Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Particular Trap

I was almost caught in it today -

The Particular Trap.

I took the bait and heard the snap. But, then I saw it for what it was and chose to let myself out.

The Particular Trap; it is when I make universals out of particulars. It's generalizing. I find when I get caught in this trap I get really ugly or really down.

Let me tell you what happened.

I was surfing YouTube, looking for something else and I came across a video by Rob Bell. Since I like Rob Bell I thought I'd see what else was on YouTube related to Rob Bell.

[Full disclosure #1: I like Rob Bell. I have never met him. I resonate with much of his theology. I loved his books Velvet Elvis and Sex God. I didn't think his latest book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, was as good as the other two. Just last Sunday I used one of his Nooma videos in worship, and I have quoted from him in a few sermons. I have worshipped at Bell's church. But, if I lived in Grand Rapids, I probably wouldn't worship regularly at Mars Hill for personal reasons.]

So, I look up Rob Bell on YouTube and got dozens of videos about his work. One was a nearly three hour vitriolic diatribe by a radio talk-show guy blasting Rob Bell in a segment called "Rob Bell Isn't a Christian." In another video a pastor showed one of Bell's Nooma videos and then spent the rest of his sermon taking apart Bell's theology in that video. There were more along the same lines - pastors and speakers trashing Bell's theology and his work. Another radio host (I didn't know you could put radio clips on YouTube) predicted that "very soon you will hear that 'it is okay to be a Christian and a homosexual' coming out of Mars Hill."

[Full Disclosure #2: I really have a strong response when people talk as if they believe that entrance to heaven depends on a perfect score on both the oral and written components of a theological exam. Don't even get me started.]

It's not that I take the blasting of Rob Bell personally. I just feel bad for Bell - who, if he is healthy, isn't even paying attention to these criticisms.

Then I got to thinking about the critics - see full disclosure #2. And I got to thinking that if this is how the church is, then it is on a fast and troubling spiral downward. Then I got to thinking about how I am losing faith in the church - and that's when I heard the snap of the trap shutting down.

I was making a generalization about the church from a relatively small number of people. These folks are part of the church of Jesus Christ, but they are NOT the church of Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ does not waste time criticizing people who don't theologically agree with them because there are waaay too many people in the world who are hungry and afraid and wounded and neglected and oppressed to argue theology. Besides, the church gets enough criticism from non-Christians (some of it legitimate); we don't need to sling mud inside the family.

The Particular Trap. It perpetuates things like racism and sexism and ageism and all of the other isms that ensnare humanity and keep us from being the people that God created and redeemed us to be. Sometimes I can see the Particular Trap a mile away, and then, like today, I only see it when I hear the snap shut.

Thank God I heard the snap.

I share this with you because I want to remain alert and I want you to remain alert as well. I suspect that I am not the only one who gets caught by The Particular Trap. I am pretty sure that a lot of people get caught in that trap.

But, maybe I am generalizing again.

1 comment:

rogER said...

All I have to say Jeff, is thank you for that post. Okay, maybe a little more ... I am a covenant member at Mars Hill, and I've seen a LOT of negativity directed toward Rob and it is definitely sickening. It is a complete shame that these people have decided to exhaust their energies on the act defaming Rob instead of directing that same energy toward being the body of Christ. So again, thank you for your post. I hope and pray that more people come to a conclusion such as yours.

Blessings to you!