A surge of controversy that followed the release of the book trailer for Rob Bell’s Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived on Twitter has prompted HarperOne to move the on-sale date from March 29 to March 15.
Bell is the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and bestselling author of Velvet Elvis and Sex God. In his video, which debuted on Twitter on February 26, he argues that a loving God would not send people to a place of eternal suffering, replacing the idea of Hell with the possibility that “eternal life starts right now.” As of March 9 the book trailer had been viewed 167,000 times, and the blog posts that ensued have garnered about a half-million comments, many in favor of Bell’s message.
“What’s particularly interesting is that these are not only Christian or religious blogs,” says HarperOne’s director of publicity Darcy Cohan, “ but include mainstream outlets such as CNN as well. The crossover is effect is apparent.” Although conservative Christian ministers John Piper and Justin Taylor initiated the Twitter uproar - Piper by tweeting “Farewell Rob Bell” and Taylor by referring to Bell as a Universalist rather than a Christian – more neutral or even supportive commentaries were quick to follow by Christianity Today and the New York Times.
HarperOne’s senior vice president and editorial director Mickey Maudlin is pleased with the impact social media has had on Love Wins. “It allowed more people in our targeted market to hear about, discuss, and debate the book in one weekend than we could have reached through traditional media,” he says. “When the online conversation about the book reached a critical mass, rather than try to sustain that momentum for four weeks we moved up the on-sale date to March 15 so that people could see for themselves what Rob has to say and to deepen the conversation.”