Rob Bell, Gay Marriage, and the Movie Tombstone

Yes, even in the world of sex and marriage, “We’ve got to have some law.”

So, what does Bell think is a better guide for sexual ethics than the Bible?  Personal experience.  Why would you choose the Bible, says Bell, “when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who…love each other and just want to go through life.’  In other words, what should guide our decisions is the personal sexual experiences of people. We should follow what they feel is right. If this is how they find “love” then great. Thus, on Bell’s view, there are no sexual ethics. There are just people’s personal sexual preferences.  Welcome to a brave new world.

 

It seems that Rob Bell and Oprah Winfrey are pretty good friends these days.  Bell has appeared on Oprah’s show numerous times, and just recently appeared on her “Super Soul Sunday” episode over Valentine’s Day weekend.  His appearance was designed to promote his new book, The ZimZum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage (HarperOne: 2014).

Now, I have to confess that I have no idea what the main title means.  But, the subtitle is pretty bold.  Given that marriage dates back to the very creation of mankind in Genesis, do we really need a newversion of it? Is something wrong with the original version?  Apparently Bell thinks so.  At least as it pertains to the issue of gay marriage, which he endorses in this new book.

The issue of gay marriage even comes up in the interview with Oprah.  Since Oprah is unlikely to challenge the coherence of Bell’s rationale (she wholeheartedly agrees with him), I thought I would fill in the gap by offering an analysis of his statements here. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

1. During the interview, Kristen Bell reads a line from the book:  “Marriage, gay and straight, is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love, fidelity, commitment, devotion and sacrifice,

This is one of the statements that resonates with our modern world.  After all, who is opposed to “love”?  Who doesn’t want more “love” in the world?  This sort of rhetoric is very effective at making anyone opposed to gay marriage look like they are against love.  It makes them looks like they are hateful.

But, never do such statements define what “love” really is.  For our culture, “love” means whatever you want it to mean. There are no rules, no restrictions, no boundaries.  But, let’s imagine some different scenarios and see whether Bell’s logic makes sense.  Let’s imagine an adult son and his mother wanted to get married.  Is Bell ready to say this incestuous marriage “is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love“?  Doubtful.  Or, perhaps a man wants three wives.  Is Bell ready to say this polygamous marriage is “a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love?” If he is consistent, he would have to say yes.

On Bell’s 1960’s “All you need is Love” view of marriage, it could never be a definable institution that people participate in.  Rather, marriage simply becomes whatever each person wants it to be.  Thus, on Bell’s view there is no such thing as marriage. Because “marriage” is defined by the whims and preferences of each individual, it just evaporates into subjectivism.

2. After Oprah asked him why he included gay marriage in his book, Bell said, “One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness…Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.

I’ve got to say, this is masterful work from Bell. Framing the debate over homosexual marriage around the issue of loneliness is brilliant.  After all, if anyone objects it looks like they are a cruel, unfeeling person who doesn’t care about the suffering of the homosexual community.

But, once again, when you dig into Bell’s statements more deeply, you realized they are flawed at a fundamental level.  Bell says loneliness “is not good for the world.”  Maybe so.  But, sexual immorality is also not good for the world.  Casting off God’s guidance on what counts as legitimate healthy sexual activity is also not good for the world. Despite popular beliefs, immoral sexual activity is not harmless.  It can have serious emotional, spiritual, and even physical ramifications.

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