So I’ve been watching this interesting series of events unfold. It’s a bit of a case study in how principles aren’t as important as people claim they are.
It begins with Rob Bell saying, “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just some of us; it’s in everyone.” (Quote is from http://christianresearchnetwork.com/?p=3821 I assume the various bolds and underlines are their emphasis, though they do not state that.)
The first problem is that there is an urban myth that this quote began with Nelson Mandela. The second problem is that the urban myth is not true. The third problem is that the quote actually belongs to a prominent new age writer named Marianne Williamson.
I’m not interested particularly in the content of the quote. I’m not interested right now in Nelson Mandela, or Marriane Willaimson. What I’m interested in is what happened when this mistake became public knowledge.
The old-school traditional right wing freaked out. They’ve been accusing Rob Bell of being a new-ager in Christian clothes for years. But it’s so interesting to me that they don’t even seem to notice the irony of this position.
Those who embody the modern era– like Bell’s critics– hold that we humans can know truth with a capital “T”. Truth without a capital “T” doesn’t need context. One of the places this plays itself out in terms of what it means to be a Christian.
Traditional moderns would identify a core belief and claim that intellectually holding this belief is sufficient for salvation and identification as a Christian.
Post moderns, on the other hand, emphasize context. Who said a thing, and why this thing was said, is at least as important as what was said. Many post moderns, for example, would say that rational belief isn’t quite enough. They’d say that we can tell whether a belief has penetrated the heart based on the actions of the believer.
Here’s the thing: suddenly the moderns care about the context.
So near as I can discover, nobody took issue with this quote when they believed it came from Nelson Mandella. In some way I’ll give them credit for this: it implies that they recognize Mandella for the hero that he is.
When it became clear that Williamson said it, though, everything went to Hell in a handbasket. This mentality is captured nicely from another cite which reported critically on the whole affair. http://www.apprising.org/archives/2007/04/emergent_church_9.html
“So I guess we now have the right to ask Rob Bell: Do you still believe this love of self stated in this sappy sentiment which we now know actually came emerging from New Age Mystic priestess Marianne Williamson based on her exposition of the occult book A COURSE IN MIRACLES?”
This is perfect! Nobody’s focused on whether it was right or wrong. That seems rather secondary to the source of the quote.
Of course they have the right to ask him. I hope if they did, Mr. Bell would observe, along with me, that it’s pretty interesting to notice that all the sudden context matters. Interesting how “truth is truth” when it’s convenient, but when the source of this “truth” helps extend a smear campaign context matters.