Rob Bell and the perils of Christian fandom


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

This short clip entitled “Rob Bell Comes Clean” made the rounds last week, and although I would wholeheartedly affirm everything Bell says in it, I found myself squirming a bit at the sound of the audience cheering as he spoke. 

As I mentioned in my review of Love Wins, I’m concerned that the controversy surrounding this book has reduced an important and complex theological conversation to two “sides,” as though it were some kind of football rivalry—complete with bumper stickers, t-shirts, pep rallies, and celebrities. This does such an injustice to the Bible, to Christian history, and to the millions upon millions of real people whose lives and futures we are discussing. There’s just too much at stake to try and force Christianity’s cacophony of voices into two competing tones, into a simple “my team” vs. “your team.” 

This phenomenon is not new, of course, and I am not immune to it. 

I too get a little giddy when I meet one of my favorite Christian writers at a conference. I too shout the occasional “booyah” when someone writes a mean post about Mark Driscoll. I too tend to refer to the same scholars again and again while conducting research. 

While there’s nothing wrong with having preachers and teachers we admire more than others, we’ve got to be careful of slipping into unthinking Christian fandom

the kind that classifies fellow Christians as either “good guys” or “bad guys,”

the kind that holds grudges, 

the kind that overlooks the problems with the “home team” while magnifying those of the “visitors,” 

the kind that elevates pastors and writers to the status of infallible prophets, 

the kind that cheers when others fail, 

the kind that glorifies winning over voluntarily losing for the sake of Christ, 

the kind that keeps score. 

In other words, those of us who believe that love wins must be careful of turning that beautiful sentiment into a war cry. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

And that kind of love never fails because it’s a lifestyle, not a slogan. 

Rob Bell will fail. 

John Piper will fail. 

Books will fail. 

Churches will fail.

I will fail. 

You will fail. 

But the love that can unite us won’t. 

And that’s something worth cheering about. 

***

Do you find yourself slipping into Christian fandom now and then? How can we avoid it?

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