Book review: Velvet Elvis

by Rob Bell


Harper One appears to be doing a reprint of Rob Bell’s works, and sent me a nice little stack of books. So I’m beginning with Bell’s Cinderella work, Velvet Elvis, published back in 2005. I had actually never read it before. Had heard it talked about, but never turned the cover. It turns out to be a good book, but I really didn’t enjoy it as much as I did Bell’s latest, Love Wins. I’ll review that one shortly.

Velvet Elvis is written in a style exactly like I expect the young mega-church pastor to preach: friendly and colloquial, somewhat meandering, common-sensical. I don’t quite get the “Velvet Elvis” part, so let’s ignore the title and just say his is common-sense Christianity. It’s not terribly controversial (it’s actually more conservative than I expected), and it’s not theologically probing, but it’s clear Bell can think for himself … or rather, he can unthink some of the stray ideas that have led many Christians away from simply living a Christian life. I absolutely love this observation early in the book about what happens when you try to follow Jesus:

Over time when you purposefully try to live the way of Jesus, you start noticing something deeper going on. You begin realizing the reason this is the best way to live is that it is rooted in profound truths about how the world is. You find yourself living more and more in tune with ultimate reality. You are more and more in sync with how the universe is at its deepest levels.

What is Bell talking about? He’s talking about what it means to be a disciple of a first-century Rabbi who sees potential in each of us, and calls us to live like him. He’s talking about what happens when you quit pushing your religion on your neighbors and dwell like Christians among them. He’s talking about what happens when you view God’s dream for mankind as one of him coming down to make his home with us, rather than us peering into the heavens with a forlorn hope of rapturous escape. He’s talking about compassion, goodness, simplicity, all the things that can make this world a better place for all of us.

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