How’s that for a click bait title?
In March, I went to California to spend a few days with Rob Bell and Richard Rohr. Both are gifted authors and communicators, and it was truly a gift to see them riff together for sixteen hours without notes, and not only blow my mind, but blow each other’s.
I took 34 pages of notes (which is more than I took in most of my university courses), and I could talk for hours about what they said, but what I did want to record here was the conversations I had with them.
** I know my trip was almost 3 months ago. I’ve been a bit busy coaching the Green Valley Garden Gnomes in the High School Ultimate Provincials. So thanks for understanding. **
So, I was a bit of a groupie in awe of these two, and I was determined to take a picture of me with them. But I wanted to at least pretend to have a bit of substance to me, so I figured I’d ask them a question first, and then pose for the picture (I’m sure they’ve never seen that move before).
Let’s start with Rob Bell. We were in line, getting Wachos (waffle nachos), and this is a paraphrased version of our conversation.
“Hi Rob. Kyle from cold Winnipeg here. We met while surfing yesterday.”
“Ah, yes. Cold Winnipeg.”
“I have a question for you. What do you do with all of your critics?”
“What do you mean?”
“Ummm… what do YOU mean, what do you mean? You are aware that there are some people who don’t like your writing, who disagree with you, who write blog posts about you being a heretic… that kind of stuff. What do you with all of it?”
“Well, do you know who they are?”
“Do I know who they are?”
“So, who are these people, and why do what they say matter?”
“Come on, Rob. You know what I mean. If you type your name into Google, you find all sorts of websites that state why you suck.”
He smiled at me.
“Okay, first of all, I don’t do this for them. Their toxicity towards others is a symptom of how toxic their understanding of faith is. They’re off, over there, doing their thing, and writing for their people. But I don’t do what I do for them. I do it for people who have rejected that toxic faith, but still want a vibrant spirituality. I do it for people who find Jesus compelling, but don’t want all that other stuff. I’m trying to help people not throw out the baby with the bathwater. So, yeah, sure, there are people out there who write things about me. I’ve heard about them. But really, I couldn’t care less. Because there are hundreds of people who are here, today, who do care, and are finding life within this understanding of spirituality. I do it all for people like you, and basically ignore the rest, because they’re happy in their understanding of faith.”
“And secondly, never Google your name.”
And then I went and ate my Wachos on the beach while watching a dolphin swim by.
My take home thoughts from that conversation: I don’t do it for them. Their toxicity is a symptom of their toxic faith. I do it for the people who want to find life in this movement called Christianity, but don’t want anything to do with THAT.
And then, during an afternoon break, I went and asked Richard Rohr a question.
“Hi Father. Question for you. You write a lot about ego, and about powerlessness, and about humility. How does that work when we’re all here paying hundreds of dollars to hear you speak and then bug you during coffee breaks to take your picture? And by the way, can you smile for a picture?”
“Well, now you’re feeding my ego and causing me to not be humble! But yes, a good question. It takes a lot of work, but it’s a good thing I’m a Franciscan and I took a vow of poverty and humility. That helps. And a lot of prayer and contemplation.”
“Thanks for that. I’m a pastor in a small Mennonite church, and the other pastor I work with loves your books, and he was quite jealous that I was coming to hear you speak, so this picture will definitely make him jealous.”
“You’re a Mennonite!?!? I love Mennonites! If I wasn’t a Franciscan, I’d definitely be a Mennonite. Your understanding of peace and non-violence, community and simplicity have a very large sphere of influence, far further than most of you know.”
“Ha! Now you’re feeding my ego and causing me to not be humble. Thanks Father Richard.”
And then I went and elbowed my new Episcopalian priest friend and said “Ha! Richard Rohr said that if he wasn’t a Franciscan, he’d be a Mennonite. You can have Rachel Held Evans.” (or something along those lines, right Dorian?)
My take home thoughts from that conversation: I need to pray more. And dang it, did he ever feed my ego and make me proud to be a Mennonite, hence my need to pray more.
Obviously, there was tons more in those few days, but those are the paraphrases of the conversations I had with Rob Bell and Richard Rohr. And if you haven’t read any of their books, be sure to stop by my office and I’ll hook you up.