Monday, June 05, 2006

Figure of Speech

Recently read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell.

It's a nice little piece of apologetics. Contains some good historical stuff about Judaism and other cultural touchstones of Jesus' time, and a nice breakdown of how fundamentalism without the benefit of historical reference often leads to a misinterpretation of the Bible.

I particularly liked the simple language he used. It's way too easy to load up this kind of work with phrases and terms that have a particular meaning within a denomination of Christianity, or have had a universal meaning within Christianity that is different from the common definition. (For instance, even C.S. Lewis spins the word "joy" in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy.) In Velvet Elvis, every word means what you think it means.

However, this is not the sort of book that will convince anyone who already is unconvinced of the reality of the life of Christ, nor will it get any traction with fundamentalists as they are usually immune to any interpretation that is not the literal, face value English language interpretation of any given passage. So, the only audience who will enjoy the book are those like me who are already convinced of most of what Bell has to say.

I did find one great take-away, though. He has a section on things that are labeled Christian, such as music and movies, simply because they contain Christian themes. He points out that actually all things belong to God and essentially are of God. Slapping the label "Christian" on something, particularly if it's merely foisting Christian concepts and doing it rather badly (for instance, pretty much any tune on any Christian radio station these days), may not really be doing a service to Christianity. I like the way he makes the point.

He even compiles it down to a bumper sticker:

"Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective."

I recommend the book for Christians who want to read something uplifting and nice about our faith (a rarer and rarer experience in our culture it seems). Buddhists, atheists, and Christian fundamentalists could probably find a better use of their reading time.

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