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Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America Paperback – April 7, 2009

3.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Full of wordplay, puns and parodies, this no-holds-barred satirical polemic eviscerates the religious right. Conservatives, McElvaine argues, have committed... grand larceny on the grandest scale: they have kidnapped Jesus. The religious right has adopted a ChristianityLite, claiming salvation in return for nothing except belief and espousing a message that directly contradicts what Jesus instructed in the Gospels. Using chapter titles like Amazing Disgrace, The Greed Creed and Unintelligent Design, McElvaine targets George W. Bush's presidency, the Iraq War, the prosperity gospel, biblical inerrancy and the politics of fear, division and hate. His section on sex and gender includes theories on the female origin of agriculture and male fear of women very loosely tied to his overall theme. As demonstrated by McElvaine's detailed research itself, many thoughtful critiques have already been written about the impact of the religious right at the beginning of the 21st century. While the author directs his ire primarily toward the movement's leaders, whom he calls Jesus Thieves—including Jerry Falwell, Ted Haggard, James Dobson and D. James Kennedy—he leaves unaddressed the tantalizing question of why the religious right's ideas have been so compelling to a significant portion of the American population. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“If Robert McElvaine had been Jesus’s lawyer, Pontius Pilate would have released him on his own recognizance.”    
—George Carlin

Grand Theft Jesus will annoy a lot of the sanctimonious neo-Puritans of the Religious Right–and that’s good! For everyone else, especially those seeking a full-throttled Christianity that actually reflects what Jesus taught, Robert McElvaine offers one heck of a ride.”
—The Reverend Barry W. Lynn, executive director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and author of Piety and Politics

“Robert McElvaine reveals with startling clarity that much of the religious establishment in America has become like the religious establishment that betrayed Jesus: lusting for dollars and fame, obsessed with dubious doctrines and emotional slogans, all the while showing little of the concern for the poor or the oppressed that Jesus commanded. He powerfully argues that Christians must reverse the decline of their faith by re-embracing the biblical witness of Jesus in the gospels and actively rejecting the cheap grace being peddled in his name. Grand Theft Jesus is at times funny, at times infuriating, but always on target. It should be read by everyone who proclaims the name of Jesus.”
—Dr. Obery M. Hendricks, Jr., author of The Politics of Jesus

“Jesus never wrote a book, but I recognize his hand writing in Grand Theft Jesus. Like Jesus, McElvaine uses lively illustrations and a serious sense of humor to cleanse the temple of exclusive and exploitative religion.”
—The Reverend Alan Storey, Calvary Methodist Church, South Africa

“Where there is hypocrisy, McElvaine calls it hypocrisy, and where the self-advertised speakers for God are ‘ungodly,’ they get unmasked. And he does this with memorable turns of phrase, no little wit, and seriousness of purpose.”
—Martin E. Marty, author of Pilgrims in their Own Land

Grand Theft Jesus vigorously and passionately attacks the pseudo-Christianity so prevalent today, but does so from a Christian perspective. It makes its powerful case with humor as well as serious argument.” 
—Harvey Cox, author of The Secular City and When Jesus Came to Harvard

Grand Theft Jesus is one of those rare books that might just make a huge difference in the world! It manages to combine a hilarious satiric voice with passionate, no-nonsense clarity about the lost gospels–of the actual Christian bible! There are few people on the planet who can mobilize such a voice of Christian conviction against right wing Christianity.”
—Catherine Keller, Professor of Theology, Drew University

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 Reprint edition (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307395804
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307395801
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,431,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Kwok HALL OF FAME on June 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Drawing amply upon Scripture, Robert S. McElvaine, an Evangelical Protestant Christian historian at Millsaps College, offers a damning indictment of contemporary Fundamentalist Protestant Christianity in "Grand Theft Jesus". He mocks so-called American "Christians" who stress biblical inerrancy, as long as that doesn't include faithfully adhering to Christ's teachings. Instead, he refers to them as "Constantinians" and "Xians", claiming they've forsaken completely Christ's teachings by adhering to a faith which he describes, with ample sarcasm, as "ChristianityLite". Indeed, he compares the state of religious affairs in the United States with what Christ found in the Temple in Jerusalem, arguing persuasively that "leaders" such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and others of their ilk owe more in common with the very priests which Christ criticized, than with Jesus Christ himself. McElvaine contends that true Christians should follow Christ's teachings, which include doing "good works". He insists that merely professing one's faith in Christ isn't sufficient in becoming a true Christ follower. He also offers harsh criticism against the "prophets" of megachurches who advocate a "feel good" version of Christanity, as well as those "preachers" whose version of Christanity would condone every unethical act imaginable, as long as those committing these acts continued "to accept" Christ as their personal savior. His book is nothing less but a persuasive, well-written, polemic against what he recognizes is wrong about religious fervor in the United States today.

McElvaine's litany of harsh, often acerbic, observations and comments covers every issue of importance to the Religious Right in recent years.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert McElvaine has a modest proposal: he wants American Christians, especially those under the sway of the "Jesus Thieves" who most loudly claim to follow "Him," to expend far less hot air saying "Jesus" and far more energy doing Jesus. Not only does this noted historian recover a good deal of essential (and largely ignored) Christian doctrine, he sustains, even through his appendices, a satirical unmasking worthy of Jonathan Swift or Mark Twain.
How deeply does the humor of Grand Theft Jesus cut? On this one, I'll have to side with McElvaine-fan George Carlin (who knows a little something about wit). But readers attracted to wordplay and repartee will find themselves repeating aloud McElvaine's puns and paradoxes, and laughingly nodding their heads at his de(con)struction of the way the "Right Reverends" of evangelical "Fun-damentalism" engage in biblical "X-a-Jesus" in order to promote the painless "miracle cure" of "ChristianityLite," and the morally bankrupt (and bankrupting) ideology it so often supports.
If only 51% of Americans had read this book before going to the polls in '04. . . .
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Format: Hardcover
"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord', yet do not do what I tell you?"
That's in the Gospel by Luke, I think.
Having been introduced into the murky waters of American Christian Fascism by author Chris Hedges, Grand Theft Jesus immediately appealed to this reader. In an erudite, yet so easy to read and often hilarious way, in a book that seems purposefully written to reach and positively influence as huge a public as it possibly can reach (even a woman translator in Mexico), Robert McElvaine creates in his readers the immediate and cristal-clear sensation that they are no Christian anymore because they do not follow what is the core of Christianism; that they are permitting, enabling in fact, the (anti)Christian activities, officially protected by the George W. Bush-created "Office for the protection of the Faith", which serve as (im)moral justifications for those who spread this fake religion, to do all they want to do, permit them to foist any outrage on other people who, if we are to literally belief gospels and what Jesus' teaches in them, are our neighbors (yes, even if they live in the Middle East, even if they're gay, even if they're women who have had to abort), and they do this foisting by waging, not defensive, not pre-emptive, not even preventive wars, but "wars of choice", a fine term to define what the Bush administration has been doing. In the end, Grand Theft Jesus talks of the bid for disposition of Jesus' true acts and teachings unto the garbage can of history. As a once-Catholic who seeks the Truth, one is tempted to call an angst-filled request: "Can We Start Again Please?"
Ultimately, what do Fake Christians have to fear?
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Format: Hardcover
There is a Seinfeld episode where George--in an effort to improve his
decision-making and his life in general--decides he will do the
opposite of what he thinks he should do. Turns out to be a good
decision. In reading Grand Theft Jesus I am reminded of that episode.
Historian Robert McElvaine explores hundreds of avenues where modern
"Christians" would be better suited to follow the example of George
Costanza in the Gospel According to Seinfeld. And would be well
advised to actually read the New Testament.

McElvaine presents in clear and passionate prose the prosecution's
case in the trials of the Religious Right in the Court of Public
Opinion. By defining their Christianity as "Christianity Lite",
McElvaine makes keen and simple observations that will leave the
reader dumbfounded. Then mad. Then energized. Then rejuvenated.
How on earth did we allow "Christianity Lite" to happen? The loudest
hollering Christians and lovers of Jeeeeesus are exposed as the
idol-worshipping reprobates they truly are.

Grand Theft Jesus also arms the reader to counteract the "voodoo
Christianity" of the "soul molesters" that dominate American media.
Though his observations are keen and simple, Grand Theft Jesus is
obviously the work of a man with an absolute command of world history.
McElvaine exhibits a rare gift of making history and politics
relevant and interesting outside the academy. His obvious passion for
the subject matter coupled with his ability to weave millennia of
world history into a modern discussion of religion leaves quite an
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