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American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon Paperback – August 26, 2004
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
No religious personality has captivated so many Americans for so long as Jesus. Indeed, as Boston University historian Prothero demonstrates in this sparkling and engrossing book, Jesus is the one religious figure nearly every American, whether Christian or not, past and present, has embraced. From Thomas Jefferson's cut-and-paste Bible to Jesus Christ Superstar, from the feminized Christ of the Victorians to the "manly redeemer" of Teddy Roosevelt's era, from Buddhist bodhisattva to Black Moses, Prothero surveys the myriad ways Americans have remade Jesus in their own image. He usefully divides these American Jesuses into "resurrections"-revivals of Jesus within mainstream Christianity-and "reincarnations"-appropriations of Jesus by outsiders. This scheme allows Prothero to range widely, and if he sometimes drifts from his primary focus, the digressions are fascinating in their own right. Nearly every page offers a fresh portrait of some corner of American religious history. A work of this breadth must depend heavily on other writers, but Prothero almost always has a judicious interpretation of his own to add-most of all, his contention that Jesus' enduring appeal confirms America's essentially Christian character even as it also demonstrates America's growing religious diversity
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From The New Yorker
To the Puritans who settled the Colonies, Jesus was a marginal figure, and the Old Testament more important than the New. In the four centuries since, however, he has slipped the bonds of Christianity altogether to become icon and brand, as American as Mickey Mouse or the Coca-Cola bottle. This wide-ranging history traces a dual evolution: of American religion (not only Christianity but Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism) in terms of its relationship to Jesus; and of his multiform manifestations in response to changing cultural currents, from Thomas Jefferson's publication of a book of Jesus' life and sayings that excised all mention of the miracles and the resurrection to the Hindu Vedantists' veneration of "Christ the Yogi."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This is the first clause of the first amendment of the United States Constitution. It is probably one of the most important lines (and most debated) in all of American freedoms. It is what makes the United States unique.
Christianity has a very unique history in the United States because there is no central authority. There is no pope to monitor the flock. Every American has the right to view Jesus in his or her own way and thus worship and share this Jesus with whomever they want. Our third president and founding father, Thomas Jefferson, was one of the first to challenge the accepted status quo of Jesus in America. His Jesus was different from his citizens. He did not force his subjects to accept his Jesus. He did not mistreat or torture his dissenters. They were free to express their opinions, as so was he.
American Jesus walks through the different views of Jesus throughout the nation’s history. Jesus is a national icon because he is up for interpretation. If you don’t like someone’s view of Jesus, you can change it to make it yours. Your view of Jesus is up to you. This book presents the different popular views of Jesus over the years and how he has developed over the decades.
The first couple of chapters were interesting, but overall, this book was too long and not super interesting. At the end of the book, I was hoping to read more about the modern Jesus during the moral majority and Reagan years. Though this book was well-researched as better than others, it still does not reach the top of my suggestion list.
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.
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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those of all faiths in America.Read more