are already irrelevant, and rejecting same-sex marriage will make them more irrelevant. That’s kinda like saying “Standing in the rain makes you wet. If you dive into the pool, you will be more wet.” Or maybe even: “Being a former megachurch pastor makes you irrelevant. Appearing on Oprah’s network makes you more irrelevant.”
Right off the bat, Bell tells us churches are no longer relevant. Forget any formal institution – just be spiritual. This way, you won’t expose yourself to hearing something that might challenge you. This is the guy, if you recall, who wrote “Love Wins” back in 2011, in which he basically denied the existence of Hell. He’s on a tangent moving farther and farther away from traditional Christianity.
He goes on to say: “One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness. Loneliness is not good for the world.” Hmmm. Sounds a bit like Genesis, where God said: “It is not good for man to be alone.” So what did He do? HE MADE A WOMAN! And between the two of them – Adam and Eve, that is – besides ushering in sin and all that junk, also brought about the human race. One man, one woman, complimentarity, fecundity, sex, pregnancy, babies, peoples… Even if you don’t buy into the creation story, there’s plenty of evidence in nature that species propagation requires a dude and a dudette.
So I get the “being alone” thing. God understood the “being alone” thing. But being alone isn’t loneliness. I know plenty of married folks who endure loneliness, even when their spouse is sitting next to them on the couch – I’m sure you do, too. And I know plenty of single people who aren’t lonely. Loneliness isn’t merely a physical state of being. It’s metaphysical, borne from not being in a right relationship with the God who created us, with the Savior who redeemed us, with the Holy Spirit who renews us.
Where Bell says “Loneliness is not good for the world”, he’s right. It isn’t good. Except he has the wrong solution. Marriage isn’t about curing loneliness. If the cure for loneliness is marriage, then why is there divorce? Or porn? Or adultery? Or ’50 Shades of Grey’? ’50 Shades of Grey’, imho, shows that loneliness really does exist in marriage, but that’s a discussion for another time. Marriage isn’t about having “someone to go on the journey with”. That’s Hallmark card romanticism, a chick-flick pick-up line, sappy sentimentality that ignores the hard reality about marriage. Marriage isn’t a journey; it’s a freaking battle. Every.single.day. A married couple can be nose to nose – or back to back – just as much as they can be shoulder to shoulder.Overcoming loneliness is a rotten reason to get married. At its very core, Christianity holds that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, to bring forth children and raise them. At its very best, Christ lives in the center of that marriage. He is the cornerstone that sustains it, and renews it.
Yeah, so what, says Bell. Christianity is evolving. Christians are becoming comfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage, so that those couples can journey together and live in a land where no one judges them, and where churches will accept them, affirm them, and tell them God is okay with their decision. Christians are devolving to a point where feelings are the highest good, where the greatest sin is not being permitted to act on those feelings, or made to feel guilty when they do act. Even if said actions are wrong. Objectively wrong. In-the-eyes-of-God wrong. Cos judgmental.
That’s not the Christianity I know. Christianity is hard, full of hard truths. Where we are called to die to self, carry our cross, and follow the way of the Lord. It’s also full of mercy and forgiveness, charity and justice. Where we will be judged upon our deaths. Where we love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. Where we admonish the sinner. In other words, Christianity is a paradox, and it reaches Full Paradox within the Catholic Church. Every teaching, each truth – firm and enduring, yet held in delicate balance. Like a stone arch – each block relying upon the others for strength and support, and each one important in its own right, each one wholly necessary. Remove one, and the entire structure weakens. Remove too many…well, you could end up writing a book about the ZimZum of Love and Marriage, which is rather far afield from the Christian idea of marriage. It’s the Church who affirms the dignity of the person, even when the person is immersed in sin. It’s the Church who accepts the worst of sinners into her arms – as she has done for 2,000 years – and loves them into full communion by saying, Repent and believe in the Gospel! Yes, people already in the Church can be asshats and be bigoted and such – because guess what? The Church accepts the worst of sinners, like asshats and bigots, and loves them into full communion too, and they too are called to Repent! And believe in the Gospel!
Bell saying churches will be “irrelevant” is akin to saying “They are on the wrong side of history”. 2,000 year old letters are on the wrong side of history (except for parts he agrees with. Funny that), and churches that rely on them for their best defense will be irrelevant. Which is interesting, because the best defenses for one man+one woman marriage aren’t scriptural and religious, but basic common sense.
Though I do have a question about Bell’s remark: at what point did those 2,000 year old letters stop being the inspired word of God? Before or after Oprah called? Just asking, you know?
The Church has always had flesh-and-blood people in front of them who “just want to love one another”. Divorce and remarriage (without annulment) has a similar history – and the Church continues to grapple with it today, within and without. Think Synod of the Family. King Henry VIII had his closest friend St Thomas More executed over it. Was More irrelevant? Not at all – he saw the problem through the eyes of the Church, who observes trends and times with her gaze solidly fixed upon eternity. The here now is important, yes, but not nearly as important as the hereafter. Again, that paradox thing. That delicate balance.
The battle over same-sex marriage is here to stay, regardless of how the Supreme Court rules this summer, regardless of how many denominations approve of it.
And the Catholic Church, regardless of how “irrelevant” it is to Rob Bell and those who think like him, will continue to teach the truths of marriage, and will always be here, even if she’s the last one standing. And as the storms rage and the sands shift and the battles rage, many will be glad that the Church, guided by and protected by the Holy Spirit, didn’t waver.