John on February 19, 2010 at 10:19 am
His first tour, Everything is Spiritual dealt with science. His next one, The Gods Aren’t Angry dealt with comparative religion. The subject this time is art and suffering. In my opinion this is Rob Bell at his best.
One of the great debates surrounding belief in God is the so-called problem of evil. How can a good God permit so much evil? Why doesn’t he stop it? There are answers to these questions known as theodicies, however they all operate at the 30K foot level and, to my knowledge, none of them has ever convinced a determined skeptic to abandon skepticism.
In Drops Like Stars, Bell intentionally sidesteps the issue of theodicy. Rather than try to answer “Why?” he tackles the problem from another direction. The question he seeks to answer is “What next?”
What follows is a fascinating 2 hour show looking at different categories of “art” and how suffering plays a role in all of them. Here I want to avoid giving away Bell’s best lines, but a central idea is that there is a continuum of suffering. On that continuum some people have far too much and some, he argues, far too little. The former contention no one would dispute, but the latter is something the Bible often discusses but is rarely discussed by churches. (For starters, read the book of James).
Of course, this being a speaking tour by a Christian pastor, all of this does tie in to Bell’s view of faith in Jesus. In fact, Bell uses Jesus as the touchstone of his message, the place where the greatest suffering yields the greatest possible outcome. But in what is really his trademark style, Bell pulls examples from many other places and persons. From an ex-party organizer turned clean-water advocate, to a hilarious college application essay, to a 3 year old child. Throughout the show, the questions Bell poses and the answers he suggests had the audience thinking, nodding and laughing throughout.
Bell did something else that only the best speakers do. Throughout the night, which is obviously scripted, he punctuated his talk with commentary about the reaction he’d gotten in other cities on the tour. This had the effect of breaking down the barrier between speaker and audience. It’s a small touch, but the kind of thing that makes these tours less formal and more familial as perhaps they should be.
Nothing Bell said would have convinced his critics he isn’t a danger to all that is good (I suspect nothing can). His take on things is certainly not for everyone. But for those it is for, it’s still the best thing on offer. If you have a chance to get tickets, do so. If you don’t I’m sure a DVD version will be available in a few months. Don’t miss it.
Category: Religion & Faith |