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Rob Bell and a New American Christianity Paperback – November 1, 2012

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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.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press (November 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426748442
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426748448
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #716,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By MasterAP on December 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
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.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Cook on December 10, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wellman succeeds marvelously in bringing in material old and new to incapsulate and catch the primary thoughts of Rob Bell's work. He succeeds in being both critically removed and catching the energy and core of Bell's work.

This is not only a wonderful read, Wellman sets a solid bar for future critical studies of Rob Bell's work.

Wellman himself is clearly a superb thinker. He masterfully categorizes and comments just enough in this text to give it a driving feel. Wellman's expertise of American Christianity in general comes through and consistently serves the purposes of this study by showcasing Rob Bell's work in context in relevant and even-handed ways.

If you gravitate at all towards Bell's perspective or are looking for a solid introduction, Wellman has done you a great service here.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Juju on March 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
James Wellman's book was an easy and interesting read on the life, history, and philosophies of "renegade" evangelist minister, Rob Bell. I bought this book to learn about the background of Rob Bell before reading his controversial book, "Love Wins", which I had learned of during a Sunday sermon at my church. Wellman provides a thorough and cohesive account of Bell's rise to stellar fame as minister of a megachurch of 10,000 congregants, housed in an unassuming building, and then his fall from favor as his personal experiences and insights with the holy led him on a spiritual path that diverged sharply with conventional Christian megachurches, and even the so-called reformed Protestant movement and "liberal" Protestantism. In the book, several mentions were made of painful experiences and profound suffering in Bell's life that had been critical in the development of Bell's concept of an unconditionally loving, compassionate and unpunishing God. Throughout the book, I kept waiting to learn some details about these experiences, in order to better understand Bell's theological and philosophical transformations, but was disappointed to find none. This omission called attention to itself, in light of the repeated allusions to Bell's suffering having much to do with the evolution of his ideas and personal growth. The book also did a superb job of describing the "whole" Bell, in presenting an unbiased account of his ministerial history and beliefs. Bell's beliefs were compared and contrasted with those of other cleric from within the evangelical movement and from without. Comparisons were made with theologians with views disparate from Bells', and some with views similar to Bell. Quotes from friends and foes alike were included.Read more ›
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By the Rev. William Harper on October 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
"Bell is, and always has been, eager to rethink the Christian story . . ." This is the theme of Rob Bell's creative leadership, and this is the centerpiece of Dr. Wellman's careful and engaging biography. Bell is a unique figure in post-modern American Christianity--loved and embraced; ridiculed and condemned. In an engaging, quick and personal style, Wellman helps readers understand why Rob Bell matters; why Time magazine would feature him in their Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. Wellman peels back the layers, shows his work, and helps readers see the ways that Bell does indeed rethink the Christian story. And Dr. Wellman is uniquely qualified to tell this story. As an active scholar of American Evangelicalism, Wellman knows how to locate Bell in his cultural context. But he also points to the myriad ways that Bell breaks free from that context to offer, bravely, a portrait of Christianity that may indeed set the course for a new American Reformation. As a progressive pastor I think that Rob Bell is an inspiration to reach beyond labels and traditions. This new book, this first telling of the forces and dreams that shape Bell's life and work, will help others make their own creative leaps.
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