Would Jesus have wanted Christianity?
Jesus wasn't about promoting divisiveness.
Rob Bell is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and spiritual teacher. His books include Love Wins, How to Be Here, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Velvet Elvis, The Zimzum of Love, Sex God, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, and Drops Like Stars. He hosts the weekly podcast The Robcast, which was named by iTunes as one of the best of 2015. He was profiled in The New Yorker and in TIME Magazine as one of 2011’s hundred most influential people. He and his wife, Kristen, have three children and live in Los Angeles.
Rob Bell: Why is it so hard to love your neighbor? Well I mean if you think of in terms of evolution and how we got here tribes and tribal affiliation kept us alive. So you had your group and it was your group against the world. And there was a threat. At any time you had no idea where the threat was coming from. And so the way that the species survived, the way that we got here was people held to each other, stuck close to each other because you never knew what threat was hiding in those bushes. You even think about early brain development. Is there a lion in the bush or not. The brain developed quite quickly this radar for yes or no because if there is one I'm going to run this direction really fast. And so some of these impulses they served us very well and got us to this point. But the way the development works is something that may have gotten you to this point may now be in the way. I mean anybody want to go back to puberty? I don't. I don't have a problem with puberty. I'm quite grateful for puberty.
I'm also grateful that I moved through it. Without it I couldn't have gotten here. And so one of the keys to understanding how we grow as humans and how we spiritually grow is something that served us well for a while. And now you transcend it, you move beyond it but you've also included it. It's not like you ignore it or avoid it or deny it. It simply helped shape you into who you are. And so to this day for many people the other, the one who isn't like me, all of these primal instincts well up. Is this a threat? And could this person be a possible obstacle to my thriving and growth? I don't know. I have to do all sorts of assessment. My radar is on full when it comes to interacting with those people. But the powerful thing that's happening now is more and more people and the moments that when you often grow the most are when you are engaged. The moments when you engage with that person who is the other, who is them, and you discover if you look far enough inside them that you see yourself. And to me that's the real challenge, the real art, the real invitation is to look far enough into this person with the trust that at some point I will see myself. I will see my struggles. I will see my challenges. I will see a bit of my story in them.
I actually think Jesus would be mortified that a religions started in his name. I think he'd be like, "You what?!" I think Jesus came to wake us up and remind us of the shared humanity, the brother-and-sisterness of all of us. I don't think he came to create another division where people could say "Are you this or not this?"I find Jesus more compelling than ever. I find his message of love, grace, compassion, courage, a third way of nonviolence in the world, care for those who the system has not worked for them—Love for the widow, the orphan and the immigrant among you—I find his way, I find him more compelling than ever, I believe.
But I think the last thing he came to do was start another religion that would divide us even more. So when he says love your neighbor, which was a text from his tradition, he's quoting something there. If you love your neighbor, your neighbor could be anybody! And suddenly you have bonds and connection and solidarity with all sorts of people. That's always the moments of greatest joy. So I don't have really a problem with the word Christian, unless it becomes this giant bulky thing that serves just to divide people all the more when Jesus' message was about bringing us together.
- The reason it's hard to love our "neighbor" is because, from an evolutionary standpoint, people outside of our groups have always been suspected as possible threats.
- The way to love "others" is by engaging with them long enough that we begin to see, in them, ourselves. That is, we see our own struggles and challenges reflected back.
- Bell believes that the "last thing" Jesus wanted to do was found a religion that would divide humanity even more. Jesus would be "mortified," Bell says, that his followers started a religion in his name.
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