Monday, March 19, 2007

Rob Bell and Al Gore and Stardom

I balked at posting this. But I've decided to post and see what comes...

I've been having more thoughts about the New Media and Rob Bell posting. I feel like I'm coming close to being able to express some of the things that concern me. And by that, I'm not meaning the things that concern me about Rob Bell's theology (although that would be worth discussing).

My concern is about us turning a local church pastor into some sort of superhero. (And especially when recognition of that person comes in a short space of time without some level of rigorous testing.)

Try this for comparison:

I read THIS ARTICLE last week in the Sydney Morning Herald. I think its from the New York Times. It is about Al Gore, who (with respect to the environment) really is in academic turf, and yet he is speaking people's language around the world, and being treated like a pop star. Read this bit:

Although Mr Gore is not a scientist, he does rely heavily on the authority of science in An Inconvenient Truth. [...] While praising Mr Gore for "getting the message out", Dr Vranes questioned whether his presentations were "overselling our certainty about knowing the future". "He's a very polarising figure in the science community," said Dr Pielke, an environmental scientist and a colleague of Dr Vranes at the University of Colorado. "Very quickly, these discussions turn from the issue to the person, and become a referendum on Mr Gore."
Now, try this exercise: Change 'Mr Gore' to 'Mr Bell'; 'scientist' to 'theologian'; 'science to theology'; 'An inconvenient Truth' to 'Velvet Elvis'; Dr Varnes to Ben Witherington (who generously and appropriately praises and yet still questions some things that are said by Bell), and 'future' to 'Talmud'.

I may be wrong, but do you see how we now mirroring society? Am I onto something? The key line is this: "Very quickly, these discussions turn from the issue to the person, and become a referendum on Mr Gore."

Something is not right. Something doesn't add up. And something has to be said or done before a culture of Corinthian Hoo-Haa becomes a problem for Christendom. Unless it has already happened.

I wonder if Tubeo is right when he commented on a previous post:

Can I drop another idea in here? A couple of years back there was a conference in Scotland (I'm pretty clueless about the details - maybe someone can fill me in here) where it was concluded that in western culture 'the famous' has overtaken 'the hero' (used in classical terms) for what we look to and marvel at.
Let me clarify: I am not arguing for an elite group of people who have the right to be heard. Not at all. Not at all. I am, however, nervous about having super-stars in Christendom. I think that it's too Corinthian.



Anonymous said...

I actually don't have any idea who Rob Bell is (but I will keep my eye out, thanks for the warning) but what sprang to mind when I read your entry was a piece in a book by Adrian Plass (years ago, can't remember the book title) about his experience at a large Christian convention where "famous" Christians were present and how so much was made of it. AP of course was not infavour of this kind of behaviour and treated it with the necessary sarcasm. My church is currently working through the book A Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren and I am wondering if maybe too much has been made of this book too.

Justin said...

Hi Anon. Welcome to my Blog. Do I know you? You may remain anon if you wish. But I'm interested to know if you are in an Australian or an American Church?

My warning, by the way, is not about Rob Bell. Its about us (as you point out)! And Adrian Plass sounds like hes got the right idea! (I never read him, although I've heard about the books).

SamR said...

Justin, I think this is a very insightful post.

I think there are two issues.

1.On the issue of New media - you're right - it doesn't force a leader/preacher to be tested. They can just whack the MP3 up and watch the downloads begin.

2. On the 'corinthian' issue - I wonder if the the desire to follow a famous person/church leader is always in us, rather than a problem specific to new media? It was there in the corinthians with Paul and Apollos, it was there in the 80's when we read Packer and Stott, it is there with the purpose driven anything and it is there with New media. Perhaps part of our sinfulness is to follow someone other than Christ?