My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the second time I’ve read Rob Bell’s Love Wins, and I’ve got to say it’s one of the more remarkable books I’ve ever read! Whether you agree with him or not (and many people do not), he asks a lot of good, legitimate questions — some I never thought to ask and some I was afraid to ask — and puts issues on the table that are very worthy of discussion. What exactly is heaven? And hell? What does God’s love really mean? How do we get to heaven, if there is such a place? Etc., etc. I’ve had “issues” with God and traditional (evangelical) Christianity most of my life, so I can’t tell you what a relief it has been to read a self-described evangelical ask some of the questions being asked in this book and stating some of the things that are stated. It has given me a new way of looking at things. It has given me a sense of hope. What more can you ask for in a book?
I want to mention just a few passages from the book that really struck me:
“Now, back to those church websites, the ones that declare that ultimately billions of people will spend eternity apart from God, while others will be with God in heaven forever.
Is history tragic?
Have billions of people been created only to spend eternity for the finite sins they committed in the few years they spent on earth?
Is our future uncertain,
or will God take care of us?
Are we safe?
Are we secure?
Or are we on our own?”
“Could God say to someone truly humbled, broken, and desperate for reconciliation, ‘Sorry, too late?’ Many have refused to accept the scenario in which somebody is pounding on the door, apologizing, repenting, and asking God to be let in, only to hear God say through the keyhole: ‘Door’s locked. Sorry. If you had been here earlier, I could have done something. But now, it’s too late.'”
Still later, about God sentencing a well loved child of his to eternal damnation:
“If there was an earthly father who was like that, we would call the authorities. If there was an actual human dad who was that volatile, we would contact child protection services immediately.
If God can switch gears like that, switch entire modes of being that quickly, that raises a thousand questions about whether a being like this could ever be trusted, let alone be good.
Love one moment, vicious the next.
Kind and compassionate, only to become cruel and relentless in the blink of an eye.
Does God become somebody totally different the moment you die?”
“…when religious people become violent, it is because they have been shaped by their God, who is violent. We see this destructive shaping alive and well in the toxic, venomous nature of certain discussions and debates on the Internet. For some, the highest form of allegiance to their God is to attack, defame, and slander others who don’t articulate matters of faith as they do.”
It’s this last quote that particularly speaks to me, because when I look at mainstream Christianity, I see the type of Christian he describes here. “Loving” until they find out you don’t see things the same way they do. Hostile and nasty when you let people know, for instance, that you’re actually a Democrat in a Republican, evangelical church. I remember when I first heard of Fred Phelps, and his now infamous Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. This was back in the mid ’90s, long before they were protesting military funerals. They had just started a new website called godhatesfags.com. It made me sick to my stomach. No matter what you think about what happened to the inhabitants of Sodom, all people are God’s children created in his image. God loves us all. (Except perhaps Fred Phelps. Just kidding.) It’s the toxic, ultra-conservative Christian who is ruining things for people like myself all through America and the rest of the world, and when you Google Rob Bell’s name, you find plenty of websites by so-called Christians doing exactly what Bell describes here — creating toxicity in calling Bell a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and the anti-Christ and numerous other idiotic things merely because they disagree with his theology. Well, who made THEIR theology the right one, huh???
OK, I got off target. I guess I’ll wrap up by saying I think everyone out there would benefit by reading this book, again, whether you agree with Bell or not. It simply raises a lot of interesting and legitimate questions, and its basic premise is one everyone could use and perhaps needs — in the end, love wins.