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Unpacking Rob Bell's DeVos Connection

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During Rob Bell's stop in Portland, Oregon on his book tour to promote yet another new book that offers yet another revolutionary take on the Bible, I asked him a question about his connection to US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Here's his response. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4l7RDnoio0 What's missing from his answer is that Betsy DeVos not only gave him money for the NOOMA Videos but she was an elder at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI. The Prince-DeVos union combined two of Grand Rapid's wealthiest right wing families. As any Bell devotee knows, these NOOMA videos launched him on to the national stage. Thanks to them, he left the ranks of other youthful church pastors riding the Christian church conference circuit to being named to one of Time Magazine's Top 100 people in 2011. Lest we think we're talking chump change, according to the website ConservativeTransparency.org, from 2004 to 2008, the Richard and Betsy DeVos Foundation donated $1,094,219 to Flannel, the organization that produced the NOOMA videos. Also, from 2001 to 2013, this foundation donated $4,474,000 to Mars Hill Bible Church. (Bell resigned his pastorate in December 2011). His answer reminded me of DeVos' response when she was asked during her Senate confirmation hearings about her family foundation's donations to Focus on the Family. Both seemed to find their connections here to be inconsequential at best, despite evidence to the contrary. When audience members asked him other questions about responding to biblical fundamentalist and Joel Osteen, he delivered similar Oprah-esque responses. (Given Bell's affiliation with her network, I suppose these happy-happy-joy-joy answers should be expected.) While I can affirm Bell's thesis "We're all on an evolutionary path in search of wonder," part of our evolution toward higher consciousness needs to be an acknowledgement of where we have sinned against others. Here we need to atone for our mistakes and seek forgiveness and reconciliation by those harmed by our actions. For example, since DeVos helped fund the videos that made Bell an uber rock star, perhaps he could donate her contributions to those groups fighting against the harmful educational policies DeVos seeks to implement. Then, he could use his national platform to help make right the wrongs done by the Prince-DeVos empire. As my friend Todd Fadel, a musician with Agents of Future who performed at the UK based festival Greenbelt, reminded me, "In order to be an ally it's important to lay all your cards on the table.  If you have inconsistencies in your relationships - own those hypocrisies.  If you don't, you won't earn anyone's trust but the fans you already have. Which sounds Trumpian at best and destructive at worst?" Author and pastor Candace Chellew-Hodge adds, "If Bell wanted to truly repent of that money he'd be speaking out on these issues, but he's made his wheelhouse about the kind of theology that never touches politics, which I can't respect. I agree with Barth that you have to have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Bell's just tap dancing because he's either not sorry for taking the money or he's still receiving it in some fashion." In fairness to Bell, his response is emblematic of Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rachel Held Evans and other progressive evangelical/emergent author/speakers. Their products may soothe the soul of those in search of a kinder, gentler, non-Trumpian form of the faith. But pull back the curtain, and it's clear they still remain connected to organizations like The Family/The Fellowship (host of the National Prayer Breakfast). As always, follow the money. That's where you find out what a faith based author/speaker truly worships. (See https://robbell.com/portfolio/press/, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/trump-education-secretary-betsy-devos-a-win-for-the-christian-right-w470605, https://thehumanist.com/commentary/betsy-devos-friend-family-faith-based-education, http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/18/politics/betsy-devos-focus-on-the-family-foundation/.)