I love Rob Bell’s teachings. Can I just start there? For those not normally involved in the umbrella of Christian teachings, his name can be very divisive. Bell is often criticized for being a heretic or trying to be much more open in his theology than fundamentalists. Bell asks a lot of tough questions and encourages people not to run around trying to simply “save souls”. Instead he encourages Christians to actually be passionate about changing our world for the better. A long video can be seen here below and then I will move onto the actual book review.
As for the actual book, it is written in a similar style to Velvet Elvis, Sex God, and Jesus Wants to Save Christians, but is a 12 X 10 monster of a book discussing the intersection of creativity and suffering. Reading half like a picture book and half like the stories we’ve come to love from Rob, the incredible photography helps the readers really grasp onto the concepts Bell tries to explore. Even if the concepts seem basic, Bell always delivers in a different, blog-style format that helps readers who do not desire to spend two weeks reading a 300-page book on one concept to grasp onto the message.
The book begins with a story of a father who has two sons whose wives who are both pregnant. One gives birth to a healthy son; the other has a miscarriage. When the father walks down the hospital hallway and reflects, there is celebration, and there is mourning. Bell says that we are all constantly walking down hallways just like that hospital and sets up the book for his thoughts on suffering and how that leads to creativity. Bell explores it through different sections of the book that flow together without traditional chapter titles, including:
the art of suffering.
the art of the ache.
the art of elimination.
the art of disruption.
the art of honesty.
the art of solidarity.
the art of failure.
Rob Bell weaves anecdotes from the movie Old School with serious quotes, like one from Abraham Joshua Heschel in 1972 to young people: “Above all, remember that the meaning of life is to live it as if it were a work of art. You’re not a machine. When you’re young, start working on this great work of art called your own existence.” Bell says that when you are brought to nothing, you turn to God. In the art of honesty, Bell says that “to talk about what really needs talked about, to stop pretending and posing and acting, we have to suffer.”
All in all, it was a good read that will take anyone about 45 minutes to complete. The images engraved in your mind through the pictures and Bell’s words will stick with you. However, Sigs’ recommendation is to head to your local bookstore and read it for free rather than drop the $35 retail price on a book that is definitely worth your time, but not your entire coffee table.