“A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’s message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.”
These four words are, in order, what I have used throughout my life to describe my relationship with a higher power. Notice, I never used the word Christian. I have never even considered calling myself such. While I considered myself Catholic, Christian was part of the territory, but I didn’t feel a deep connection to the term.
While I still don’t refer to myself as a Christian, I now, more than ever, feel inspired by the story of Jesus Christ, and that is because of Rob Bell. I listen to Bell’s podcast, The Robcast, and I am taken to church. Again and again, he explains biblical concepts to me in new ways, and Love Wins feels just like a written episode. As I read the book, I could hear Bell’s voice loud and clear. He has a specific way of talking, and his communication style is no different in his writing.
The passage below (Shortened with ellipses for the sake of brevity) punched me in the gut. Not because it was an idea I had never considered, but rather, because in a few paragraphs, Bell summed up my entire religious life. From childlike hope to scrupulosity to disbelief to LOVE WINS.
“But there’s more. Millions have been taught that if they don’t believe, if they don’t accept in the right way, that is, the way the person telling them the gospel does, and they were hit by a car and died later that same day, God would have no choice by to punish them forever in conscious torment in hell…
…Loving 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?
That kind of God is simply devastating. Psychologically crushing. We can’t bear it. No one can…
… Sometimes the reason people have a problem accepting “the gospel” is that they sense that the God lurking behind Jesus isn’t safe, loving, or good. It doesn’t make sense, it can’t be reconciled, and so they say no. They don’t want anything to do with Jesus, because they don’t want anything to do with that God…
…God is love, And love is a relationship. This relationship is one of joy, and it can’t be contained.”