taking the words of Jesus seriously

Some evangelicals are now not only saying, ‘Farewell, Rob Bell’ but actually declaring him dead to evangelicalism.

RIP, Rob Bell.

As if the ‘Love Wins’ controversy wasn’t enough, in the first week of his new book’s release (which i read yesterday on my flight from Orlando, and recommend), Rob did what most of us do – had a Q and A.

And after what one person reported from a Q and A session last night in San Francisco, it appears this morning that Rob Bell came out in support of gay marriage (I first saw the story from Tony Jones).

Rob said,

‘I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs – I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.’

The Huffington Post reported his remarks here or you can download the audio of his entire talk here.

WATCH: An Interview with Rob Bell on Why He Supports Gay Marriage

Conservative blogger Denny Burke also linked the story, although the majority of his commenters had an unsurprisingly slightly different response than those at Tony Jones’.

Comments ranged from calling Rob a heretic or implying he’s a false prophet (which really is nothing new) to asking if now we can say, ‘Farewell, Rob Bell’ with a clear conscious || as if this – supporting gay marriage – was the final nail in the coffin we’ve all been waiting for.

Brian McLaren received similar treatment when news broke of his supporting his gay son in a private ceremony earlier this year. For my thoughts on that situation, you can read my note to Brian on his blog.

I’ve talked about same-sex marriage repeatedly (e.g., here here here and here) so this post isn’t regarding my own personal views.

What IS intriguing to me, however, are the two quite polarized responses from folks who read the same bible – some with a more modern, conservative, traditional interpretation and others with a more progressive perspective.

Just last week, LifeWay researcher Ed Stetzer posted his most recent findings on the cultural shift toward acceptance of gay marriage. Things are changing. And the shift isn’t just taking place within the church.

Just in the past week, not only Rob Bell, but Hillary Clinton and republican senator Rob Portman have joined the growing ranks of those who have ‘evolved’ on the conversation about same sex marriage. The list is certainly likely to grow in preparation for (and even the wake of) the Supreme Court’s pending decision in June.

The increasing cultural disconnect between conservatives (social, political and religious) and progressives reminds me of the critical importance in our work as ambassadors of reconciliation – bridge builders.

The litmus test of our faith in Christ is not whether or not we’re able to agree on political, cultural or religious secondary issues, nor (dare I say) even what it is our position is on such issues; rather, it is in our ability to love, even those with whom we may not agree.

Also by Michael: The Evangelical Reaction to Louie Giglio’s “Change of Plans”

In the same HuffPost article, Rob was quoted as saying,

‘What do you do with the people that aren’t like you? What do you do with the Other? What do you do with the person that’s hardest to love?’ . . . That’s the measure of a good religion, is – you can love the people who are just like you; that’s kind of easy. So what Jesus does is takes the question and talks about fruit. He’s interested in what you actually produce. And that’s a different discussion. How do we love the people in the world that are least like us?”

As the cultural shift happens (and it is happening) regarding LGBT issues right in front of us, I wonder how well we’ll do in elevating the conversation above the yes/no || right/wrong || win/lose || in/out || us/them || polarizing rhetoric that has so often shaped this conversation, and respond in a more thoughtful, Christ-like way?

Maybe there’s something to all that ‘solidarity with the Other‘ language after all…

What do you think?

Michael Kimpan is the author of the WayWard follower blog, a site designed to inspire thoughtful conversation and movement among followers of Jesus Christ. Michael works with The Marin Foundation in Chicago, a non-profit organization which works to build bridges between the LGBT community and the Church.

About The Author


Michael Kimpan is the founder and Executive Director of (un)common good collective. Michael has a proven history of helping individuals and institutions think critically about matters of faith and culture through his writing, teaching, and consulting with churches, higher education institutions, community organizations, businesses, and NGOs. He holds a BA in Youth Ministry and Biblical Theology from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL and is currently pursuing his MA in religious studies at Chicago Theological Seminary. His revolutionary work in social justice at the intersection of faith, politics and society has been featured by Advocate magazine, Human Rights Campaign, The Huffington Post, CNN, and TIME magazine as well as a number of nationally syndicated radio and podcast shows.

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