Rob Bell

Authentic Living As Motion

Perspective As MotionBeing Stuck

Today, for some odd reason, I woke up pondering “being stuck.” I don’t mean being physically stuck, but being stuck in a perspective of what life is. I read the Facebook posts of 95% of the people with whom I went to high school and am in wonder at how their perspectives are virtually the very same as what we were taught in high school. “Train up a child in the way he should* go…”

Interestingly, the first time I can ever recall being self-aware of my “being stuck” was actually sometime back in high school, in the early 1970s. I recall thinking about the turn of the century, the year 2000. I literally couldn’t imagine it.

I recall thinking that I would be 43 when the century changed and that I probably wouldn’t live to be that old, because, well, that wasn’t just old, that was really old! I was stuck in my teenage perspective of what life was and was always to be. But I was somehow aware of the fact that I had this undesirable limitation, this inability to imagine what my life would be like if I lived to be that old.

But the year 2000 came and went. Life moves on. Yes, it moves. Life is this sense of motion.

Shouldn’t perspectives change because of rich life experiences, knowledge, wisdom? Mine certainly have. Things that I once considered immutable have indeed mutated! They moved. Sometimes what moved was my capacity to understand something I previously didn’t. Things I never considered and/or would never have considered possible have happened. Many of them.

I guess I’m profoundly grateful for the fact that I don’t see life the same way I saw it in the past. I truly feel sorry for people who do. I suspect that it’s based in the chemistry of the brain—traveling down the same synaptic connections all the time reinforces those connections and reduces the possibility for new connections, new thoughts?

The perspectives around faith practice and politics in which I was raised remain “unapologetically” the same or even have moved backward to a more limited and narrow mindset. It’s like a core of “dead enders” whose thinking and world view always ends up in the exact same place it lived yesterday, last year, last decade and the one before that—the same dead end that goes no where.


Rob Bell

Rob Bell

I just saw that Rob Bell, whose perspective on faith practice I find refreshing, is releasing a new book in March, What We Talk About When We Talk About God. Frankly, I don’t like talking about god as I find the people who generally do so are utterly consumed with their limited perspective of God. Their perspective about God never moves. It’s often not even frozen in time. It’s regressive, as if God is pulling them backwards to some previous state of narrow confinement. Rob says his book talks about this. God propels people forward. Hmmm. It will be an interesting read I’m sure.

The people from my past always talk about the same old things when they talk about God. It’s always a negative karma. It’s always a longing for a fictitious good old days that never existed. It consistently represses critical and creative thinking. It’s always prescriptive and judgmental. Their fundamentalist dialog just sucks the oxygen out of the room.

Life. Perspective. Motion. Forward. Expansive.

Rob is up to something out in LA (I hope it’s something huge.**), and I find the established church’s reaction to him of great interest. They often attack him like hungry dogs because they know his fresh thinking threatens their rapidly shriveling views and dying churches which always cling to stale, narrow ideas that are irrelevant to most people. Here is a paraphrased recent example of a slice of his thinking:

Church should be a safe place where people let go of their secrets, where they find others who say with them, “Yeah, me too.” and then walk life together in supportive community. Instead, church today has become a place that hoards secrets. Because people can’t be open and honest and deal with the real issues of our time in their churches, the churches have to focus on something external around which they can all agree to be against and to fundraise around. As these systems grow larger, they can never let their secrets be known without the whole house of cards tumbling down.”

He tells a story of a sermon he did on doubt. Everyone wrote their doubts on pieces of paper that were collected. He then sat on his stool and began picking them from the huge heap to read aloud. The first one read, “I was raped.*** I don’t know how to deal with that.” Rob said he was caught off guard and unsure what to say. After a profound pause, he asked for a show of hands of women in the church who had been raped and would be willing to meet with this person. Over a dozen hands went up. My god, that’s compelling to me on so many levels. Authentic living as evocatively supportive community in motion… Radical empathy…

And I find it completely fascinating that he moved his family to West Hollywood, probably the gayest city on earth. When questioned about that his answer fascinated me. Again, I’m paraphrasing:

One of my closest friends in high school was gay. That’s just how God made him. [Long list of adjectives followed that described him positively, including that many gay people are Christians] What we need to do is join with gay people to address the real problems, the significant problems we face as one community of faith.”

It’s Challenging and Rewarding

When’s the first time you realized you were “stuck,” that you weren’t moving, let alone moving forward?

I wonder in what ways we are each stuck now. What can we not imagine right now that one day will actually be as life continues to move — hopefully forward.

* “Should.” I generally detest words nuanced with guilt.

** The rumor is that he has teamed up with the executive producer of “Lost” (Carlton Cuse) to write a TV series on spirituality. I suspect the rumors are true. Check out this link. His previous video work, the Nooma video series, certainly is precursory for such a venture.

*** But, was it legitimate rape? (Todd Akin and all of his political and religious kind are unspeakably awful people completely unworthy of any leadership in faith practice or politics.)