Last evening I drove to Washington DC, to an auditorium where we once heard Bruce Cockburn blazing against the nearby IMF, to sell books at a Rob Bell speaking event. Apparently, at each stop on his “The God’s Are Not Angry” tour he gets local booksellers who have some affinity for his work to set up a display and sell his books and Noomas. (Yes, Number 18, Name, is now out, and, if you care, Trees is still my favorite. We sell ’em all for $10.) From the very first, we’ve been supportive of these well-made, edgy, creative and mostly quite solid 13 minute teaching parables. I’m not the hugest fan of SexGod, although it is worth reading, and younger friends love it. I like Velvet Elvis a lot (and the audio CD is him reading it, very well, unabridged.) The last few chapters are brillant, rejecting the sacred-secular split in ways that shows God’s redemptive care for everything. Everythingggg. Some like his design, and appreciate his intense, postmodern ethos. I’m glad for what he does…and we’ve got the books on sale. Send us an email and get 20% off on either book.
So, there we were, me and my volunteer helper Guster and his wife with the cool Jedediah hat, making change and talking up Bell. What a privilege to be asked to do this. We found the portions of his talk that we heard to be very moving, inviting listeners into a lifestyle of trust of God’s mercy, living into a way of life that isn’t trying to prove or earn God love, because in His grace, He already does.
There may be some fine-tuned bones to pick with Bell’s show, and other bloggers have pointed out certain theological concerns. I don’t quite know what to think about that—this was just one lecture, and, well, even Jesus told stories, sometimes (say, the Prodigal Son) that didn’t include the full gospel presentation (there is no cross or atonement even mentioned in that one, told by the Master.) So I don’t want to critique Rob’s full theology based on one performance art/lecture/sermon. (When some otherwise wise writers make these Big Declarations about what Rob does and doesn’t believe about complex theological formulations, based on one lecture, I just want to holler. What’s wrong with those guys?)
I am eager to keep the conversation about proper doctrine front and center, though; I will be blogging soon about the new John Piper critique of N.T. Wright’s views of justification by faith, The Future of Justification, which I’m about half-way through. So that is important. At his local church where he pastors, Bell has hosted folks who know Wright, like our pals Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat, for instance, so we’re glad for his ministry. We thought it was a great evening, and we were happy to be a part of it. It was fun seeing some old friends in the crowd—from across the theological spectrum, I might add, which was sweet. And some customer friends from the York area, who drove down for the night. Ahhhh, nice to have home-town folks see us in action out of town. And we did work really hard, helping get his resources out, and helping him set up the autographing session afterwards. He treated us really well, sharing his appreciation, which not every rock star does. (We sold a bunch of books for a well-known theologian who is critical of Bell, by the way, earlier this year, and he didn’t even say hello to us, let alone thank us for the all nighter we pulled setting up his big ‘ol display. That doesn’t prove anything theologically, of course, I’m just saying.)
One great aspect of being a small part of this cool tour is that we got early access to the just-released DVD of last years excellent tour lecture, called “Everything Is Spiritual.“ I think this DVD (an hour and a half or so) will be released into bookstores in early 2008, but now they are only available from Flannel productions, but we now have ’em, the ones we didn’t sell at the gig. We asked if we could just keep them (we’ve paid for them already, of course) and they gave us the green light. We may be the first shop in the country to sell ’em, and we have them on sale for $17. Want to order one? They’d make awesome cool Christmas gifts, too, of course, for somebody who likes powerful communicators, contemporary teachings about a Christian worldview, or anyone who likes the Noomas