On May 16, speaker, author, SURFER, podcast host Rob Bell brings his latest book What is the Bible? to our store for a chat. He’s been one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people; he’s toured with Oprah — and now he’s achieved the ultimate: an interview on Dwarf and Giant. Here’s a short intro to the man and his work in anticipation of the big event…
Eric Larkin – What were your favorite books growing up?
Rob Bell – First books as a young kid were the Hardy Boys. Remember those? I inhaled those. And then anything involving someone exploring or risking or going on an adventure, like Joshua Slocum’s books about sailing around the world alone.
EL – What lead you into writing?
RB – I had been doing live events and realized that certain things had a bit of electricity to them, like they connected in a visceral way with the audience. And I started to wonder if I could capture those stories and ideas and metaphors in writing. Which meant I had to in some ways set aside what I knew about the live experience and figure out how this new-to-me medium worked. Which was daunting, to say the least. I probably spent 90% of my energy on the first book asking “Who am I to write a book?” and the 10% leftover actually writing the book.
EL – Your new book is What is the Bible? A common answer these days could be: a narrow, superstitious, out-of-date tool of oppression. Why do you think folks might feel that way?
RB – Because of how much damage and destruction has been done in the name of the Bible. All from reading it in ways that don’t bring peace and justice and love. So that’s what I’m doing with this book: trying to help people read it in such a way that they see the progressive and radical and enlightened and dangerous ideas that are in this ancient library. It’s the original subversive literature. This book (What is the Bible?) is for everybody, because that’s who the Bible is for. It isn’t for religious people, it’s for everybody compelled to explore the depths of life.
EL – There was a lot of controversy when you released Love Wins. Some folks were really excited by it, other folks not so much. Have you seen that conversation evolve since then?
RB – Absolutely. Lots of people all over the world are leaving behind toxic and oppressive belief systems. That’s how it works, doesn’t it? Something dies, so that something new can be born…
EL – What has changed for you from leading a large church in Michigan to now focusing more on writing, speaking and your podcast (The RobCast)?
RB – More surfing. Haha. I’m having more fun than ever. My work now isn’t in churches or conventional religious settings, but of course we’re all more spiritually thirsty than ever. That’s what I do: I create spaces where whoever you are and wherever you’re from, we can explore the big questions of pain and loss and joy and exile and empire and violence and forgiveness and grace together.
EL -What writers and thinkers have influenced you as an adult? What have you been reading lately?
RB – Oh my, don’t get me started. I just finished Ched Myers book Binding the Strong Man and Alain de Botton’s book The Architecture of Happiness and a book on Damien Hirst and one on Jean-Michel Basquiat that I bought at the Broad and of course Ram Dass’s Grist for the Mill and that new one Before the Fall and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, and I’m halfway through Winston Churchill’s The Gathering Storm (Which is amazing!) and Peter Garrett from Midnight Oil’s new memoir.
EL – Ok, geez, we’re going to have to do a “Rob Bell’s Reading List” post! What are you working on next?
RB – The tour and then the next book is coming along strong and then each week I do new content for RobCast. I do a regular show at Largo in West Hollywood, and then I’m doing a tour of the deep south in July. Making things and then unleashing them into the world: that’s where the joy is.
For more Rob Bell and much better questions, join us on May 16th.