The following is a guest post from an old friend of this blog who still happens to have his login information. There may be a few more like this in the future. It's kind of a test run.
What makes Martin Bashir's interview of Rob Bell remarkable is that Bell does not come off well in it. And that alone is very un-Rob Bell.
Bell's influence is built on controlled environments. He communicates creatively, and that is to his credit. The Nooma videos are great, at least in terms of production and often in terms of content. His public speaking gigs apparently are not your average sermon (though admittedly, I haven't watched). His books are visually appealing and provocatively titled.
Which brings up this point: as long as Rob Bell is in control of the production, he comes off as intelligent, gentle, and likeable. In a word, he's slick.
But then he goes on msnbc and Martin Bashir isn't buying it. That's not unique: plenty of us haven't been buying it for awhile. What is unique is that Bashir has the chance to ask pointed questions (not just weigh in on his blog, like the rest of us), and Bell looks positively uncomfortable. He is inarticulate. He talks in non-sensical (not merely paradoxical) circles. Bashir pushes, Bell tries to respond, and Bashir essentially says, "You haven't really responded at all. You've dodged my question, and as an interviewer, it's my job to get you to answer the question." But he simply cannot do it.
By the end, Bell looks like he got ambushed. I really wonder if he had any idea what was coming.
Here Rob Bell is forced to answer the hard-yet-oh-so-simple questions in an environment that he cannot control, and he is no longer winsome at all. He is confused and confusing.
And when a non-Christian sits across a table from you and asks you three times in a row on a nationally syndicated television program if it matters what you do with Jesus and you fail to give a clear answer, you frankly ought to be ashamed.