The James Website

Spaceships, Flags, and a Rob Bell Interview

I sure haven’t posted here in a spell, huh? The ol’ blog here went dark for the past year because I’ve been a busy little bee – co-hosting the Little Podcast of Horrors, starting my freelance writing biz, and some other yet-to-be-name-worthy projects.

Our crew with Rob Bell!
Fig A: Nerds being star-stricken.

But now I have something to write about here!

We hit a major milestone last week on the show: our first interview with a real-deal, bone-a-fide, serious actual celebrity went live! We interviewed NYT best-selling author Rob Bell about his new scifi book, Where’d You Park Your Spaceship?

It was a freaking’ blast.

I have some personal thoughts to share about that there little interview. Ours is a horror show, one I bring some scifi flavor to, and so everything-Rob this round was about his fiction novel. I’ve been a Bell fan for a long time for another reason though. He’s an ex-pastor of the famed Mars Hill megachurch who left the pulpit to talk about Jesus and the Bible outside of institutional lines. He’s been a huge influence on my own faith’s deconstruction and reconstruction as I left Americanized, angry, powerful, conservative Christianity for what I feel is a faith more rooted in the love of Jesus. To put another way, I believe in Jesus; I don’t believe “the good news” is “you’re going to hell”. Ya feel me?

Before I go on, disclaimer time! This is just my personal little blog. It has no affiliation with the show and doesn’t in any way represent it. That show has two other co-hosts with their own beliefs and opinions and I’d really like to not step on their toes. So remember, this right here is just lil’ ol’ me by myself.

Our Flag Means Life Death

My lifelong BFF, fellow co-host, and Tarot-card-slinging magic enthusiast, Kristina, noted to Rob that this scifi outing of his was poised to draw in a much wider crowd than his previous Christian books (the latter of which draw in…well, me). She’d never have an interest in his past works, but this one reeled her in. Rob responded by talking about his inner dialogue when he stepped down from the pulpit:

Yes, I’m a pastor in this tradition, but I have zero interest in, like, the Christian flag.

If you’re a conservative evangelical reading this, you probably read that as him leaving the faith. Nah. He went on talk aaaalllll about God, Jesus, and the Bible – even recently, when he shared his conversation with “Jesus the Christ” that led up to him writing this book. (I even listened to his six-hour commentary on Leviticusfor fun). He’s just not into the institution, the Americanized dogma – the black-and-white labels.

Man, I feel that.

Allow me to share a couple more Rob quotes from the interview that are now permanently emblazoned on my brain (I promise I’m going somewhere with this):

The Bible is written by a minority group of people who have been persecuted by one global military superpower after another. No wonder Americans would misread this book – We’re the global military superpower.

He would later add, “[the Bible is] an unrelenting critique of the weaponry and misuse of power.”

I’ve been chewing on that conversation for the past few days. I’ve been thinking about flags.

The Church of Golden Calves

My reconstruction led me in a bit of a different direction. I’m stubborn. I’m not ready

to give up the metaphorical flag. I still love going to my church. Mind you, it’s not a conservative, fundagelical church, so I’m mindful that many aren’t so fortunate to have a friendly church nearby to even consider going to. Nonetheless, I still want “church” – by that, I mean a community, a family – fellow believers to worship with. I find that otherwise, it’s really, really lonely, given how much of the American church thinks you’re heretical for daring to try to take Jesus seriously in the post-Trump era – if I may be so blunt.

But I think we (“we” henceforth being Jesus peeps for brevity’s sake) need each other. We need to maintain some connection with the people and traditions who came before if only so we don’t forget where we came from. We need community so we have the ability to serve the folks around us. It’s a hurting world. A lot of that harm has been done by people claiming to believe what I do. We’re supposed to be doing healing work. That requires teamwork. Family work.

(By the way, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my ol’ hero Rob’s wrong – far from it. I’m saying that I’m not where he is. Or maybe I just frame things in different words. That’s just me. I’d say he’s put a lot more healing stuff out there than I have.)

“But I’m One of Them…”

So. Flags. I think we need to take the “Christian flag” back. I think there needs to be something (metaphorically) waving in the air to tell people – everybody of every walk – “Hey, we’re people who will love you. You’re safe with us, whoever you are. Come rest here. Come let us love you. No strings attached!” It’s that whole city-on-a-hill thing.

Or to put another way:

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

It’s that group of weirdo rejects that followed Jesus around and really confused Roman authorities after they kept following him about post-death, all the while doing seriously taboo, unpopular, downright strange things, like loving lepers and prostitutes and poor people and (gasp!) people outside their religion!

Fig C: Loving thy neighbor (pic not mine — I stole it from my church’s FB page).

I fear that if I give up that flag, I’m letting the people who have co-opted my faith for their own wealth and power have it, unchallenged. Sure, they already drown us out in the media, in their megachurches, in their loud protests – Do we just walk away and let them have it all?

I can’t. I fully admit it may be because I’m a hopeless idealist. Guilty as charged. But I go to a church that marches in our local Gay Pride parade with “God thinks YOU’RE fabulous” signs. I’ve seen what “church” can do when divorced from the golden calf of political power and remarried to the Beatitudes.

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough. Let me close with some lyrics from one of my current favorite songs – courtesy Kevin Max:

Jesus, I love You; Jesus, I love You

But Your followers, they freak me out

But I’m one of them

Yes, I’m still one of them

Just a bunch o’ Jesus Freaks