Both have gathered enough publicity--which I'm sure is just fine with all the parties involved. Any publicity is good publicity, right?
A surprising amount of judgment was leveled at Rob Bell since this last Saturday. I've tried to avoid reading it as much as possible. It's amazing how quick the Christian community can be in casting the first stone--pointing out someone else's speck before removing their own plank. I will probably pick up Rob Bell's new book at some point (down the road when I can find it at the library). Until then I'm not going to make any new pronouncements. I have read his book Velvet Elvis, used his NOOMA videos in youth groups and heard him speak at a couple of conferences before. Most of what I've gleaned from him has helped me grow closer to God--or at least made sense of things for me.
The Supreme Court was right in their ruling of the Westboro Baptist Church case. They do have free speech. However, the church, in what I've read about them (including on their own website), is wrong in being responsible citizens--not to mention purveyors of the "Good News." The church, like all of us, are sinful people in need of a loving God. Thankfully, He loves us no matter what we say about others.
Ultimately, both of these news stories were in the headlines (or at least abuzz on social networking) because of how people respond to them. In both cases there were responses by Christians that didn't advance the Kingdom in any way. There were responses that carried a lot of hate.
What if, as followers of Jesus, we started responding to others in love? Radical? Yes. What we're called to do? I believe so. (Understand me that love can be "tough" at times--discipline is an appropriate part of loving someone. Look at Matthew 18:15-20 on how Jesus teaches the church to deal with the sins of other believers.)
I have to believe in Jesus example that love alone will change the world. Not picket signs. Not tweets that tell someone "Farewell." Not comments on a blog post. Pure and simple love.
There is power in how we respond to others. It can make headlines. But what kind of headlines do we want to make? I'm all for the headlines that result because of someone's love for another person. Maybe then the world will notice something different about the followers of Jesus. Maybe then they'll take notice. Maybe then the church will be seen as something different and desirable. Maybe then the Kingdom will be advance. I pray so.