Tomorrow morning is the beginning of Seeds of Compassion, a five day event in Seattle organized around a visit from the Dalai Lama. The speakers include the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, Rabbi David Rosen, Rob Bell, and Doug Paggit, as well as music from Dave Matthews.
Wait a minute. The Dalai Lama and Rob Bell on the same panel? How did that happen, you might ask. Well, the story goes something like this…
I read Rob’s first book, Velvet Elvis, about two years ago and loved it. Since then, I’ve bought several copies for friends and family, quoted and discussed it many times, and listened to a bunch of Rob’s sermons via his podcast. Back in November, I flew out to Seattle for a week to visit my aunt and uncle, and I scheduled my trip to coincide with Rob’s stop in Seattle on his The God’s Aren’t Angry speaking tour. My uncle, who hadn’t heard of Rob before that, went with me, along with my brother. After Rob’s talk, which was great, I recommended my uncle read Velvet Elvis, which he did shortly thereafter. And loved it.
Fast forward to a couple months ago. My uncle, Andrew Himes, was on the organizing panel for Seeds of Compassion and encouraged the rest of the panel that they should invite some Christians to be a part of the event. Long story short, when my uncle contacted him, Brian McLaren recommended Rob Bell and Doug Paggit after he couldn’t make it (he’ll already be in Seattle, but on his Everything Must Change book tour). My uncle told Rob he wanted to have some Christians, some evangelicals on the panels, and Rob agreed on the condition that he not be labeled an evangelical (I’ve written before about why I also no longer like that label). I’m not sure what the final schedule has ended up being, but the plans were for Rob to be a part of the main panel with the Dalai Lama, and he and Doug will be a part of at least one other panel discussion that will include my uncle, sharing from his upcoming book Revivial: A Memoir.
I do find it more than a little ironic that my uncle invited Rob and Doug to be involved with this event, with numerous blogs already criticizing them for it, when his Grandfather, John R. Rice, is the one who led the opposition to Billy Graham’s first ecumenical crusade in New York in 1957 which resulted in Graham’s break from Fundamentalism.
Over 150,000 people are expected to attend the speeches and panel discussions over the course of the weekend, and they are planning on webcasting in 24 simultaneous languages. If you can’t watch it live, all the videos will be archived on the site, www.seedsofcompassion.net.
I’m disappointed that I can’t be there, but I will get to hear Rob speak next week at the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing, and I’m planning on attending Mars Hill on Sunday after the festival before I fly home, so that should make up for it.