Rob Bell and Francis Chan
Here’s a pretty awesome photo that was recently posted by David Vanderveen.
It was captioned as follows:
Rob Bell and I are headed to Montreal for a project to meet an Irish sage and who would you guess we bumped into at our gate? Francis Chan…one of Rob’s more dedicated critics. Things don’t just happen.
I loved Cathleen Falsani‘s comment: “rob has the best laugh. i recognize that one.”
And this comment from Troy McIntosh made me laugh: “While the picture itself is definitely interesting, what is really intersting is that you are traveling to Montreal to meet an Irish sage.’ ?!?!?!!”
But, I think the comment that takes the cake, for me, when it comes to really capturing the spirit of what is special about this photo is the following, from Jack Boeve: “It’s a blessing when brothers dwell together in unity…even if they do happen to disagree respectfully with each other at times.”
For those unfamiliar with the ideas of Francis Chan and Rob Bell, here’s a little breakdown:
Mainstream, traditional Christian theology teaches that a certain subset of people will go to heaven. Rob Bell teaches that more people than that will ultimately go to heaven. Francis Chan teaches that not even that many people will ultimately go to heaven.
For visual learners –
There are obviously nuances to both of their arguments that aren’t expressed here – what I’ve posted was a vast oversimplification. Still, it’s a jumping off point.
For those on my Facebook, you will be aware that I, personally, am firmly Team Rob. I was so deeply moved by Love Wins, and it really changed the way I look at life, spirituality, and the afterlife. Or, I should say, it affirmed the way I’ve always instinctually viewed those things, and gave me permission to stop feeling ashamed and scared for those views. If you weren’t raised in a fundamentalist church, you can’t understand why feeling like a loving God wouldn’t, for instance, send a 10 year old leukemia victim to Hell for not having had the good fortune to “get saved” yet is a terrifyingly subversive view, but it is.
Or that a loving God wouldn’t…you know…send ME to Hell for thinking that way!
For years I felt like it wasn’t right to call myself a Christian, to pray, to go to church, to believe in God, etc – if I wasn’t going to accept the whole shebang…lock, stock, and brimstone-smoking barrels. After all, one of the main tenets of Christianity is that you believe all of it or none of it. So I felt, if I could not force myself to swallow the parts of it that were abhorrent to me (and don’t think I didn’t spend years trying to force myself to!), then letting the whole thing go would be the only non-hypocritical thing to do.
Still, though, I missed it! For all those years, it was a constant back and forth.
STEP 1 – Missing church, missing God, missing “being a Christian”
STEP 2 – Going back to church, getting fed up with the hatefulness, the misogyny, and the elitism
STEP 3 – Realizing the only spiritually honest thing to do would be to abandon it
STEP 4 – Return to Step 1, Rinse and Repeat
And throughout every step, of course, I was internally tortured, being torn between what I actually believed and what I was supposed to believe in order to make it into Heaven.
Then came Love Wins.
When I read it, it was like the sun came out, or a light bulb came on. For the first time, I heard someone describe a Heaven that made sense to me, and criteria for getting there that made sense to me as well! And the funny thing was, it was all so simple, all so clearly laid out in the Bible, that I couldn’t believe I’d never actually seen it there myself before. It’s amazing how fear can filter information so that you can’t see what’s been right in front of you all along.
And, also, for the first time, it actually started to *feel* real to me. All those years of trying to force myself to believe in something that didn’t fit, and now *poof* – it just clicked in my head, and it instantly felt real. It was honestly, more than anything, just such a giant relief.
So, back when I was posting all of that on Facebook, during the first rush of excitement and new discovery from having read the book, my youth pastor from when I was a teenager (or maybe his wife? I don’t know, they share a Facebook account), commented on one of my status updates, recommending Chan’s book Crazy Love – which I took as a sweeter, less confrontational way of saying, “Don’t be seduced by the hipster’s loosey-goosey theology! You can’t actually get into Heaven that way! Heathen!” LOL
And that’s great, I LOVE that! I love being surrounded on Facebook by a group of friends and family that can all have divergent and passionately-held views, and can all feel comfortable to express them on my Facebook wall, even if they are different from mine, without fear of being disrespected or discounted.
That’s why I love this photo, ultimately! I love it for the fact that it shows two people who could not be further apart ideologically on the points where they diverge and yet – when they run into each other – they laugh and smile. That’s how it should be!
I also wanted to post this because I like the idea that, in the future, people will Google “Rob Bell” and “Francis Chan” in concert, expecting to come across criticisms and snipes – and will actually come across a photo of those two guys, their arms around each others’ shoulders, smiling and respectful of one another.
That’s how it should be.