Last week, while my body was occupied with pulling off Heartwood Gallery's Grand Re-Opening event, my mind was clouded over with two stories that dominated my thoughts.
The first story surrounds Rob Bell and his new book, entitled Love Wins, wherein he questions the way many churches I have been a part of view heaven and hell and who goes there. I am half way through the book myself, and like his other work (Velvet Elvis, Nooma videos, Sex God, Drops Like Stars) it's more poetically and conversationally, "Hey, what if...." Predictably, a lot of well-known church leaders (and a lot of nobodies) are having a fit, calling names (like heretic) and wagging their heads in fake sadness that Rob Bell is no longer orthodox and they have to part ways with him. Except they probably weren't really with him before, anyway.
My Robb, always the theologian, was excited to read the book the first minute he could and promptly wrote a review on his blog, The Grenzian. Which was pretty much like putting out a hunk of fresh meat in our backyard in July....it drew the flies. People who had read the book wanted Robb's take on it. People who hadn't read the book wanted Robb's take on it. And people who just wanted to piss on the book in as many forums as possible showed up too.
The second story was this blog: http://bangladeshmksspeak.com, which was created by a group of missionary kids who were sexually abused by a Missionary doctor serving in Bangladesh in the late 1980s. Frustrated by the lack of justice and action on the part of the mission agency that terminated this missionary, the victims created the blog.
I wanted to turn away from this train wreck. It has very little to do with me, I suppose. Except that I have friends at this mission agency. That in our past church affiliations, ABWE was THE mission agency. And it appears that ABWE could have done more, but they didn't.
This is at least the fourth time I have heard a story like this in my years in this association of churches. Different characters, same hideous plot. Criminal activity covered up, muffled, or just plain ignored by administrations that claimed they feared it would "hurt the gospel." I could go into detail that would curdle your blood. I could tell you that these are situations that deeply wounded people very close to me. And I can tell you that we have very little vocabulary to talk about it. We don't know how to talk about it, so we don't.
So are these two stories related? For me, they are. Because many of the people who are having a fit about Rob Bell and his book are the same people who are NOT throwing a fit about the way this abuse is being handled. They wouldn't touch Rob's book with tongs and they criticize Mars Hill and other churches like it. They pride themselves on their good theology and their orthodox belief. But in their relentless attention to the details of every theological i dotted and t being crossed, they have created an environment where hideous crimes against children can happen and be covered up. It's not just one bad missionary in an isolated event. It's a way of doing church and thinking about the Bible that lets evil grow like a mold right along side it. I have seen it happen. And I am disgusted by it. I am angry.
And I want nothing to do with that kind of Christianity ever again.
I still have friends at ABWE. I still love them. But I hope they understand that I have taken a different path for some extremely serious reasons. Rob Bell is asking some serious theological questions. But so are the missionary kids.