Pope Francis, Rob Bell and hope for New Church Christianity

In the world of pastors, last week witnessed several fascinating events.

Pope Francis continued his obvious push as an advocate of lifestyle Christianity aligned to the needs to the poor.  Rob Bell, acclaimed author of “Love Wins”, in a well publicized interview preceding his most recent book, argued for Christianity to evolve largely along the same lines.  Fascinating. A Catholic.  An Evangelical.  Both calling for a radical reclaiming of a Christianity pulled back into its roots.   One could apply Richard Rohr’s words for the Pope to both actually …  ”this man is about lifestyle Christianity more than perpetual doctrinal food fights, which bear so little real fruit anyway.”

Listen to Rob Bell’s words as well. “I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told “we’re gonna change the thing” and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And I think that when you’re in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it’s very painful. You sort of die or you adapt. And if you adapt, it means you have to come face to face with some of the ways we’ve talked about God, which don’t actually shape people into more loving, compassionate people. And we have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive. And we’ve done it in the name of God and we need to repent.”

Re-read those words as a Catholic.  I know and work and with many Catholics.  Don’t they ring true for Catholicism as well?  Re-read those words as member of the New Church.  I at least get a ringing in my ears!

What was immensely refreshing to me was hearing commentators note the consistent murmur from the disaffected that they would be willing to give Catholicism “one more try” if Pope Francis’ vision of simplicity, humility and generosity holds true.  I imagine many lapsed Protestants feel the same on hearing Bell’s words.

Hope.  This is a message of the universal Church, a Christianity spread over denominational lines, tied by hearts in the mystery that is Christ’s loving kindness lived into this world.


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