To get an idea of where Pastor Rob Bell, founding member of the Mars Hill Bible Church of Grandville, Mich., is coming from: Green Day's American Idiot was big in his house a few years ago.
He lists The Arctic Monkeys, The Doves and Snow Patrol among his current faves, but Bell isn't a shyster using pop-culture references to gain credibility with young people before giving way to hard-sell tactics of doom and gloom. The author of Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, and a speaker in the DVD short-film NOOMA series, Bell is talking Christianity nationwide with a decidedly anti-Christian right approach.
"Oh, I have huge issues with the Christian right," says Bell, calling from his home in Michigan. "I believe they have been co-opted by power, greed and indifference to the suffering of the world."
So this summer, he's leading a number of discussions about faith and the state of the world in secular venues.
"I ask lots of questions," Bell says. "To me, central to being a Christian is the endless exploration and search for truth. So, it's about this big, beautiful, weird world we live in, and learning to find God and to find the divine in the everyday."
He adds, "I'm interested in what's true and what Jesus said to do, and I care little for much else. Today, 6,000 people are dying in Africa from AIDS. This is a continent on fire, and you either care or you don't. And you either realign yourself around the greatest tragedy in the world or you remain indifferent.
"And when Jesus speaks of hell, he speaks of hell as a warning to religious people who don't care about the suffering of the world."
An Evening with Rob Bell
The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Monday, July 3, 7 p.m.
Sold out; for tickets, try the door on the day of the show.