Thursday, June 07, 2007

velvet elvis

I finally finished Velvet Elvis. (for the record, my cover is exactly like the one pictured on amazon...) It was a pretty good read, not hard to get through, with some insightful things, some great personal anecdotes, humor, and whatnot. I didn't feel like it was written for me (a mainline protestant pastor) but there are still things I got out of it. There's already a great review and discussion (from 10 days ago, when I had hoped to finish the book) here.

So I'm reading along, agreeing with quite a bit but not finding anything terribly new...I enjoy some of Bell's metaphor and his story-telling style, his conviction that following Jesus makes a difference in how you live...

but then I got near the end, and on page 166 I read this: "it is so toxic for the gospel when Christians picket and boycott and complain about how bad the world is. This behavior doesn't help. It makes it worse. It isn't the kind of voice Jesus wants his followers to have in the world. Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn't as bright as it could be."
I disagree on so many's hard to even begin. Isn't protesting/boycotting a way of asking why the light isn't as bright as it could be? Isn't standing up for those who can't stand up part of the gospel? The biblical tradition--in both the old and new testaments--is rife with examples of people doing something like picketing and boycotting, and there's even some complaining about how bad the world is. Just open up Jeremiah or Lamentations or the Psalms and there it is. Tell the prophets or John the Baptist not to speak up, loudly and publicly and even in the halls of power, against injustices they see. I think it is a sweeping generalization and overstatement to identify boycotting with "complaining about how bad the world is." There is such a difference between standing up and asking for what's right, which often involves first naming what is wrong, and simple complaining. This statement of Bell's seems, in many ways, to counteract the statement found literally on the opposing page, at the same space on the page and everything:
"if the gospel isn't good news for everybody, then it isn't good news for anybody."
Well, yes, exactly. The problem is that we human beings aren't normally good at allowing it to be good for everybody. That's why we need protests and boycotts sometimes, because there are people who would prefer to keep the earthly part of the good news (which, according to Bell, is the most important part) to themselves while saving the heavenly part for those whose earthly lives suck because they get paid 30 cents a bushel for picking tomatoes.

So while we'll have to agree to disagree on this point, the rest of the book is worth the read.
Just don't do what I did and read it at work while you're reading A Generous Orthodoxy at can make your brain confused.

1 comment:

  1. I want to catch up with you and the other Gals by reading Velvet Jesus. I'll put it on my list.

    Glad your group is coming to N.O. in July (oh baby! we are talking HOT). We need lots of help!