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Rob Bell and a New American Christianity
By James K. Wellman, Jr
Rob Bell ... Subversive? Celebrity? Radical? Heretic? Holy Man?
Making the cover of Time magazine, star of the influential Nooma series, game-changer in the church, and budding TV entrepreneur, Rob Bell has caused the entire evangelical world to wrestle with the scope of salvation with one daring question: who gets to be saved?
For religious progressives, Rob Bell offers a passionate faith, a prophetic challenge, a biblical acuity, and a generous vision of who God is in the world. For conservatives, Bell's the voice that young Christians are looking for—a person who takes science seriously, speaks at cutting edge of popular culture, and argues God is bigger than our language for him.
The Christian message needs a new interpreter: one particular enough to embody the tradition but broad enough to evoke thought and feeling from a range of people, including evangelicals, religious progressives, and those disenchanted with churched religion—the spiritual but not religious, who find themselves compelled by Bell's charisma and artistic creations.
Rob Bell offers a beautiful Jesus that entices, absorbs and inspires individuals to go beyond the back-biting and turf-fighting and culture wars that plague contemporary forms of evangelical and liberal Christianity.
Author, scholar, and speaker James Wellman offers an incisive and critical look at Rob Bell: his influence, his roots, his brand. Wellman's explains Bell's rhetoric, ponders the implications of his creative message-making, and provides an interpretation of his influence that puts Bell at the center of a new American Christianity.
About the Author
James K. Wellman, Jr. is Associate Professor and Chair of the Comparative Religion at the Jackson School of International Studies. His areas of expertise are in American religious congregations, culture, history, and politics. He has published an award-winning book, The Gold Church and the Ghetto: Christ and Culture in Mainline Protestantism (Illinois 1999).
He has published two edited volumes: The Power of Religious Publics: Staking Claims in American Society (Praegers 1999), and Belief and Bloodshed: Religion and Violence Across Time and Tradition (Rowman and Littlefield, 2007). His most recent book is Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest, published by Oxford University Press. The book received Honorable Mention for the 2009 Distinguished Book Award by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (second out of twenty-six books nominated).
He is also the project director of a $300,000 grant from the Luce Foundation which will soon culminate in an edited volume called Religion and Human Security: A Global Perspective—which will be published soon by Oxford University Press. A new book project with Oxford University Press is called High on God: How the Megachurch Conquered America. It is a based on a national survey of twelve national megachurches, examining the power of desire in these congregations, both toward each other, toward the churches' leadership, and towards God. Wellman knows American Protestantism well, and he is very interested in the future of American churches and, in particular, the trajectory of the evangelical church.
Having done extensive work on Protestant leaders, church movements, and successful churches, he is perfectly situated to write a cultural biography of Rob Bell, believing, as he does, that Bell embodies and will lead the evangelical church in America in the next twenty years.