The former pastor and founder of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich., made the comment during a guest appearance this past Sunday at The Forum at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to discuss his new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God.
Grace Cathedral is the Episcopal Cathedral of the Diocese of California and describes itself as “an iconic house of prayer for all” and is home to an “inclusive congregation.” The congregation’s dean, the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, moderated The Forum discussion before a live audience.
When asked by Shaw if he was in favor of “marriage equality,” the politically-charged term used by some who want “marriage” redefined, Bell said:
“Yes, 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 that the church needs to just … this is the world that we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
“Rob Bell Supports Same-Sex Marriage, Says He Is for ‘Fidelity and Love’”
March 18, 2013 | 2:42 pm
As for Acts 15, this is not a set of different instructions for Gentiles. But salvation is by faith, for Jew and Gentile alike. We believe they will be saved the same way we will be saved. The Torah is not the yoke that we nor our fathers have been able to bear, but rather, specifically, the Torah “according the custom of Moshe.” So it is that Paul recalls his words to Peter in Galatians, that Peter did not live “like a Jew.” The followers of Messiah Yeshua inherently cannot submit to all of the traditions of Judaism. To do so would be to disobey the Master and the Commandment of God. In separating himself from the Gentiles, Peter was submitting to Jewish halachic rulings that are not in step with the gospel, and requiring Gentiles to do likewise. Gentiles should start with the four prohibitions in Acts 15—which people are cut off from Israel for breaking—so that they can join the assembly and learn the Commandment of God, which is read in every city every Sabbath. They do not need to become Jewish and submit to the Oral Torah, they simply need to have faith in God and His Mashiach and let obedience to the Commandment working through love be the expression of that faith.
Why is everyone trying to change my mind?
I saw the news item about Rob Bell a few days ago. The link was posted by a Facebook “friend” (I put “friend” in quotes since I’ve never met the individual and know him solely through Facebook). It wasn’t directed specifically at me, though I did comment about it a few times on Facebook and then dropped the issue.
But Charles came to me or more accurately, to my blog to comment on his views and to disagree with mine. He seems like a nice guy. I don’t doubt that he’s sincere. But in reading my blog, he should have known from the start that we were coming from two different points of view.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect to be universally accepted, agreed with, or liked. Especially in the world of religion, it’s almost a given that if you’re outspoken at all, people are going to “hunt you down like a duck” (to quote Buford Tanner from the third Back to the Future movie) from the four corners of the earth just to tell you that you’re not only wrong, but a total blockhead (with apologies to Charlie Brown, who’s been called a blockhead more times than I can count).
But it occurred to me to ask, and especially in the context of Charles and people like him, people who don’t know me or have any particular reason to read, let alone comment on my blog, why do they care what I think, say, and believe?
I mean, the Internet is full of bloggers. According to dazeinfo.com, by the end of 2011, there were 181 million blogs on the Internet. That was well over a year ago, and I’m sure there must be even more by now (jeffbullas.com has some interesting info on the nature of the blogosphere in 2012, but nothing relevant to the religious blog space).
So why me? Do I comment on your blogs? No, and in fact, I’ve deliberately stopped commenting on blogs where I know my opinions will cause a small and virtual riot just because I’m sick and tired of all the arguments. Discussions? OK. But why charge down my throat just because you know you can?
And it’s not just the blogosphere anymore.
My Pastor recently loaned me a copy of A.J. Jacobs’ book The Year of Living Biblically. I’ve just started reading it and so far, find it entertaining and humorous. Jacobs is Jewish and not religious in the slightest, but he was determined, for the sake of writing a book, to live as close to a literally Biblical life as possible for an entire year.
I might have taken some sort of offense to his approach, but apparently this is the type of book Jacobs writes. He immerses himself in a subject for a significant period of time in order to learn, often with amusing results, records his experiences, and then turns all that into a book.
But then I had a thought. Is it possible that Pastor gave me this book to read for a specific reason, one particularly related to whether or not the Torah is possible to observe by Jews in today’s world? I’ll have to ask him, but I don’t see him until tonight.
I can understand why Pastor would want to instruct me, enlighten me, edify me, since we have a one-on-one, face-to-face relationship and I attend his church, but why does the Internet care?
Even the people I agree with theologically have some sort of interest in maintaining my current belief system which dovetails into their’s. I’ve made a paradigm shift before. What if I do so again? Who will be affected? How will they react? How much of other people’s emotions and interests are tied to what should be a single individual’s personal understanding of God and faith?
