Responding to Another Man’s Nonsense

I wonder if he would have written the book had he known what the fallout would be? Probably so.

Rob Bell continues to make waves both inside and outside the Church, which is why I’m writing for a third time on the continuing brouhaha surrounding him and his book.

Time decided to supplement it’s cover story on Bell last week with a piece by a writer I’ve never heard of (I’m not suggesting anything with that comment; I’m sure there are a lot of writers I’ve never heard of). Aside from being incredibly asinine and full of sarcastic cynicism, it helps shed light on how the non-Christian world sees the controversy.

The author, Bill Saporito, writes:

“Bell’s I’m-O.K.-you’re-O.K., we’re-not-going-to-hell-today spin is not merely a refutation of a basic belief. If this piece of theological reordering takes hold, it’s the Evangelicals’ business plan that’s going to hell.

Fire and brimstone has been one of the Evangelicals’ main product lines. It’s based on a zero-sum outcome: heaven or hell. Believe or perish. And part of the deal, at least in practical application, is that you can’t get spiritually right without monetarily supporting the church. Pay to play, in other words. It’s the same with most religions. No one says so in those crude terms — it’s all about the mission — but a sales pitch is a sales pitch, even one accompanied by a choir. You can’t build the Crystal Cathedral on prayer alone. There’s a mortgage to pay.”

Like I said, my guess it that this guy had a bad experience in a church as a kid, or maybe his dad was a pastor. Of course, it may be that just a lifetime of watching the church’s antics has turned him off to the whole concept.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that someone completely hates Christianity, the Church, and God because of the things the Church has done (or failed to do) so I don’t hold that against him.

Essentially, what this guy is attempting to say is this: Rob Bell said everyone is going to heaven and, as a result, Evangelical churches won’t have anything to hold over people’s heads to make them pay their tithes.

First of all, I’ve heard enough pastors complain about people not tithing to know that particular church problem has existed long before Love Wins hit bookshelves.

Furthermore, to suggest that people only give money to the Church so they can buy fire insurance is completely nonsensical and unbelievably offensive.

Never mind the fact that a great many people (myself included) support the Church because they support the Church’s mission: to reach out to the people in the world who are sick and dying, hungry and destitute both practically and spiritually.

Let’s all just completely ignore that Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Blessing, the Salvation Army and untold other organizations–Christian non-profit organizations supported by donors, many of them Christians–are among the first boots on the ground after natural disasters leave thousands upon thousands dead and dying.

Let’s just close our eyes and pretend we don’t know any of that.

Secondly, “Bell’s I’m-O.K.-you’re-O.K., we’re-not-going-to-hell-today spin is not merely a refutation of a basic belief,” is a wholly inaccurate and misleading representation of the message Bell presents in his book. I highly suggest to Mr. Saporito that he actually read Love Wins. If he already has, I suggest he read it again.

All things considered, Love Wins has been at the center of a far bigger controversy and received far more attention than it actually warrants. It also appears that more than one type of person is willing to set up a straw-man version of Bell’s words as a way to advance a lopsided argument.

Might I suggest everyone with an ax to grind, Evangelical, cynic, and otherwise, grab a cup of coffee and find a nice little chair by an open window and actually read the book that everyone likes to talk about, but arguably few have actually read.

Let priests tie the knot!

Pope Benedict XVI

Time is an interesting news source. Sometimes their stuff is just so blatantly left-wing that it’s quite disgusting they call what they do “journalism.” But, on the other hand, occasionally, their writers have some very strong insight.

In a story released–probably strategically so–on Palm Sunday, Tim Padgett urges the Catholic Church to change its stance on marriage for clergy.

I once interviewed a priest by the name of Father Michael J. Knipe of St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a story I was writing on charismatic Catholicism, as well as the relationship between the Catholic Church and Oral Roberts University. In the course of that interview, he said something to me that helped me see the “No Marriage for Priests” policy in a different light.

He said that being unmarried allows him to focus his energy entirely on tending his flock–no small task for a man who until going to St. Pius served Mass in three parishes across southeastern Oklahoma on Sundays, one in my hometown. That, quite honestly, makes sense. If a priest wants to remain unmarried to be able to devote himself entirely to his congregation (or whatever it is they call them in the Catholic Church), why should that be an issue?

It isn’t. But, making it a requirement has had some pretty disastrous effects.

The Apostle Paul acknowledge that while the celibate life is good, it might be best to consider marriage: “Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to live a celibate life. But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:1-2; NLT)

It doesn’t take a genius to know that God designed us to procreate and the sexual urge is an instinct deeply hardwired into our brains, with some more able to control it than others.

So, without further adieu, here are 4 simple reasons why, as Padgett suggests, priests should be allowed to marry:

  1. Some Catholic priests are already married, such as those who were when they became priests. Obviously, if some priests are able to be married, then why not all?
  2. It’s what men and women were made to do. At the very beginning of Creation, God made it clear it isn’t good for a man to be alone (not “lonely,” as some say, but “alone;” there’s a difference.) Being married should be considered a hindrance from doing God’s work–not saying it is, but that tends to be the perception from rules like this.
  3. Allowing priests to marry would allow those with a weaker hold over their sexuality a way to find release. Of course, that’s not to suggest the cure for pedophilia is getting married; not at all. Nor should marriage for priests be solely about sex anymore than it should be non-clergy.

Of course, none of this is meant to suggest allowing priests to marry would solve all of the Church’s problems, especially the ongoing sex abuse scandals. It also doesn’t mean that priests should be required to marry. Those like Father Knipe should be allowed to remain single if they choose so they can apply themselves completely to those in their spiritual care.

If, as has been the traditional understanding (at least from my viewpoint), marriage is a sort of enactment of the relationship between Christ and the Church, it seems wholly appropriate that priests should be allowed to marry.