27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Jesus Christ for President of the United States. I expected this book to be entertaining, somewhat amusing, maybe Pratchett like. I was right. I was also wrong. This was a fascinating political satire that challenges our political system, the media and indeed our very culture.
It does this in a way that is certainly entertaining. At times it is amusing. But essentially, it is so much more. This book forces us to look more deeply into our beliefs, and the way we live and believe. It forces the reader to see that there are options and that perhaps more than options, possibilities.
What would the country be like if we chose kindness over cruelty. Generosity over greed. Truth over lies.
Compelling stuff. It had the effect of making me more dissatisfied than ever with the status quo. I miss more than ever, something that we never really had.
Read this book. It doesn't preach to you. It is a quick read, it won't strain your brain, it will make you smile. It is certainly an easy read. But when you close the cover after you have read the last word. You will feel better about yourself. You will know just a little bit more about love.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I wasn't sure what to expect from this novel by Roland Merullo but with each page I turned I found myself thoroughly entertained. Often hilarious, especially in today's political climate, I laughed out loud many, many times at Merullo's remarkable humor. I loved the twisted logic Merullo used to create his media characters and found the puzzle of discovering who's who absolutely amusing, Chapter 36 is filled with subtle punches at the American media and how it reports elections in this country. Almost no current media "starlet" is left untouched; the names are enough to leave a reader rolling with laughter!
I have to say I began this novel afraid I would be taken into a scathing slant at either what has become Christian in America, or faced with the mockery of Christ. I was pleasingly surprised to find Merullo's prose to be both funny and profound while at the same time very grounded in the Gospels. To a non-religious but highly spiritually person I felt refreshed reading this novel and imagining the possibilities of Christ returning to our cynical and materialistic world and how he might deal with us all. Here we find Christ still compassionate, vulnerable and charismatic as he forms his band of modern disciples from yet another motley crew of people who are so touched by the man and his message they drop their semi-successful lives to run Christ's campaign. During the crazy campaign of a soul nobody believes in we find the innocent Christ riding bulls, surfing a wave and playing touch football in the mud the night before his modern last supper. I have to say Merullo knows his stuff and with a contemporary spin manages to revive the often politically manufactured Gospel into a profound teaching again. Christ may or may not hold Merullo's perspective on the BIG issues of presidential campaigns today but at least we are faced with a fairness that is so often missing in today's society. Merullo's Christ sees through gray glasses issues are not black and white and discussion has come back into play with this highly likable, even lovable, character that Merullo created with terrific insight.
This is the perfect book to read during this political season whatever your slant; it is both right and left winged, like an angel. Laugh at the silliness of human seriousness and linger in the wisdom taught so long ago by a man called Christ, brought back to earth as an incredible character while we face America's most important election in decades. It just might bring that old campaign slogan of HOPE into a new perspective.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I picked this book up on a whim. Call it a divine appointment if you will. Just a few days before Amazon served it up to me as something I might like I was bemoaning our current political atmosphere and made the comment "Jesus Himself couldn't get elected in America". Lo and behold, then Roland Merullo's novel comes along. I had to read it.
Of course it's an unlikely story. Those critical of the book saying Jesus would never run for office remind me of people who don't get a the joke "A duck walks into a bar and says..." because, they say, ducks can't talk. The point of the book is not that Jesus would run for office. The point is what if Jesus did run for office. The story is narrated by a mediocre reporter that Jesus chooses to head up his campaign security. The disciples Jesus chooses to help him are like the disciples he chose in the Bible. You scratch your head saying "Why would he choose...?" They're confused people lacking confidence like all the rest of us. I think Roland Merullo did an excellent job of capturing the essence of Jesus. Jesus was a man who intrigued the intellectuals. The Pharisees and Saducees might have hated Him but obviously He was no intellectual lightweight. Jesus can charm the women. He's a man's man. He's loved by children. He's macho and sensitive at the same time. He's humorous. He's sharp tongued. He infinitely patient yet at times He becomes exasperated. Just as some see the Jesus of the Bible as warrior and some a pacifist, such is Roland Merullo's Jesus.
Some might complain that Roland's Jesus is too left leaning or his Jesus is too right leaning. That's the point! The Jesus of the Bible was also criticized when His views didn't meet expectations. When He didn't come down on the side that was "obviously" right (like whether they should pay taxes to Caeasar). Roland Merullo's Jesus refuses to be politically correct.
Honestly, some of the characters in the book outside of Russell (who narrates the story) and Jesus are pretty flat. But, who would be standing next to Jesus? The story pulls you forward wondering what Jesus will reveal next. Roland puts some very deep theological/philosophical/existential thoughts in the mouth of Jesus. Some will find them too "New Age" I'm sure. But, this book is not really for your more fundamentalist Christians. It's for people who are still exploring who Jesus was, what He meant. What was His real mission? If He came back today, what would He do? Some might be shocked when Jesus says He didn't come (the first time or this time) to be worshipped. He came to be emulated. Those who think it's all about what you think of Jesus will be appalled to hear Jesus say He doesn't care what you think about Him only that you develop what is already inside of you. When Jesus refuses to take a stand making abortions illegal (and sounds more like Barack Obama than Sarah Palin) some will find that utterly unthinkable (as did several of the characters in the book). But, Roland presents us with a Jesus who is almost as mysterious and intriguing as the Jesus of the Bible.
