Life is an Endless Invitation: Q&A With Rob Bell

Life is an Endless Invitation: Q&A With Rob Bell October 1, 2020

In Rob Bell’s latest book, “Everything is Spiritual: Who We Are and What We’re Doing Here,” he delves into the questions that have shaped his life and work. Bell, a New York Times bestselling author and renowned speaker, has written ten books. This one is deeply personal. The book explores how ideas like creation, love, and connection shaped his own faith journey, and how it also shapes our own.

Bell took the time to answer a few questions about his new book, the critical moment we are living in, and how we should be responding to it. These eye-opening responses may provide compelling insight into understanding your purpose and place in the world.

What inspired/called you to write “Everything is Spiritual”?

Everything. Literally. Art, quantum physics, ancient wisdom, all of the strange and heartbreaking and extraordinary things that I’ve experienced along the way. For so many, life is a scattered series of regrets and events with no particular coherence or point. I set out to write about my life and the evolutionary, unfolding life of the universe to show that there’s a pattern, an arc, a deep unity to this strange experience that we’re all having here. Spirit is in all of it-the good, the tragic, and everything in between-bringing new creation out of it. I wanted this book to feel less like a read and more like a ride like you’re caught up in some strange, mysterious mojo that helps you see it in a whole new way. We’re the newest layer to emerge in this 13 billion-year-old universe, and when we-humans, all of us, everywhere-come together, something new emerges, something the universe has never seen before. Who doesn’t want to be part of that?

How would you say that our current moment draws parallels to biblical history?

This moment is not new. There have been countless moments like this current one-many of them far more severe than this one-in history. And there are patterns, wisdom, insights that moments like these all share. We aren’t flying blind here. We don’t have to wonder what’s going on as if no one has ever been through anything like this. There are thousands of connections between this moment and the Bible. One of the central themes of the book of Leviticus is living sustainably on the land. The great evil of Egypt in the book of Exodus is the rich stockpiling their wealth, which inevitably leads to someone, somewhere being oppressed. One of the things the prophets spoke out against the most was the danger of a widening gap between the rich and poor. And in the gospels, at the center of the life of Jesus’s people was the Roman occupation, which was a deeply dehumanizing experience. If you read the Bible and the implications and connections with 2020 aren’t endless and immediate, you aren’t reading the Bible. It’s about politics and economics and the earth and dignity and violence-everything we’re talking about right now.

Systemic oppression has existed throughout history. What do you think are the primary reasons why systemic oppression still exists today?

Fear. Fear based on the belief that scarcity and lack are the fundamental engines of the world and so you have to fight for your piece and then stockpile extra, all the while making sure you protect your stash from others. This is why a robust understanding of the generative, abundant nature of the universe is so central to a new ordering of the world. There is enough. There always has been enough. The earth can provide. There can be more just and generous distribution of the abundance. All of this is possible. This is why the word justice is written so many times in the scripture. Justice is about everybody having enough. We can do this, we can reimagine how the world is ordered.

How do you believe we, as people of faith, should be responding to this crucial moment?

Everybody everywhere has faith. That’s not something one group has that others don’t. That’s exactly the kind of thing Jesus came to set people from-the endless dividing of humans when we all share a common humanity. The better question has always been: Faith in what story? Because there’s always an invitation-especially in times of upheaval and disruption like these-an invitation to trust that Spirit is right here in the midst of these stirring, turbulent waters, ready to bring about new creation. And for there to be new creation, the present creation has to be disrupted. That’s how it’s worked for thousands of years. So it’s painful and tragic, and there’s a mounting death toll-this is deeply disturbing and requires significant grieving. But there’s an ancient relationship between grief…and imagination. And that’s what’s happening-people are beginning to see that now is the time to rethink and reshape and reorder everything…from how we police ourselves, to what we mean by democracy, to how we think about education, to making sure everyone has health care.

We are living in really tough times. What are some ways that people can cope when life gets hard?

You have everything you need right here, right now. You have always had everything you need. You aren’t a victim, you aren’t powerless, you aren’t a passive bystander. You always have the power to act. To move. To take steps that fill you with hope and vitality. Everything is spiritual. Spirit is always present in the mess, in the difficulty, when it gets hard.

Why do you think it’s particularly important for people to read this book right now?

If there is one thing you hope readers can take away from this book, what would it be? We’re in the midst of great disruption, a historic upheaval. And it’s really, really important to understand that there’s always a temptation in these moments to dig in your heels in and wish things were different and try to make it great again-even though it wasn’t as great as you remember it-or to let the pain and ache break you open and then open you up to the new creation that is waiting to burst forth right here in the midst of this one. This is true for each of us personally, and this is true for us collectively and politically because this is how the universe has worked for 13 billion years. It only goes forward.

“Everything is Spiritual” reveals that there is space beyond all the parts, divisions, differences, and polarization that reveals that it is all one connected whole. When we understand this, it can open the space for growth, expansion, and joy.

The book is available for purchase now.

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