Okay, so Bell is starting to get to what I think will become the central point of the book. Not sure why he talked about all the OT stuff first. But, I’ll go ahead and start looking at specifics….
p11 – Jacob makes a stone pillar and Bell imagines Jacob telling his son that the pillar isn’t the point; it points to something else, namely, the time God spoke to him. So, “this is actually about that.” In the next few pages he draws the connection between the altar and other memorials. So:
p12 – Bell saved the first trophy he ever won, even though its all broken and cheap. It’s not about this (the inherent value of the trophy) but about that (what it reminds him of). He also lists “velvet paintings” here, probably as a harkening back to his book Velvet Elvis, which I read like 10 years ago. (Wow, time flies!) Then:
p13 – On the next page, Bell lists things that are about other things: how we feel about our bodies, control in relationships, and so on. He leaves the reader to make the connection between the object used as a reminder of something and this list. I think if I try really hard I can make up a connection that is something like: the list contains things that look like one thing, but actually are something else…though he doesn’t explain the second part. I guess the reader is supposed to do the work of getting from here to there. Now, I don’t really trust Bell, so I’m disinclined to use my logic to make sense of what he’s saying instead of letting him explain it. If he doesn’t explain it, I have no reason to think it’s there. Readers often are generous, especially with popular authors they like…so, probably a reader will suspend judgement here and try to see what he’s saying. But…it would have been a lot safer and more above board if he laid out his logic. After all, if it’s clear and reasonable, why wouldn’t he give his argument? The person who poetically leaves out an argument in a piece of work that is not poetry is, perhaps, doing something suspicious. Not necessarily. But, not certainly not. Then, he continues in the same vein:
p14 – And he expands his examples. A guy “needs” to have a girl, proven by the fact that when he breaks up with one girl he immediately starts dating another; and moving onto the next page…
p15 – a couple who live together and are not married fight over how to cut a tomato and it’s really about their fear of commitment because both’s parents divorced at an early age and before cutting the tomato the topic of marriage had just come up, which they’re interested in, but scared of. Bell reminds us, “this is really about that.” Okay, I’m tracking. The couple’s fighting isn’t about the seeming culprit (the tomato cutting style) but about their parents’ divorces, and so on. Apparently everything “is always about something else.” Yes, perhaps…not necessarily, but yes, things that appear simple and disconnected are often complex and are always connected to other things. I think everyone would agree. Unfortunately, that’s the problem. Bell uses empirical evidence to prove the main point of his book, which I will put in bold letters because it’s probably his thesis: “You can’t talk about sexuality without talking about how we were made. And that will inevitable lead you to who made us. At some point you have to talk about God.”
Woa, dude. Woa. These are new concepts that appear to follow from the arguments you just made…but in no way do they actually do that. New concepts are introduced here: how we were made (isn’t made a word that implied intentionality? That’s new), who made us (what? someone made us?), God (which one, an Ancient Near East God, or Jacob’s God?). Is Bell assuming his readers are Christians? I guess we’ll find out.
The larger issue at stake, though, is the yawning lacuna (hello SAT word) of logic between his examples and his thesis. Bell’s thesis is that something is always about something else. I’m guessing that his logic here is that since God is the most foundational something else then eventually everything, including sexuality, will lead back to God. Fine, if you believe that God made us. Then, yes, our sexuality has something the do with the one who invented it. BUT, Bell doesn’t prove this philosophically or biblically. He just states it on the strength of examples that often this points to that. I think I might call this “emotional logic.” Bell gives examples that we get emotionally, having perhaps experienced them, then he brings in something else entirely and says, “Yo! This is like that other thing!” Because our emotions are jumping around in waves of ecstatic understanding we joyfully shout back, “Yes! You are brilliantly revealing the nature of the universe!” I’m sorry if this sounds sarcastic…but it actually is a pretty good account of what my emotions did as I read the last few pages. I had to be careful and use my rational soul (sorry, just an Aristotle joke)…my, mind, that is, to figure out what was actually going on..that is, if Bell’s arguments are meant to be believed and followed by thinking creatures who seek truth, rather than create an emotional mob who follow his words thoughtlessly. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, we will assume he does not intend to do the latter. In that case, he’s in trouble.
Bell uses empirical examples to prove a metaphysical point. These examples may be invented, but either way, they are data points meant to reveal a fact about the fundamental nature of the universe, in this case, our sexuality and who made us, namely, God. A good scientist knows (and by looking to the world for evidence and extrapolating from it something about the nature of the universe, Bell is doing science) that data points do not equal evidence. They merely equal probability. Unfortunately, theology does something different. Theology also includes faith. The leap Bell makes at the end is a move of faith, not science, and therefore breaks with and departs from the foundation he has built in the preceding five pages…but not obviously enough that he clearly does not intend to use these previous pages as the proof for his move at the end. Bell gives us examples of things from life, explains that they usually (no, he does not specify sometimes…”this is really about that” is an unbounded statement), that they always have something to do with something else, and then says that therefore sexuality has to do with God. Wait…but proof or even information that God exists, that he made us, and that we have any information about this (from the Bible, or something else) is not included at all in any of the statements that Bell has made up to this point.
Bell has not proven that this is really about that, except in a few cases, and even then he has not proven it, but given us several possibly fabricated examples in which that might be the case. He lets our emotions carry his argument because “yeah, I’ve been in a similar situation! That’s really how it was!” To use these examples to convince us that dealing with our sexuality means that we must deal with God, who made us, is emotional manipulation.
There is no proof in Bell’s introduction. To move forward with him we must either 1) agree with his thesis because he already believe it or 2) have been emotionally manipulated into believing that the words on these pages lead from one to another in any reasonable way.
In the end, Bell’s introduction throws up all sorts of unconnected but emotionally charged ideas luring the unsuspecting reader into joyous agreement with ideas. After all, they do feel pretty great.