Evangelical megapastor, author, and television writer Rob Bell publicly expressed support for marriage equality Sunday, mincing few words as he offered a scathing critique of American evangelicalism.
Speaking before an assembled crowd at Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal church in San Francisco, Bell, an avowed evangelical who has been called the “heir to Billy Graham,” responded to a question about his personal views on same-sex marriage with a firm endorsement of the right to marry.
BELL: I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.
Bell, who was promoting his new book What We Talk About When We Talk About God, also expressed frustration with conservative strains of American evangelicalism, saying their theologies “don’t actually shape people into more loving, compassionate people”:
BELL: I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told ‘we’re gonna change the thing’ and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people… We have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive. And we’ve done it in the name of God and we need to repent.”
Listen to the full interview here (his comments on marriage equality come at 42:30):
This is the first time Bell has offered public endorsement for the right to marry, a significant shift that will likely make waves given his prominence among evangelicals. Listed as one of Time Magazine’s top 100 most influential people in the world in 2011, the church Bell founded, Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, boasts a Sunday attendance of more than 10,000 members. But his influence extends far beyond the sanctuary walls: his books Love Wins and Velvet Elvis are New York Times bestsellers, and his NOOMA video series is a staple of church youth groups and young adult ministries all over the country. What’s more, Bell left his church in September 2011 to work on a new television series with “Lost” producer Carlton Cuse, setting himself up to have a nationally televised platform through which to express his popular — and increasingly progressive — theological views.
Our guest blogger is Jack Jenkins, Writer and Researcher for the Center for American Progress Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative.