On stage with our own Maggi Dawn, Bell was a fascinating performer. What he said made very little impression on me compared to the conviction and elegance with which he said it. He was always in movement or absolutely at rest; he never fidgeted or slumped. In this he reminded me of Tony Blair, but where Blair, the last time I saw him preach at his Foundation, used a lectern, Bell performed on a largely bare stage and was altogether more active, as if he were dancing out a three-card trick with his feet while he expounded his theology. Sometimes he spread his arms like an aeroplane’s wings. I half expected him to take off while he zoomed around the stage.
The audience loved him, and he treated them skill and kindness. He spoke entirely without notes, and with tremendous fluency and a knack of seeming to talk to us all as individuals. He spoke well of his wife, and told a story of a miraculous return from the dead in Los Angeles. When he was asked a tricky question, he would say “That’s a very good question; thank you” before evading it. He would not even say that Judas was in hell. That may be entirely orthodox, but it is also rather brave.
It was obviously an encouraging night, but something in Brown’s review makes me nervous. He’s big on Bell’s style, but has little to say about Bell’s substance. Shouldn’t it be the other way arbout?