November 14, 2007
The Rob Bell ShowCategory: Commentary
Last month it was Avenged Sevenfold. Next month it's David Gray and B.B. King. But two nights ago it was Rob Bell. A preacher. From the Midwest.
I doubt the famous Wiltern Theatre on Wilshire has ever experienced so many white, middle-class patrons in it's seventy-six years of existence. There were no mosh pits or banging heads or black fingernails. What you did have was a clan of black-rimmed glasses filing into their seats with Promise Keepers like precision and order.
We packed in - all 2200 of us - to hear Rob Bell speak...or teach, or whatever "The God's Aren't Angry" tour would bring to us. The anticipation was obvious. Cheers went up as the lights went down. One guy in the third row even opened his laptop to take notes. I felt like I was getting ready to experience some yuppie John Mayer type concert, except instead of a drum set and guitars on stage there was an alter.
Rob Bell has become famous for well deserved reasons. One, his methods are usually unconventional and sometimes controversial. He started a new Church and spent the first year preaching long winded yet profound sermons on the blood and guts of Leviticus. He speaks from controversial books like Honest to God and even did a series on the environment. And his latest book is called Sex God, which incidentally isn't about my friend in High School named Sam. Two, he's a tremendous communicator. He possesses an uncanny ability to assess audiences. Even his pauses and pronunciation seem almost flawless.
The tour's subtitle states the following: "Part anthropology, part history, part deconstruction - this is new material that Rob hasn't taught before, exploring how humans invented religion to make themselves feel better."
He walks out on stage wearing all black, shirt sleeves rolled up and New Balance walkers. He was greeted to an anxious-riddled cheer and then dove straight in. And 103 minutes later he finished to a standing ovation and walked off the stage. No q&a, no encore, no book signing. I liked the simplicity of the night.
What disappointed me was how much the tour subtitle didn't match the talk. I thought he might actually address the age old question as to why humans need religion. I hoped that he would explore the common human experience of creating Gods to understand the world, and by linking the past to the present, help us better understand faith today. Instead I received a devotional voicing the same old ideas in a newer package wrapped in a art-deco theatre with a hipster ribbon. And if this was simply another inspirational devotional, then what's the point? His talks every Sunday at Mars Hill receive thousands of downloads. Why didn't he share this devotional at his Church and let everyone download them for free, saving all of us $24?