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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining Discussion of how Americans have made Jesus into their image
This was a fascinating, well written book. Prothero discusses how Jesus has been co-opted and claimed by numerous groups in the United States. He discusses the Jesus Movement's Hippie Jesus, the Black Jesus, the Oriental Jesus, the evolving Jewish understanding of Jesus, and the Sweet Savior Jesus of the 19th century church hymns.

Prothero also has a chapter...
Published on August 13, 2006 by Dr. Marc Axelrod

versus
0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Yes, I hated this book!
I completely reject Prothero's thesis. He chooses the most outrageous examples then tries to turn what are perhaps one individual's viewpoint or inspiration possibly built upon and expanded by others to present Americans as a colony of bees working in concert and in agreement through history/time. Silly.
Published 8 months ago by T. Cozby


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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining Discussion of how Americans have made Jesus into their image, August 13, 2006
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This was a fascinating, well written book. Prothero discusses how Jesus has been co-opted and claimed by numerous groups in the United States. He discusses the Jesus Movement's Hippie Jesus, the Black Jesus, the Oriental Jesus, the evolving Jewish understanding of Jesus, and the Sweet Savior Jesus of the 19th century church hymns.

Prothero also has a chapter about the movement in the early 20th century to make Jesus more muscular and masculine. He also has an informative discussion about the impact of the classic Sallmann painting "Head of Christ."

I also enjoyed the chapter about the Elder Brother Mormon Jesus. I had no idea that there was such a difference of opinion about how to approach Jesus within Mormon circles.

The only comment I have by way of criticism is that Prothero tends to be a bit sensationalistic in the way he writes. He speaks of the Second Person of the Trinity breaking free from the control of God the Father, as if there was a heavenly falling out between the two.

He also makes unneccesarily sharp bifurcations between Calvinism and evangelicalism, apparently not realizing that many Calvinists were evangelicals (Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield).

But this book is so well written and well researched in spite of its flaws, that I have no choice but to give it my highest recommendation. Again, it must be stressed that this is not a book about the biblical Jesus or the historical Jesus, but it is a look at the cultural American Jesus, and how He has been viewed by Americans.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating trip through American history, January 7, 2004
This review is from: American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (Hardcover)
In "American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon", Boston University historian Stephen Prothero examines how Jesus has moved from being a divine Savior to a folk icon. No matter what his or her religious inclination, or lack thereof, nearly everyone in America has embraced Jesus in one form or another. For some it is a religious understanding, for others a recognition of Him as the great teacher, for others a recognition of the political benefits of being associated with Jesus, and to still others He is the ultimate sales tool or the ultimate appeal to a higher authority in support of their particular beliefs.
This is a fascinating trip through American history as Prothero discusses the progressive change of the American view of Jesus from the Puritanical lawgiver to a tender, caring and effeminate Jesus, to a strong, muscular Jesus and finally to our current state where images of Him are likely to appear on a refrigerator magnet, rock music poster, or a bumper sticker. During this trip he examines incident after incident of how this transformation slowly took place. In addition to discussing these various changes he explains how the various societal factors of the time influenced them.

One of the most interesting points on the relationship of Americans with Jesus is that while His popularity as a celebrity or bumper sticker continues to grow, Bible study has continued to decline. What are the factors that have allowed the average person to so effectively separate Jesus from the religious trappings that have always been associated with Him in the past? How have these small changes allowed us to come to a point where He is truly a celebrity figure with only minimal traits of divinity? These are some of the questions that Stephen Prothero looks at and what makes "American Jesus" an interesting and highly recommended read.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Your Own Personal Jesus, September 16, 2004
This review is from: American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (Hardcover)
Whether you're a believing Christian or not, you probably have some idea in mind of what Jesus is/was like as a person. And since the USA is arguably the most Jesus-centric culture on earth, you might believe that those around you share that idea. But that may, apparently, be a mistake. As Prothero's engaging and far-reaching book explains, the American Jesus is able to conform to just about any perception one wants to have of him, depending on the national mood (or even one's individual mood). Is Jesus the compassionate, soft-spoken proponent of hearth and home and simple pleasures? Is he the manly firebrand who overturned the money-changers' tables? Is he the free-spirited, counter-cultural flower-child of 'Godspell'? The Elder Brother of the Mormons? An avatar of Vishnu? A Boddhisatva? Or was he fundamentally a Jewish teacher who should be studied in a Jewish context? In America, Jesus is all of these things at once, or some of them, or something else entirely. In America, everyone's entitled to a Jesus they can call their own, and this book shows how we came to that pass. I only wish the author had spent some time covering Islam, but the Muslim presence in this country has been of recent enough beginnings that there may not yet be an American twist on the Koranic Isa (Jesus). Still, I recommend the book to believers and non-believers alike.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Enlightening Look at America's Image of Jesus, February 8, 2004
This review is from: American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (Hardcover)
Jesus has effected and transformed America since its inception to our post-modern culture, and America has continually transformed its image of Jesus since the Puritans brought their image of a stern, authoritative God to its shores and Thomas Jefferson cut and pasted his own version of Jesus. This is the claim that historian Stephen Prothero explores in his remarkable new book American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon.
Prothero, Chairman of the religious department at Boston University, takes an historian's approach to the dynamic relationship between Americans and Jesus during the past three centuries. Prothero writes, "Jesus may be `the same yesterday and today and forever' (Heb 13:8), but American depictions of him have varied widely from age to age and community to community."
He takes the reader through the stages of Americans' transforming view of Jesus--not the "historical Jesus" or "living Christ" but the Jesus of American culture. Prothero offers an enlightening and encyclopedic tale of how Americans' image of Jesus has been effected by popular writings, artwork, preachers, church movements and even political figures. There is much fodder for Prothero to dissect as he notes the Library of Congress holds 17,000 books about Jesus, twice as much as the second most popular subject (Shakespeare).
He artfully shows how generations of devoted Christians have emphasized different character attributes of Jesus such as his role as ultimate judge, his feminine, motherly qualities, his manliness, love or friendliness.
Prothero focuses on several books and artworks of the 20th century that emphasized Jesus' manly qualities in response to the ubiquitous feminine likenesses of Jesus from the preceding century. These rugged representations of Jesus led to the view of him as a "man's man" who could excel in church, business and war. The popular cultural image of Jesus then evolved into the "hippie Jesus" of the Jesus freaks who took Jesus with them as they hitchhiked and sang across the country during the sixties and seventies. Prothero discusses how in the late seventies, Ralph Kozak's Jesus Laughing portrait spread the image of a joyful savior for the first time and opened the doors to a seeker-friendly church environment void of the gloom and doom messages of sin and hell.
The history lesson illustrates that not just Christians have related to Jesus in America and influenced this cultural icon. Prothero closely examines the images of Jesus among Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and black leaders of the civil rights era. Prothero's writing reveals the tension among American Jewish leaders regarding Jesus' Jewish heritage and how Hindu leaders have reverenced Jesus over the last century.
American Jesus also follows the history of the Mormon Church as it has progressed from the eastern shores through the Midwest and to Utah before expanding throughout the country. Prothero offers an educational assessment of how Mormon leaders have also transformed their view of Jesus since its inception, so that now they see themselves as being a church of Jesus that has disavowed many of its controversial peculiarities from a century ago.
This book shows how people allow their own needs and personalities, as well as popular culture, to inform their perceptions of Jesus. Prothero tells us that in this country the sacred and the secular are inextricably intertwined and religious people continually try to find the balance between the two.
Readers will find that American Jesus is a well-researched, provocative account of Jesus' place in America. Prothero closes by anticipating a new American debate about Jesus as Mel Gibson's movie The Passion promises to raise new awareness of Jesus. By Prothero's account, it will not create the first American controversy generated from images of Jesus in popular art and culture.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T-Shirt because it says I want to be formal, but I'm here to party. ", September 17, 2006
By 
tvtv3 "tvtv3" (Sorento, IL United States) - See all my reviews
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Deny it if you wish, but Jesus has played and continues to play a huge role in American culture. People have looked for the Biblical Jesus and some people think its more important to know the historical Jesus, but in AMERICAN JESUS, Stephen Prothero examines how Jesus has been viewed by Christian Americans from the founding of the country through the current era. Even though the Bible hasn't changed, American Christians' perspective of exactly who Jesus is has. The book is divided into two sections. The first is called "Resurrections" and is a historical exploration of how Jesus has been "resurrected" in different periods of American history, reflecting the way that Christians have worshipped. In less than 200 years Jesus has been seen as everything from an enlightened sage to a feminized Savior to a manly redeemer to a hippie and an outlaw. John Edwards, "Jesus Christ Superstar", Billy Sunday, Aimee Semple McPherson, Billy Graham, church hymns, WWJD bracelets, and many, many other people and events are mentioned and discussed.

The second part of the book is called "Reincarnations" and examines four ways Jesus has been seen in four different areas of American society: the Elder Brother of the Mormon church, a black Moses of slaves and oppressed African-Americans, a forgotten rabbi, and an Eastern mystic that Hindus, Buddhists, and New-Agers all can embrace. In advertising, sex sells, but when it comes to religion Jesus sells (TALLADEGA NIGHTS anyone?).

Sometimes books similar to this suffer because the authors fail to do their research and write upon speculation. That's not the case with AMERICAN JESUS. Prothero's has done his research. Some might even argue that it has been too well researched and documented.