And then there’s political correctness to consider. Atheists and the socially and politically liberal religious individuals and movements are interested in convincing me (well, maybe not me personally, but everyone like me) that not only “gay is good” but that being gay is biblical and that I should not only adopt that belief as a matter of religion but as a matter of politics, carrying it all the way to the ballot box.
Does my personal opinion about how “marriage equality” factors into my understanding of the Bible have anything to do with anybody else? It’s not like I’m protesting at gay weddings or writing letters to the editor. I’m not even vocal about the issue except when my hand is forced. I live in a nation of laws and when (I don’t doubt that it will happen, it’s just a matter of time) marriage between same-sex couples becomes legal nationally, I won’t say “boo” about it. Actually, it’s not a law I could break, even if I wanted to, since I’m in no position to affect such a law one way or another.
But some people want or need me to agree with them anyway. Go figure.
After finishing Jacobs’ book, I plan to start reading Carlos Castaneda’s The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. No, I don’t plan to adopt it as my model for a personal spiritual journey, but Castaneda’s books are considered classics in their genre and I’ve been meaning to read at least a few of them for the past thirty years or so. I just never got around to it before.
I’m beginning to get disgusted again with all the little games that people play in the religious blogosphere. I’m really getting tired of all of the “I’m right and you’re wrong” pettiness that is going on out there. If it stayed “out there” it would be easy to ignore, but it’s invading my space. I’m not here to be a target. I want to be free of your chains. But it seems the only way to do that is to abandon contact with religious people and pursue God independently. Yes, that’s full of pitfalls and I returned to church just because of those pitfalls.
But I’m having second thoughts. If God wants me, He’s got me, but that doesn’t mean I have to join your particular club just because it makes you feel better to drag in more members, be ye “One Law,” Two House,” “Hebrew Roots” or any other “label” that comes with a dogma on a leash.
I can sort of see why Jacob Nordby wrote his book (which I’ll review shortly) The Divine Arsonist, since it’s the latest in a long line of attempts by people to reinvent God and religion in our own personal image. I can understand why concepts such as free range humans are coming to the surface. People want control of their lives and they’re tired of the environment defining the parameters by which we must live. That includes the parameters by which we must believe and have faith.
Christians like to say “God is in control” but when it comes to faith, it’s more like the religions and the people occupying their favorite religions that want to take control…of me.
OK, I’m exaggerating. I’m not that important to anyone, at least to anyone on the web. I could disappear tomorrow and probably not inspire so much as a raised eyebrow. Which makes it all the more mysterious to me why people want to control what I say, think, and believe.
If I don’t believe the same things as you and through my beliefs, I’m not harming you (I don’t visit you, yell at you, try to change your life, picket your weddings and funerals, pollute your holy water, or otherwise interfere in your life and the practice of whatever faith to which you’re attached), then why do you care about my religious convictions? Honestly, if I believe that God really doesn’t expect me to wear a tallit gadol when praying, doesn’t expect me to not mow the lawn on Saturday morning, doesn’t expect me to not eat a cheeseburger, how does that impact you even slightly?
Yes, I’m ranting. It’s my blogspot and I’m entitled to rant here. Tomorrow, I may wake up and feel better but right now, I’m a little tired of “religion” (and please, don’t drop by and tell me that Christianity “is a relationship, not a religion,” trust me, it’s a religion).
If you want to ask me a question, fine. If you want to deliver a polite and civil comment, fine. Even if you disagree with me and want to tell me why you do what you do, fine. Just don’t feel like you can tell me what I can, should, must do just because you’ve made those decisions for you.
When I refrain from eating bacon or sausage for breakfast, I’m not doing it because I think God will fry me in pork fat if I do. I’m making a personal decision based on my own convictions. Please feel free to enjoy a good pork chop or a steaming hot bowl of shrimp scampi. I won’t mind. If you’re a gay guy and want to marry your partner, fine. If you’re a through and through Gentile without a drop of Jewish blood in your veins and you feel you must pray in Hebrew facing toward Jerusalem and calling Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob your “fathers,” go for it.
But I’m not going to pretend they’re my fathers just because you want me to. My relationship with God is my relationship with God. I blog about it. So what? Deal with it. If you don’t like what I say, don’t come to my blog. I promise, I’ll never come to your blogs and I absolutely promise I’ll never comment on any of them.
I write because that’s what I do. I’m a writer. I write for my job. I write to process information. I write for fun. Maybe someday you’ll succeed in chasing me out of the blogosphere, but I don’t know what would compel me to shut up. On the other hand, there are days like today when I could happily pull the plug and just read and study by myself, no other human beings required.