The book is definitely worth a read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Russ Thomas is a reporter for WZIZ, a TV station in Massachusetts, when he is sent to report on the story of a young child who had fallen three stories, seemed dead, and came back to life when a stranger came up and touched him. Others were calling it a miracle, but Russ remained skeptical. Later, he's sent to a hospital where the same stranger has visited a young girl and seemingly cured her of a chronic illness.
The stranger becomes known as "The Good Visitor," and he turns out to be Jesus Christ. Jesus calls Russ on his private phone and tells him that he's running for President of the United States and would like for Russ to work on his campaign. Russ is not convinced at first, but finally agrees when Jesus visits Russ's girlfriend in a dream.
Jesus assembles a ragtag campaign team and heads out on the road as the candidate for The Divinity Party and chooses his mother as his running mate. Jesus runs an unusual campaign - he doesn't criticize his opponents and he's available for questions.
American Savior by Roland Merullo started out with a bang for me. The middle of the book, with all of it's campaign details, did drag a little bit, though. When it gets to the end of the campaign, the book really picked up again. It is worth reading for all of the questions it brings up. When a woman screams that the candidate is not Jesus,
"I might not be," he said slowly. "I might not be. But my question to you is this: would you know him if he came into your midst? If he came into your midst and did not look the way you expected him to look, and did not speak as you expected him to speak, would you know him?"
That really made me sit and think for a little while. This book is humorous as well as thought provoking and I enjoyed reading it.
Roland Merulla has written ten books, including Golfing with God and Breakfast with Buddha. He lives with his wife and children in Massachusetts.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2009
Well I'm not a teenager or uneducated neophyte as some reviewers state are the main audience to enjoy this book, never the less I did. Realistic or not, the book was warm and entertaining. He touched on a lot of grey subjects with humor that otherwise would have not have been visited as easily. Sure the Jesus we envision may not sound or act or do these things, but maybe he would. Wasn't that the whole point of the book? At times I felt like the author was just using these characters to mask his own agenda, but most of the time it felt that he wrote it for contemplation of the serious questions about us as a nation. If you're a narrow minded, easily offended individual then you might not like this. If you can actually use your intellect and have an open mind and take the book for what it is, then you should enjoy this story.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2008
This book is uproariously funny at times and always easy to read. Merullo's prose is as mellifluous as always. This is a great book which will take you right into an election similar in many ways to the one we are suffering through now; not that the candidates are the same but the shallowness of the process is. Couched in this seeming romp is a plethora of serious ideas which should be foremost in our everyday lives. You'll know them when you see them: not didactic, simply there and shining through the surrounding gloom as beacons for us to see and hopefully to do something about. You'll get a kick and a real lift out of this very fine work.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Jesus has returned in Roland Merullo's latest novel, and he's running for president against a bible-thumping rightwinger and a rather thick-witted liberal. His political platform? Public policy, both domestic and foreign, should be grounded in the kind of kindness and compassion summarized in the Beatitudes. As Jesus says at one of his political rallies, "There is a golden alpine field within each of you, a place where you are bathed in approval, not because of anything particular you have done, but simply because of your own sacred nature. If you had a president who could show you the route to that place, what a different it would make in your lives and in the culture of the world!" (p. 199)
Merullo handles the surreal nature of Jesus running for political office deftly. There are some genuinely hilarious moments in the novel, especially when Merullo is lampooning real life liberal and conservative pundits, all of whom are given wickedly funny fictional names, and some genuinely tender and teary ones. One of the characters in particular, Stab, is guaranteed to win the hearts of readers (and for me, Stab's dad comes in at a close second). And although the way the novel ends is predictable (and, indeed, inevitable), Merullo handles it with such grace that it nonetheless leaves the reader both melancholy and hopeful.
The novel isn't without its misfirings. The romance between two main characters, the narrator-journalist and his girlfriend Zelda, which opens the narrative too suddenly gets dropped, and Zelda fades into the background. Other characters, such as Wales and his wife Ezzie, never quite get developed, and come across rather as props to Jesus' character. Jesus himself at times comes off as a talking head, all voice and no body, if you get my meaning.
But Merullo's diagnosis of the sorry state of American politics, his sometimes barely concealed rage at current trends such as the political influence of rightwing evangelicals or the senselessness of what he calls the "Endless War," and his vision of a better "golden alpine field" way of doing politics, are refreshing. "My purpose," says Jesus in an interview, "is to demonstrate to human men and women that you do not have to settle for what you have settled for to this point in your spiritual and political history. Wars, greed, corruption, nastiness of all kinds--America does nothave to settle for this, and each of you, as individuals, does not have to settle for this. We can aim our sights higher" (p. 249).
Wow. That kind of a message is enough to make you want to say "maranatha!"
