Rob Bell, Evangelicals, Christianity, and Cultural Assimilation

Contrary to what we might believe of have been led to think based on observing American Christianity, Jesus never said a word about the right and the left as we think of those categories today.  Jesus never said, “blessed the Republicans and the Democrats, the traditionalists and the progressives, the conservatives and the liberals.”  That doesn’t mean Jesus has disdain for such people, he just never pronounced their way of life as blessed.

Perhaps then Christians would be wise to here the people that Jesus did say are blessed.  From Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus says…

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Perhaps, Jesus called these sort of people “blessed” because such people are the only ones humble enough to receive his word, his kingdom, Jesus himself.

For years now, much of American Christianity has become polarized.  Of the evangelical type, which my own heritage in the Churches of Christ share commonalities with, Christianity seemed to amalgamate itself with traditional American patriotism and the political policies necessary to promote that dream.  This move has caused 80 percent of the young emerging adults to turn away from Christianity (and be sure to check out this beautiful blog by Jen Hatmaker about this)

As those who know me, I reject this assimilation of the American right because it isn’t the way of Jesus and does not serve the mission of God.  But now I see another assimilation taking place among some Christians of my generation and the emerging generation behind me.  It’s an assimilation of the American left.

My Facebook and Twitter feeds are buzzing right now with the news of evangelical Pastor and author Rob Bell coming out in support of marriage equality for LGBT people.  Personally, I don’t have a dog in the fight over what the government defines as marriage since for years the government has allowed a view of marriage far different from the historical Christian view of marriage (which is why, should I choose, I can legally divorce my wife tomorrow and marry another woman the following day).  But I am concerned that in effort to distance Christianity from the American right, some Christians seem willing to assimilate Christianity to the American left.  Such a move is just as disastrous and does not appear any closer to the life that Jesus called “blessed” at the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount.

Why does this matter?

Many Christians are concerned with the mission of God (missional church) and how to follow Jesus (discipleship).  Very good!  But here’s a reality we must face: We will never serve the mission of God and follow Jesus unless we learn to assimilate our ways of thinking and living into Jesus’s way of thinking and living!  There’s a lot to assimilating our lives to Jesus’ way of life but that begins only when we can reimagine what it is to live as the humble people who come to Jesus as people who are…

…poor in spirit…

…those who mourn…

…the meek…

…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…

…the merciful…

…the pure in heart…

…the peacemakers…

…those who are persecuted…


*** Feel free to comment but please remain courteous and respectful. ***

4 responses to “Rob Bell, Evangelicals, Christianity, and Cultural Assimilation

  1. A very good, thoughtful, honest post. I agree!

  2. I agree. Very good.

  3. It seems off target to presume that 80 percent of young emerging adults turn away from Christianity itself because of some presumed distain for American patriotism. But even if it is 20 percent, they still need to learn to more objectively and respectfully disagree with traditional patriots and assess Christianity on its own merits. I think the main reason most people of all ages reject Christianity is that they love sin too much to repent. But then, I’m a bit traditional.

  4. Joel – I don’t think young adults are turning away from so called “American patriotism,” but they are rejecting the assumption that the Christian=Republican. Of course, if you think that only Republicans (or conservatives, traditionalists, etc.) are patriots, then I guess you would see left leaning Christians as unpatriotic. And since you say emerging young adults “need to learn to more objectively and respectfully disagree with traditional patriots,” it sounds as though you believe traditionalists to be the more objective and respectful group, with emerging adults as pot stirrers who are sowing disunity. That right there is the attitude that has become so frustrating to many Christians (old and young!). Neither side has the corner market here. We’re all doing our best to serve Jesus and that alone should give us a baseline of respect to work from with each other as we work our way through complicated issues. Grace and peace, brother!

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