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Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity Paperback – October 20, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 300-odd pages, Bruce Bawer has opened a floodgate of incisive religious criticism that will reverberate across the American political scene. He has put into eloquent and decisive language what many mainline Christians and non-Christians have quietly suspected but been unable to verbalize--namely that Fundamentalist Christianity is barely Christian at all. A Baptist theologian says he is "not interested in who Jesus was." Pat Robertson argues the Golden Rule as Jesus's justification that "individual self-interest is being a very real part of the human makeup, and something not necessarily bad or sinful." In page after page, Bawer reveals a so-called Fundamentalist movement that readily displays a blatant disregard for the most salient message of the Gospels: selfless love and service to all. As for the significance of this revelation in the face of the ballooning presence of Fundamentalist Christians in American politics, readers will have to decide for themselves. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Author of A Place at the Table, a groundbreaking book on homosexuality, and of articles on religion, Bawer argues that fundamentalism is a recent development that defies the values of Christianity.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (October 20, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609802224
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609802229
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #818,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bruce Bawer is a highly respected author, critic, essayist and translator. He is the author of several collections of literary and film criticism and a collection of poetry. His political journalism is widely published in print and online journals and he reviews books regularly for the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, and Wall Street Journal. Visit his website at www.brucebawer.com. He lives in Oslo with his partner.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
I was oohing and ah-ing in understanding and agreement through many parts of this book. Bruce Bawer describes the fundamental or legalistic Christianity that many Americans think we have to follow or we're not Christians at all. It is the Christianity that has stolen Jesus from the rest of us who, because we think that the only true requirement of God is to love God and humankind in thought as well as action, must give up on Jesus who is represented today as narrow and condemning. Bruce Bawyer makes us realize we can still call ourselves a Christian even if we don't go along with the harsh doctrines of the media-acknowledged Christian Coalition style of Christianity. There are times when Bawyer's bitterness towards legalistic Christianity is evident, yet his message is extremely important for making us think about what it really means to be a Christian, and for encouraging those of us who believe in a church of love to speak up and not be intimidated by aggressive and judgmental button-holers.
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 21, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Bawer's book starts out brilliantly and had me tentatively recommending it to people by the end of the first chapter. He makes some very insightful points, and he has the enviable ability to create a sound bite that actually has deep meaning; there were several points in the book where he sums up complex spiritual issues in one terrific sentence. Unfortunately, the book does not live up to the promise shown at the beginning.
The points Bawer brings up about Fundamentalist Christianity are all valid, but his support for many of them is rather weak. He does not use footnotes, his references are incomplete, and the bibliography adheres to no style I've ever seen. This wouldn't matter if I wanted to accept his work as truth in and of itself, but I prefer to check sources.
Bawer also tends to express opinion as fact. He twice makes the claim that legalist Christians (his term for Fundamentalist Christians) know their doctrines are untrue, although they will never admit it to themselves. To make such a claim is arrogant and uninformed-Bawer does not know the true feelings of individual legalist Christians. I know several people who fit Bawer's definition of legalists, and they hold their beliefs more dear than anything else, including things most people cherish such as family and career. If scientific or empirical evidence refutes these beliefs, the evidence is wrong, and the people who bring this evidence against Christianity are deceived. One could easily and truthfully say legalists are just putting their heads in the sand, but that doesn't mean they do not believe their doctrine.
Bawer also rails against Pat Robertson, his editors, and his readers for not checking facts or having any knowledge about the subjects of his writing.
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84 of 101 people found the following review helpful By J. Buxton on May 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book very much. I happen to agree with the basic premises Bawer introduces, although at times his frustration is a little too evident. It is not as much of a scholarly work as "A Place at the Table", but Bawer does include many quotes and anecdotes which add considerable weight to his assertions. I found Bawer's splitting Christians into two camps, "Legalistic" and "Non-Legalistic" a bit too simplistic (he admits this), but it is useful to make his point. His point is, in my opinion, that in pursuing a legalistic or fundamentalist approach to the Bible, legalistic Christians are missing the biggest Christian teaching of all: love. If you are sympathetic to Bawer's views, you will probably agree with much of the book. If you are a fundamentalist/legalistic Christian, this book will probably be added to your list of "banned" books, and you won't enjoy reading it.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Molly on February 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
I first read "Stealing Jesus" at a point in my life when I really needed a book of its type. I had become disillusioned with what I perceived as the painfully exclusive nature of Christianity, and I was at the point of forgetting it all together. This book made me aware of the fact that Christianity does not necessarily have to be that way, which was an awakening and a relief for me at that point in my life. However, as I re-encounter the text now, I am concerned at Bawer's lack of understanding for those he terms fundamentalist Christians. Bawer is more than happy to endorse a Christianity that is all-inclusive of those who have traditionally been excluded from Christianity, but those who have a point of view that he sees as incompatible with Christianity are not treated with the embracing love and understanding that he would otherwise recommend. In fact, they were frequently criticized, leaving little room for understanding of the way in which they were raised or their backgrounds. This is troubling to me, and I think it would also be to other Christians who are trying to live the life of love that Bawer is so quick to endorse.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By The Spinozanator VINE VOICE on February 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Mr. Bawer makes a distinction between those Christians who want to emphasize God's love ("there ain't no Hell" group) and those who want to emphasize God's law ("the hell there ain't" group). I think fundamentalists of all brands are ripe for exposure and that Bawer raises some very valid points. Most fundamentalists that I know are quite nice people. Unfortunately, when idealism gathers in groups, a mob tends to form, regardless of the dogma. A large enough mob can start a war.

If one goes down the block, across the nation, or around the world to each church, synagogue, mosque or holy place, some fundamentalists of each theology may be found. Each sub-group has the irritating habit of thinking that their group alone, once and for all, has solved the great riddles of life. It seems to me, amongst all that varied dogma, there is only one way any one of them or all of them can be right; that being the extent to which a group teaches a theology of tolerance and love.
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