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2008
I'm on a search to discover my own spiritual beliefs, so, admittedly, I picked up this book (although I read it on my Kindle) hoping for some answers or some truths about the nature of Jesus Christ, God, or the secret of life. I came to "American Savior" with an agenda.
An amalgam of a book: it's about the attitudes, fears, cynicism and psychic and spiritual pain of the narrator, a TV news reporter for a small station in western Massachusetts. Russ Thomas is doubtful about many things, most of those of a positive nature: peoples' inherent goodness, love, trust. Jesus runs for president; Russ becomes Jesus' head of security. Russ is challenged to accept wholeheartedly that Jesus' is for real. Jesus wants to restore the soul of the U.S. of A.; Russ struggles with his disillusion, disappointment and self-hatred.
Arrogant Christianity is criticized. Those Christians with their kingdoms to protect become threatened. Jesus primary message is one of encouraging kindness and compassion.
All the while our narrator weighs in with his worries, his anger, and his cynicism.
I enjoyed the book in spite of its jumble of story lines, its diluted message, but its truth about human beings--our flaws, foibles and (perceived) failures, rings true. The story has lots of honesty, some doses of hopefulness, and an authenticity that's not to be denied. Yet, I'm confused by it, too. There seems to be a muddled message in it somewhere, but having just finished it, perhaps it'll take time to clarity itself for me. Because of its bewildering message I can't say what aspect of the story will stick with me, if any. (Perhaps another read of it will clarify the author's message.)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Read as a novel, it's a quick, easy and witty...lots of smiles and some outright laughs. Jesus returns to earth and to affect rapid change decides to run for President of the United States. This is the story of how he is viewed and received by "Christians," both left and right, good and bad, by non-Christians (Jews, Muslims, atheists, agnostics, etc.)and most especially by the news media . Lots of good natured and well earned jabs at recognizable members of the media. Lots of fun.
But for those who want more, something deeper, it's here, too. On page 62, "the new" Jesus explains the age-old question of why he can't or doesn't just step right in, change things, and "make things right:"
"What you might not undestand is that the rules of this planet are fixed. Just as water freezes at thirty-two degrees Farenheit, for example, or earth makes its rotation in approximately 24 hours, there are certain spiritual laws here, set in place even before the physical creation of the sphere that houses and nourishes you...
"To a certain extent, I can bend those laws whenever I want to--to perform a miracle, for example. But if I eleminate them altogether for my own purposes, then everything is upended and my taking human form is purposeless. I have to operate within the confines of your understanding, your thought system, even, for the most part, your physical limitations..."
That's deep "stuff" and good stuff.
This book is intriguing, delightful and, most of all, fun. There's something for everyone here, and only the most radical of radicals will be offended. For a good time, read this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It says something about our current election that it is as fantastical as this divine comedic novel that marries politics and religion---without once mentioning Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. This novel is likely to spark reactions that run the full spectrum, much like the DA VINCI CODE The Da Vinci Code---which Jesus (Hay-zeus), the reincarnated center of the novel, is seen reading in one scene. Even Dan Brown says that his novel is pure fiction, and certainly no one except the lunatic fringe could mistake Roland Merullo's novel for anything but fiction, more's the pity--although a female running mate for Jesus and a "hardass senator from Ohio" as one of Jesus's opponents (Hillary Clinton in Republican guise) show that art imitates life at times. And like the Republican Party these days, Merullo barely mentions George Bush except with a thinly veiled reference.
Merullo's version of Jesus is a great candidate who is none too pleased about the self-righteousness and divisiveness his followers fulminate in His name. Merullo gives a glancing poke at the secular self-righteousness of the Left as well, but radical extremist Christians, including a disguised Fred Phelps, get the brunt of the social critique (not that some haven't earned it).
A reincarnated half-Native American Texan Jesus picks the most unlikely follower to assist in his campaign, Russ Thomas, a highly cynical reporter (hello). As usual, the media is not spared from a novelist's lampoon. The major media figures, whose names are changed, get a thorough shakedown, although the cutesy drubbing of Bill O'Reilly, Fox, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh (indeed, most of the conservatives) feel as tired and empty as an Adam Sandler comedy. The machinations and temperament of the media in reaction to a resurrected Jesus running for office---even Jesus is not exempt from the scrutiny---is accurate.
The strength of DIVINE POLITICS lies not in clever satire but in its premise, in its characters and in its ideas, in the deeper philosophical discussions. Most engaging is Russ Thomas's family, consisting of a doubting Jewish father, a conflicted but devout Christian mother, a mentally disabled brother who is the "holy fool" of the book, and a complex psychologist fiancee named Zelda. The interactions between Russ and Zelda regarding doubt, faith, commitment, and Jesus are particularly well-done. Russ's brother Stab is particularly lively.
The television news veteran Paterson Wales, Jesus's campaign manager, and his wife Esmeralda are likable as well. Commingle this group with a family of wealthy African-American philanthropists whose daughter Jesus healed, a poor redneck couple whose baby Jesus saved, as well as Jesus's Native American mother, who serves as his VP. The mix of personalities and the implications of a Jesus presidency are endlessly fascinating and make for an engaging page-turning read that has depth, humor, and heart.