Thursday, December 20, 2012

Rob Bell and a New American Christianity by James Wellman Jr.

I read this book in a day and I need to read it again and again.

Wellman does a fantastic job of highlighting the rise of Rob Bell and his controversy while also commenting on American Christianity.

There is no doubt that Rob Bell is a superstar. His Nooma videos are selling like hotcakes and his books are just as hot. Not only are people consuming his thoughts on Jesus but he's not at a loss for his critics.

Wellman divides this book into seven chapters, each touching on a certain description placed on Bell while the last one highlights where Bell is going:
1. Mystery
2. Subversion
3. Charisma
4. Canvas
5. Radical
6. Heretic
7. A Beautiful Jesus

You'll follow Bell on his rise to megachurch pastor status and how he never fit the bill of Conservative Evangelicalism while not subscribing to Liberalism either. Wellman takes us inside the mind of Bell while he forms a band in college, and how a meningitis scare puts the brakes on a possible indie-band future. This leads him to seminary and apprenticing under Ed Dobson.

Wellman explains the place Bell is whenever he writes one of his books. And how the real trouble started around the time he wrote Jesus Wants To Save Christians. It is with this book, Wellman says, that Bell moved from subtle questions to outright criticism of America and the strong ties Conservative Evangelism has with patriotism. (He even moved his family into a former crack house because he didn't want to be hypocritical...they stayed in that house for only two years)

This caused many people to leave his church (another thousand left when Bell preached a critique of the Iraq War). Following that book, Bell asked for a leave of absence from pastoring and spent some time in Ireland. From this time away Bell penned the ultra-controversial Love Wins.

It is after the controversy surrounding Love Wins, which surprised Bell, that he resigned from his church and traveled to LA. His show idea never got the pilot pick up and now he's trying to start a new talk tv show.

This book is fantastic. I couldn't put it down, even when I tried to. Wellman explores everything about this pastor and why he has such a connection to the younger generation. The way he preaches and uses performance to enhance sermons, to the fact that he brings out the Jewish aspects of Scripture that so many Mainline and Evangelical churches have omitted give so much aura to the man.

This book attempts to connect Rob Bell's journey with that of Christianity in America: one that embraces science and desires questions that may not have a concrete answer.

If you follow Bell or have enjoyed his books, this book will be another one for your shelf. I need to stop writing about it and read it again.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by Abingdon Press.

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