It is far from a perfect book, and I sometimes disagree with it or its author, but it doesn't nearly deserve the opprobrium it has received from many self-appointed defenders of the Christian faith.
In the first pages of Velvet Elvis, Bell writes,
Times change. God doesn't, but times do. We learn and grow, and the world around us shifts, and the Christian faith is alive only when it is listening, morphing, innovating, letting go of whatever has gotten in the way of Jesus and embracing whatever will help us be more and more the people God wants us to be.You might think it would be hard for people to argue with "letting go of whatever has gotten in the way of Jesus." Turns out, not so much.
But I happen to like his approach. He affirms historic Christianity but esteems the Bible more. And Jesus still more. I think that's pretty healthy. And besides, he helps me see all the above--historic Christianity, the Bible, and Jesus--with fresh eyes.
Although I have listened to Bell's preaching podcasts with great appreciation for many years, it took me more than six years after the release of Velvet Elvis to read it. I think that's primarily because I'm not a big "joiner." I'm reluctant to read the "latest thing." But I'm glad I finally got around to it. And I recommend it.
Some of the parts I underlined:
Let's make a group decision to drop once and for all the Bible-as-owner's-manual metaphor. It's terrible. It really is.
We have to embrace the Bible as the wild, uncensored, passionate account it is of people experiencing the living God.
To grab a few lines of Jesus and drop them down on someone 2,000 years later without first entering the world in which they first appeared is lethal to the life and vitality and truth of the Bible.
Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective.
The most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly on display.
I am learning that the church has nothing to say to the world until it throws better parties.
The church is a she.