3.15.2011 update – I’ve posted a follow-up to this post after listening to Rob Bell share about the book.

It’s been fascinating to watch the online discussion, debate, and vitriol, over Rob Bell* this past week.

*If you don’t know, Rob Bell is a pastor, author, speaker, artist and more. He has a new book coming out later this month called Love Wins.

In a recently released promo for Love Wins, Bell remarks about someone leaving a note that Gandhi was “in Hell”. He then poses questions about Hell, God, judgment and love. Right after the promo was released, a blog post went up that ignited the firestorm. Many have taken Bell’s comments, in this promo, as evidence he is a universalist now. Bell was already one of the more polarizing figures in Christianity before this, and that is a factor with people making the assumption he’s a universalist before they read the book.*

*If they ever do read it.

I have a number of thoughts about this event that has unfolded, but I’m going to stick primarily to one for this post. I’ll have a few additional, but brief, thoughts at the end of the post. I don’t want to add to the “noise” that’s already online. If you want to delve into the issue more, Scot McKnight has a thorough post about Rob Bell, and universalism, up on his blog that I’d recommend.

One thing that came to mind, on Thursday, was a campaign I helped create and launch at Christ Community Church back in 2006. The campaign launched RISKS, the new discipleship paradigm at CCC. In launching the campaign, we referenced individuals who have had worldwide impact through their work. Their work was motivated by Jesus. One of the things I wanted to do with the campaign was use some non-traditional people with the campaign, an individual like Mother Teresa.

To some that may seem like a traditional person to use for a church, but for CCC’s culture it was non-traditional. Her, along with others, were put on posters and placed around the church with a quote by them.

There was blowback in using Mother Teresa, along with using some of the other individuals.* A number of the posters were graffitied. I’m not sure why, but I kept some of them. I have them stored in my cellar.

*The details as to why there was such angst, from a minority of the congregation, over using Mother Teresa can’t be covered in a single sentence. Perhaps another time.

When watching the Love Wins promo again Thursday, and hearing Bell talk about the note someone left about Gandhi, I thought of the graffitied posters. I pulled out the graffitied Mother Teresa poster, Thursday night, to take a look at it. Here’s a pic.

My thoughts on the judgment someone rendered about Mother Teresa? Well, I’m not sure I want to explore those within this post either. I was intrigued by the connection between a detail in Rob Bell’s promo for Love Wins, and a detail from the launch of RISKS. I wanted to note the connection with this post.

What do I think about Rob Bell and his statements? If I had to guess, which is what most people are doing right now in their opinions, I would guess it is a marketing ploy. Could I be wrong? Of course I could. Still, I think it is a well-orchestrated marketing campaign. Bell’s detractors (and fans) are doing all the publicity for him and his new book. I think his publishers knew that, and planned for it with this promotional campaign.

I think Rob Bell is a good speaker, artist and storyteller.

Someone once asked me how I could be Facebook fans of both Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll. I responded along the lines of, “I didn’t realize I had to choose.”

If Rob Bell doesn’t stake a universalist position within his new book, I wonder if people who have been so open in their antagonism toward him, this past week, will be as open in communicating an apology or a retraction?

I look forward to reading what Rob Bell has to say in his book, as opposed to reading and hearing what others believe he is going to say. I don’t think I would have cared much about his new book if it weren’t for the controversy.*

*Nice job HarperCollins’ marketing, and everyone else who has hated upon the book before reading it.

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