Confused all the Way Down: Rob Bell on Sex, God, and Connection
He speaks of committed and celibate Christians as "sexy" because they are connected to ministering to the poor and oppressed. He laments that mere sex--such as sex on demand on Holland, where prostitution is legal--is not really sexy. Then he says: "You can’t be connected with God until you’re at peace with who you are. If you’re still upset that God gave you this body or this life or this family or these circumstances, you will never be able to connect with God in a healthy, thriving, sustainable sort of way. "
This is exactly backward in several ways. One comes to God on God's terms, as revealed in the Bible: repentant faith in Jesus Christ and ongoing sanctification by faith after one is justified by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). (Bell says nothing about the Bible, which is all too common in contemporary Christianity; it is biblically impoverished, and thus full of self, experience, memoirs, and hype.) We don't find some erotic connection to the universe--through dolphins, concerts, or otherwise--and then connect with God thereby. God is not the creation, but transcends it (while being present in it). Yes, God is the giver of every perfect gift and the designer of sexuality (Genesis 1-2). We are not Gnostics, but should celebrate the creation (on God's terms). But we come to God because he is God, and because he can transform us to do God's will, whatever that might be.
Bell to the contrary, sexuality does not encompass all of the sensual. That is a category confusion of the highest magnitude, and would only be suggested by one besotted by the contemporary sexualization of everything. Taking communion is sensual in the sense of tasting and ingesting real wine and real bread (at least in the better services), but there is nothing sexual about it. If you think there is, there is something wrong with you.
Moreover, those who suffer from chronic illness or who are put in nearly impossible relational situations cannot be blissfully "connected" (what an overused and underachieving word that has become) to their circumstances. Instead, they, like many biblical writers and characters, must lament--lament their broken bodies, lament their fractured relationships, lament the political chaos of their African countries, lament that 300 million in India are "untouchables" (the Dalit people). They call out to a listening heaven because earth has become a living hell. This "disconnection" has produced some of the deepest and richest spiritual beings on the planet. For example, how "connected" was John the Baptist to his culture or to "the sensual"? He was an ascetic for one thing: his diet was sparse; his clothing rough. He had little social adhesion. But he spoke courageous truth to power and paid the highest price imaginable: his head ended up on a platter before a ruler. Jesus commended him with strong praise (Matthew 11:1-11).
Bell's "spirituality"exalts the sensual over the spiritual and then transmutes the sensual into the sexual. If that is what "being sexy" means, let us find another teacher. See Titus 2:7-8.