Just finished reading this book.
Some great insights.
Some compelling diagnostics.
Some real stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks phrases. The guy can write.
Some real gasp-in-wonder moments when Bell reveals biblical parallels, deliberate evokings of earlier moments in salvation history. The guy can research.
What’s the book about ?
Well, empire really. It is a retelling of the Christian story from the perspective of empire.
God’s people oppressed by empire
God’s people delivered from empire
God’s people tempted to become empire
God’s punishment delivers them to their enemies
God’s people oppressed by empire (and the cycle recommences…)
The big story is that Jesus changes the game – we move from empire to Kingdom – and a very unusual kingdom. It is not about power but weakness. It is not about oppression but service.
Eucharist – thankfulness, is the word Bell chooses to sum up what the Christian faith should be. A thankfulness that expresses itself in self-giving.
For someone to get, someone else has to give.
Christians choose to be the givers.
Bell critiques America and American Christianity – he sees it more on the side of empire, than the Kingdom.
And it is exactly here that Bell’s courage fails.
Bell sub-titles his book ‘A manifesto for the Church in exile’ – but that is exactly what is missing – a manifesto.
His diagnosis is brilliant, but his prescription is vague ; he calls for no specific change, no concrete action. Merely that we should adopt a eucharistic outlook – live differently.
Which is great.
But what about disengaging from empire ?
What about challenging the oppression that we are part of ?
Can we really just let is all continue to go on and do nothing ?
We are hurting people.
A fantastic book – I can’t emphasise enough how well worth reading it is – but with a fatal flaw of h-h-hesitation.
Bell should have gone on and written that manifesto.