A funny thing happened when the rabbi met the pastor!

A woman rabbi from the mountains of Colorado and a man famous as an evangelical preacher from the conservative heartland of western Michigan? A connection between such a pair sounds unthinkable! Yet, Rabbi Jamie Korngold of Boulder didn’t earn her reputation as “The Adventure Rabbi” simply for holding worship services outdoors. Jamie is fearless and—across an interfaith divide that few would have crossed—she was determined last week to seek out preacher and best-selling author Rob Bell in a Colorado bookstore.

Neither would call their brief encounter a full-blown friendship, but they exchanged signed copies of their new books—and who knows? Both Jamie and Rob are involved in a red-hot national conversation about just how far the boundaries of Christianity and Judaism can be expanded. Jamie showed her courage that evening at the bookstore and we welcome her story, today, as she writes about their exchange that night. Perhaps this story will encourage you to cross such boundaries.

She picked up the title “Adventure Rabbi” for innovative programs that have drawn thousands of Jewish men, women and children to the Rockies for outdoor encounters with their faith. A few Christians have tagged along in recent years as well. As a rabbi, Jamie’s experience with thousands of restless families led her to write a new book, “The God Upgrade,” designed to kick start an honest debate about our faith—and our doubts about a lot of what passes for religious doctrine, today. She heard about the firestorm of criticism Rob Bell touched off with his new book, “Love Wins.” She recognized a kindred soul and was determined to meet him. Here’s what happened as a result of her determination!

Summoning Courage and Celebrating Integrity

By Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold

When I went to hear Rob Bell speak at the Boulder Bookstore, I arrived early—thinking there might be protesters to get around, but there were none. Only eager fans, patently awaiting Rob’s arrival. I know that Rob has been besieged by hate mail and threats, which make the hate mail and threats I receive seem like loving valentines. But what I saw at the Boulder Bookstore was a completely different part of the situation.

What I heard at the bookstore were people saying things like, “Rob, that’s what I always thought, but to hear a clergy person say it is incredible!”

And, “Rob, I always wondered about people who worry so much about hell in the hereafter but pay so little attention to the hells like sex slavery, that exist in this world. I am so relieved to hear you speak about that contradiction.”

People who don’t think there is a place in religion for them, came to hear Rob reassure them that there is a place for them. These people who are disturbed by evangelicals who claim that Gandhi can’t possibly be in heaven, heard a different message from Rob: “Love wins.” He told them: There is room for everyone. There is room for you!

My experience of Rob is that he has created space for honest conversation. He points out that some things clergy claim as “fundamental” and “dogma” are not necessarily even part of our original traditions. He gives us room to speak honestly about what we believe and what we wonder about.

When I walked toward the Boulder Bookstore, there in the front window was my new book, “The God Upgrade,” positioned right next to Rob’s book, “Love Wins.” I thought to myself, this is how it should be. Minister and Rabbi, Christian and Jew, standing side by side initiating a new conversation. Inviting people to be heard without hostility.

After Rob signed my copy of “Love Wins,” I handed him a copy of “The God Upgrade.“

I signed it, “To Rob, Thank you for your courage and integrity.” I hope he read it on his flight home or at least glances through it. I think he will discover that we are asking many of the same questions as we invite people to join the honest conversations that our books dare to begin.

CARE TO READ MORE? Here’s an in-depth interview with Rabbi Jamie Korngold at ReadTheSpirit—including links to related stories about the unfolding national dialogue involving Jamie, Rob and others.

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(Originally published at www.FriendshipAndFaith.com)

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