Social Issues

Review: "The Zimzum of Love": Introduction to the Series

Hello, again! I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season. Mine was a good, long break that I definitely needed– didn’t really realize how much I needed it, although by the end of last week I was antsy to get back to work. Unfortunately, I bruised/broke my tailbone this weekend, which has made sitting down … uncomfortable. Right now I’m anticipating being able to keep to my schedule (except for this weekperiod week), but we’ll see how it goes. I’m not going to push myself, as how fast my tailbone heals depends almost entirely on how careful I am with it.

Anyway, many of you, my lovely readers, have asked me to take a change of pace in my review-series project, and look at a book that I might actually be able to recommend, so I picked up Rob and Kristen Bell’s The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage, as I’ve heard positive things about it. It’s a fairly short book, so I don’t think it’ll take me three months to get through like the other books have.

First off, responses to this book are pretty mixed. The reviews on Amazon are anything from “Plain and simple Rob Bell has become a wacko and a heretic” to calling the book “brilliant.” The middle-of-the-road opinion is that it’s straightforward, uncomplicated, and helpful, although not amazing. I was encouraged by people who said things like “this books isn’t as sexist as other Christian books on the subject”– so, we’ll see how it goes.

My first impressions of it from reading the jacket copy was that it’s a little unconventional. The only other book I’ve read by Rob Bell is Love Wins, which came across as a prose-poem to me, so I was expecting something different from mainstream evangelical culture, and the jacket copy for this made me thing of books like The Secret. The mystic feel to the language isn’t off-putting to me, but I can imagine a lot of evangelicals rejecting this book outright because it seems to embrace “Eastern Mysticism” (#eyeroll).

It’s structured very conversationally with lots of cute stick-figure illustrations that are gender neutral, y’all. The only thing to differentiate the two figures is their hair, but both hairstyles aren’t gender signifiers. They do use “husband” and “wife” language instead of “partner,” which was a little bit frustrating, but honestly that might have been an editorial decision as they make it clear in the opening pages that they support marriage equality.

What I did really enjoy overall was the feeling I got that Kristen was actually a co-writer. Grace Driscoll had her name on the cover of Real Marriage, but she barely participated in the book. Kristen’s voice is featured as an equal half, which was a relief.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to getting into this with all of you, and I hope that perhaps some of you could read along with me since it won’t be the typical torture-and-agony fest.

I am happy to be back.

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  • And we’re happy to have you back–but please take care of yourself first, and don’t hurt yourself to post here.

    I’m looking forward to your analysis of this book.

  • So happy to see you’re back!

  • I read it. In usual Rob Bell fashion, it took about 3 hours to go through the whole thing. I ultimately landed in the “middle of the road” result. It was good, offering important thoughts, but it was hardly the revolutionary new view of marriage that it claimed. I’ll happily recommend it as a good introduction to egalitarian/mutual marriage, preferably followed up by a more practical one.

    I can imagine for a lot of people who have spent most of their lives in patriarchal churches, this is revolutionary. I always assumed that women could be pastors. I probably thought by default that men were still to be the head of the house but not in any particularly domineering way (more of a title than any practical impact), so I quickly moved from that to complete mutuality/egalitarianism in early adulthood. Our marriage counselling course was at a church that encourages mutuality in marriage. So for me, there was a lot of “that’s a good point, but mostly just a variation on things I’ve encountered before.”

  • Oh my gosh samantha, I hope you get better! Take it easy and don’t feel pressured if you need to take a break. We’ll still be here when you get back.

    I’ll have to add that book to my list of books to read. I am interested to read the parts written by Kristen since I love Rob’s theology but hate his writing style. And I’m not exaggerating when I say I hate it. I’ve met quite a few people who actually really like it but I guess I’m kind of a “get to the point” type of person. However I still have to recommend “Sex God” because the concepts he presents in that book are so interesting and worth wading through his infuriating writing style.

  • Looking forward to your posts.

  • Tim

    In reading this review on Amazon: it seemed to me likely that the book doesn’t contain anything either revolutionary or controversial from the standpoint of orthodox historical Christian theology on marriage. However, some evangelicals will find a lack of discussion of traditional gender roles controversial. And non-Christians (and Christians not yet exposed to these ideas) may find it revolutionary. I’m persuaded that it might be worth my time for the reason this reviewer suggests: that it talks about Christian ideas in language that is accessible to non-Christians.

    I am looking forward to your review, Samantha, because I know you will be looking at it from a feminist perspective. Christian teaching on any concept like “self-sacrifice” in connection with marriage is often critiqued as follows: First, if the concept is directed toward the man in a hetero marriage, it is viewed as encouraging benevolent sexism by being couched in language that reinforces gender stereotypes of the man as capable and competent and the woman as incapable. On the other hand, it is directed toward the woman, it is viewed as de-legitimizing her autonomy and depriving her of consent. I’m curious about both how Rob and Kristen approach this idea and also your reaction to their approach.

    Hope you’re able to comfortably sit again soon.

  • Crystal

    Samantha, I am thrilled to see you’re back. I am deeply sorry to hear about your accident in regards to your tailbone. Keep it safe. I hope you enjoy this new book.