Love Wins – a cultural commentary
An early anecdote recorded in Rob Bell’s controversial book, Love Wins, is of an art exhibit hosted at Bell’s church. A member of the church made a painting that incorporated quotes by Gandhi that as moving to other members of the church. Bell really appreciated it, but he didn’t appreciate that later on another church member affixed a note reading, “Too bad he’s going to burn in Hell.” Bell’s book is a response to people who praise the exclusivity of heaven and make it a point to judge people openly.
And in reflecting on this, I realize that the book isn’t just about how poorly behaved some Christians can be. This is a commentary on our culture in general.
While reading the book, my first thoughts were, “This is amazing! This guy honestly thinks that being a good person is important, judgment should be left to a higher power, and salvation is achievable beyond the church! He thinks it would be strange if salvation were only accessible to those who grew up in countries where Christianity is dominant, and so there must be many more paths!” It was great. It was nice. It was breath of fresh air compared to the religious diatribes I had heard in my formative years. This guy just strikes me as just a good guy. Plus the book is a very easy read – and fast, too.
Since I had previously mentioned the book, I figured it would be good to write about having read it. Unfortunately, a book about the modern Christian doesn’t really work when discussing multimedia culture. I could discuss the controversy of the book’s existence some more, but that’s only part of it. That would become a religious commentary, which doesn’t seem right. Saying what I said about doesn’t seem right. That’s not multimedia culture. That’s something people might take as a criticism of how they live their lives. I won’t do that. That’s judgmental.
Then I started thinking about the exclusivity of the Christian culture. How the general view is that because they have devoted so much to their principles that they think they do have a right to comment on who is or isn’t living life the right way. They think that they have a right to say who is and is not going to reach salvation or go to Heaven. They have a right to say who is or is not being a good Christian. After all, this book says that good people will be allowed into Heaven despite not sharing in Christian faith. It also says that many people who devote themselves to the betterment of others have found Jesus even if they do not explicitly follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. People say that Bell’s statements are wrong, and it conjures into mind what’s the point of being a Christian if everyone gets the fruits of it.
For some reason this made me think of Patton Oswalt and his Wired article at the end of last year. Oswalt complained that not only is mainstream culture stealing the stories from geek culture, but the accessibility of all of the information means that no one has to earn their credibility. What is the point of being a self-identified geek/nerd/dork when everyone else is in on it, too?
If you’re still with me after comparing a belief to the culture of geekery, I appreciate your open mind.
In these cultures, I cannot help but think that values are being placed on the wrong elements. In nerdom, the multimedia is the key. You read The Amazing Spider-Man because you enjoy the stories, not because no one else is reading it. In any religion, following the path and being the best you can be, and in Christianity embracing the love of Christ, is the key. You do it because you’re passionate and truly believe it, not because it separates you from others. Embracing the exclusivity is – and I fully embrace this value judgment I’m putting out there – the absolute most wrong way to live life. It’s not about being better or separate from others. It’s about being happy and striving to move forward in being the best person you can be.
When I grew up as a self-proclaimed geek (a title we know I have since dropped), the most irritating thing about it all was the fact that I could not share my interests with others. You don’t like video games? You don’t like anime? What about science fiction? Sure, I was a bit bothered by the boom of these interests a few years back, especially since the quality of the works produced took a heavy dip, but I see the value in it. We all see it, and we’re all apart of it. We’re all apart of something great.
The “us and them” mentality is what ruins so much out there. “There are geeks, and then there are the rest of them.” Or how about, “There are Christians, and then there are those who will not be saved”? What does this mentality accomplish? Rob Bell realizes this probably isn’t a good way to approach life or share the love of the Lord. Inclusivity just makes things better. Isn’t that the lesson we learn in every positive philosophy and doctrine out there? It shouldn’t be this hard to grasp.