Saturday, August 01, 2009

velvet elvis


I started reading this book by accident. Good friend Merry Carol was reading it and had suggested I might like it too. The other part of the title is “Repainting the Christian Faith”. To be honest, I’m not a great reader of “Christian books”. I’d certainly never heard of the author, Rob Bell. I read the opening chapter and was intrigued. I liked the way the book looked and was set out (sorry, but these things are important for me!), I liked his writing style and some of the things he was saying and the way he said it, for example (and yes, I feel I could have written this – so I realise it’s not earth-shattering stuff!):
As a Christian, I am simply trying to orient myself around living a particular kind of way, the kind of way that Jesus taught is possible. And I think that the way of Jesus is the best possible way to live.
This isn’t irrational or primitive or blind faith. It is merely being honest that we are living a ‘way’.
I’m convinced being generous is a better way to live.
I’m convinced forgiving people and not carrying around bitterness is a better way to live.
I’m convinced having compassion is a better way to live.
I’m convinced pursuing peace in every situation is a better way to live.
I’m convinced listening to the wisdom of others is a better way to live.
I’m convinced being honest with people is a better way to live
”.
Rob Bell was born in 1970 and I read on the book's cover that he’d set up a church community in Michigan in 1999. I initially got the impression that this was just a simple small Christian group - rather like our lovely friend Ian Adams - and, like Ian, Bell had a simple powerful way of communicating his faith.
After about three chapters of “Velvet Elvis”, however, I started to realise that Bell’s situation was very different and the start of chapter 4 (or “Movement 4” as Bell describes the sections) revealed that his church community was huge! When I checked on Wikipedia, it said that, by 2005, some 11,000 attended his church in three “gatherings” each Sunday! Rob Bell is apparently seen by some people as the “new Billy Graham” and very much a figurehead to many Christians.
I’m afraid to admit that, once I’d learnt a little more of the background, my interest and enthusiasm for the book started to wane. I’ve now finished the book. I still found that there were things he wrote that struck a chord or made me question some of my own views but, by the end - perhaps unfairly - I kept getting a sense that the book was part of a “Rob Bell/Mars Hill Bible Church” industry.
What I think I’d hoped for, somewhat naively, was something that was a little more personal and a sense of shared thoughts between friends.

1 comment:

si smith said...

aye up!

funnily enough - i've been reading velvet elvis too [jim and beth got it for me for my birthday]

i kind of agree with you - on the one hand what he's saying is quite good, but it's hard to get away from the very packaged and commercialised nature of it all - the medium is the message i guess.

i think if i'd read it seven or eight years ago, it might have had much more of an impact, and though i've had to revise my original suspicion that he was maybe just an old school conservative evangelical hiding behind neat typography i'm not sure he's nearly as radical as you would think from the hype that surrounds him and his various products...

[it'll be interesting to hear him at greenbelt this year...]