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The outcry helped make the book a best-seller, even though a number of Christian bookstores refused to stock it.

The central message of “Love Wins” is that the church needs to stop scaring people away, and, in publishing the book, Bell hoped to spark a movement toward a more congenial, less punitive form of Christianity.

His detractors stated their case on blogs, from pulpits, and, eventually, in books.But when he goes on tour, to talk about his evolving faith, he tries to avoid churches, because he doesn’t want to cause trouble for any staffers brave enough to book him.“I don’t know where I’m anathema and where I’m considered to be on the good team,” he says.(In Philadelphia, one college-age fan greeted him by saying, “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t still be a Christian.”) Onstage, Bell told self-deprecating stories about botched sermons and humbling discoveries, and he cited the Dalai Lama as a paragon of Christian grace.In Bell’s monologues, Jesus comes across as a rebellious mystic, opposed to any form of small-mindedness.