yesterday morning, the theological wing of the twittersphere exploded when audio surfaced of rob bell affirming same sex marriage. while speaking at grace cathedral—an episcopal church in san francisco—he was directly asked about his stance on gay marriage and he offered the following response:
“I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
here’s the deal: i’m not, in the slightest, surprised at his theological stance. i think, for quite some time, he’s made clear in his teachings and writings that he holds to a generous orthodoxy that majors on inclusion. i am with him on that—for lack of a better word—hermeneutic.
yet, i’m still surprised at his response. one of the things that has separated rob bell from pretty much every other prominent christian leader is his ability to—what i’m calling—”live above the fray”. he’s spent quite a few years uninterested in the christian culture wars or the divisive bickering that epitomizes the warring factions of christianity. he is above denomination and category and has operated in a space that no one else occupies.
because of those things, i’m a little surprised at his directness in response. it isn’t that i expect a politician’s response in which he doesn’t actually answer the question or a watery response that’s generic and valueless. rather, rob bell typically responds with a bigger answer—a more poignant and thoughtful answer—than what we expected or that the question even merits.
when jesus was asked small questions, he gave answers bigger than the question. the pharisees thought they could trap jesus by asking him which commandment was the most important. they sought a simple, singular answer. jesus, though, gave them a bigger answer when he told them that it was loving god and loving people. jesus’ response was “above the fray”.
this is what rob bell typically does. and that’s why i’m surprised at his forthcoming response to the question of same sex marriage.
don’t get me wrong, i agree with his stance and i’m glad that he’s opened the door to others having the courage to publicly support our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. i’m simply surprised at his directness.
he’s in a position in his life where this type of public declaration is easier for him (not pastoring a church, etc.), but it will still be interesting to see the backlash from evangelicals (particularly the angry reformed bloggers). regardless of the response, i think it’s safe to say that rob bell will continue, with wisdom and grace, living above the fray.