I enjoyed reading AMERICAN JESUS. There were a few parts that it took me a bit longer to read through because of the historical details. I also found the book to be entertaining and enjoyed the occasional bits of witty humor sprinkled here and there. AMERICAN JESUS is a very educational, entertaining, and enlightening book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Celebrity Jesus, December 15, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (Hardcover)
I have to confess I'm a Jesus book junkie. Read dozens of books on the "real" or "historical" Jesus. But I've never seen one with this interesting angle: Jesus not as he really was but how he has been imagined over time by Americans. If you can just set aside for a while your OWN views, you can't help but get into Jesus the Black Moses, Jesus the feminist, Jesus the macho warrior, Jesus the Superstar. Amazing how inventive Americans have been from Thomas Jefferson forward when it comes to remaking this guy in their own image. And how effective this author is in setting it all down--without revealing HIS own views in the least. One of the best books I've read on religion in a LONG time.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars America's Fondness to Create/Recreate Jesus In Its Image, July 24, 2006
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rodboomboom (St. Louis, Missouri United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (Hardcover)
This is very seductive book in pulling the reader into its web looking at what America has done through its history with Jesus. The author, a religious professor, takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of this history, revolving in his opionion around none other than Jefferson himself, who scissored the NT into his own liking and image, thus creating the American way: make Jesus what you want him to be like, probably one that is comfortable to your image.

Thus the American variety of Heinz varieties: black, Mormon, Asian, female, white, even Jewish making him more Judaistic leaning. This chronicles all of them in a delightful to read style, at least for this reviewer until he hits the wall (it would seem) at about chapter six where it bogged down and dragged me to the end.

This being said, it certainly opens one to the past and present matrix of Jesus' views and the ever changing embrace that this country seems to have with Jesus. Its "sola cultura" at its democratic, capitalistic, now diverse pluralistic melting pot best. The author honestly disclaims before any attacks that his goal is not to theologically judge these American Jesus iconoclasts, but rather to do the excellent and engaging expose on them which this work does enjoyably.

Enjoy the read; ponder Matthew 16:13-28; clues are certainly here to be unloaded to identify the real Jesus, whether or not America is ready to confess Him.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Quest for the Cultural Jesus, October 5, 2004
By 
Reader (Seattle WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (Hardcover)
Early in "The American Jesus," Prothero usefully distinguishing his purpose from those of others writing for the last century and half, looking for either the Jesus of history or the Jesus of faith (or sometimes trying to find both together). His purpose is to find the Jesus reflected in American culture. And this Jesus has varied widely over time and in different subcultures. While Prothero is in the Dept. of Religion, I found his approach more that of a historian of religion than that of a theologian--he may BE a hisorian of religion, judging by his other book titles.

Certainly he is fascinated by the wide variety of ways in which people have viewed Jesus, and for the most part, he is not particularly judgemental about that variety. Every reader will have their favorite parts, whether it be Jefferson's removal of the supernatural from his Bible, or the Jesus so feminized that men left the late-Victorian church in droves, or Jesus the macho boxer, or the Jesus-freaks of the seventies. I love the history of hymns, so that was one of my favorite parts.

The writing is lively, and whether you are any kind of Christian, from evangelical to Unitarian, or have never darkened the door of a church, or if you are a Muslim or Hindu or Sikh who would like to know a little about the historical quirks of how Christianity has manifested itself in America, this book would be an interesting, non-threatening place to start. There are even some photographs, though not enough, of images of Jesus, to help illustrate important points. Highly recommended.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jesus For The Rest Of Us, January 4, 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (Hardcover)
Smart, funny, irreverent. Finally a religion book that doesn't assume its readers are all religious!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rohrschach, object-in-the-clouds Jesus, February 22, 2004
By 
Kent Ponder (Albuquerque., NM USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (Hardcover)
In addition to many valid comments made by other Amazon reviews here, let me feature perhaps the central underlying concept of Prothero's book: the general concept that divinity, like beauty, etc., exists in the eye of the beholder. Jesus has been like a Rohrschach ink-splotch exercise: "What do you see here?" Different viewers of the same ink splotch see varied kinds of faces and objects. Prothero has revealed the history of Americans' "thing-in-the-clouds" Jesus, analogous to children who look at the same cloud and see no recognizable shape, or a dog, or a flower, or their uncle Henry's shoe.
Prothero's book, that is, doesn't focus on the question of WHAT, or even IF, Jesus was or is. Prothero lets us see that the Jesus concept is principally that, a concept, one that lets individual minds see a reflection of what occurs cognitively and emotionally in his/her own head and heart. Each Christian denomination, then, merely presents a particular view, which attracts a particular kind of convert who mistakes that particular view as "reality." Each denomination then presents arguments for their own view, eager to convince other religious "viewers" that their doggie in the clouds is the real doggie, and that the viewers who don't see this doggie lack sufficient faith, or righteousness, or status as one of the chosen who recognize the "truth." Jesus, that is, serves as an anchor of private and personal limitations, and then provides motivation hopefully to grow beyond those limitations.
The realist will expend no effort on deciding whether the cloud or the Rohrschach splotch IS a dog or person, etc. The realist will recognize that the cloud is a cloud, and the splotch is a splotch. Anything else is but a mental projection superimposed onto that reality, leaving people to argue over which mental image has more validity. Prothero does a magnificent job of laying out the American history of this cognitive/emotional syndrome.
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American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon
American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon by Stephen R. Prothero (Hardcover - December 15, 2003)
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